Ask and Receive

law and prophetsI’ve always found comfort in these particular words of Jesus: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  And yet…really? my bank account hasn’t changed.  Let’s go back and read verses preceding the one I just mentioned. They are an admonition against judgement and pointing out the flaws in others while unable to see our own.  The offer of receiving whatever we ask for comes only after we stop our judgy behavior and look at our own flaws first and foremost.  While that may seem depressing, Jesus doesn’t leave us wallowing in our wicked imperfections…he says, “which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish?  If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him?”  While he chastises our behavior, it still won’t prohibit God from answering our prayers.

Of course there are qualifications…God responds to our requests with “good things”  God would never give us anything harmful.  I suppose asking for something bad would never qualify.  So how then, do we know what good is?  What follows gives us a clue.  Jesus highlights the golden rule: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.”  He also encourages us to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life, and not the wide and easy gate that many will follow to destruction. He warns of false prophets whom we will only know by the fruits they bear, followed immediately by “for a rotten tree can never bear good fruit”.  The lines are drawn clear: good tree, good fruit…bad tree no fruit. Goodness can only be known by good fruit.

So what is good fruit?  Is it success, wealth, fame, popularity, prowess or power?  I suppose it all goes back to what each of us sees when we pull that humongous plank out or our eye. We can never see goodness while our vision is clouded; there are too many false prophets out there that exist in obscured vision to lead us astray.  Only goodness can perpetuate goodness, rotten trees never can…and we all know what happens to trees that bear no fruit whatsoever (remember the fig tree).  It doesn’t need to be complicated, we simply start by not judging and pointing out the flaws in others before we can even see our own, treat others exactly how we want to be treated, pray to god in secret with faith, and he will respond with goodness, from which we continue to bear good fruit.  Pretty much sums it all up.

Money Lenders in the Temple

jesus-vs-money-changersThe last time Jesus rode into Nazareth, he did so with the aplomb of a King.  He had reached the conclusion of his ministry, celebrated by ringing voices “Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.  At the pinnacle of his ministry, he entered the temple and trashed all those merchants buying and selling saying, “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’ but you are making it a den of thieves”  Then he healed the sick and lame and irritated pretty much everybody who had any status whatsoever.  He even withered a fig tree that wasn’t bearing fruit and cursed it to never bear fruit again…and when asked how the tree withered immediately, he said something that has become one of my very favorite phrases EVER: “Amen I say to you, if you have faith and do not waver, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain: ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea’ it will be done.  Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith you will receive”  BOOYAH!

So who do you think our modern money lenders are?  Here’s my take…Anyone who acts under the auspices of faith and uses it to gain advantage or influence.  You and I both know who those kind of people are.  Here’s the thing.  At that moment, riding into Jerusalem, Jesus could have used his new-found adulation from the people to do pretty much anything he wanted.  But instead, he upset the apple cart and made it very clear what needed to be done was challenge the status quo.  They weren’t bearing fruit or building the kingdom, so they were done.  Things were going to change.  But he also let us know that we had the same power to make the changes he did…enough to move mountains.  Anything asked in prayer with faith…and what people forget is that he instructed us how to pray as well.  He said to pray in secret, don’t pray like the hypocrites so that everyone will see, do it in private where your Father who sees in secret will repay you.  The bottom line? You can never fake out God.  He knows our hearts.  He knows the hearts of those who profit publicly on his name too.  I guess I would rather move mountains than gain approval.

The buying and selling of influence under the auspices of faith is the barren fig tree that Jesus withered.  If you are not bearing fruit from your faith, if you are not keeping the temple ground sacred, then you are done…just like the money lenders and those hypocrites who pray to be seen.  All of us have at times had barren patches, I’m not really talking about that, but when you make a claim to be one who bears fruit in name only, and do nothing?  Well, that is a whole different story.  People of consequence, who really believe and have faith in prayer and do it secretly to the Father will move mountains.

Of Consequence and Consequences

Jesus and the sanhedrinI’ve embraced that breaking out in a cold sweat will be the new normal as I write this first post for the new year.  After the title popped into my head I knew I needed to write before I lost my nerve.  Here goes.

Every person on this earth is of consequence.  Everyone.  God’s plan for the world is weakened, altered whenever we lose sight of this most fundamental idea; we are in this together.  How do I know this?  Just read the Bible, actually most Holy Scriptures.  Since I am a Christian, this is how I know this.  In Jesus’ wheelhouse of people, he spent the majority of his time with the least desirable, most despised, greatest sinners…etc.  He chose simple fishermen for his disciples, and often the oddest of people to dine with and talk to.  His reach went beyond the limitations of class, ethnicity, religion and politics; everyone mattered.  Everyone deserved to hear his message  He especially avoided those who had held the prestige of class and distinction….because they had forgotten who God was, and how to build up His Kingdom.

I don’t think it is difficult to draw a parallel to modern culture.  We have become as exclusive, judgmental, bigoted and narrow-minded as those who were threatened by Jesus in his day.  We have forgotten who God is and how to build up His Kingdom.  To twist the words of Jesus to exclude and redefine who is acceptable to God is nothing short of blasphemy.  So don’t.  God celebrates every one of us, he doesn’t make mistakes.  I hope that isn’t a hard pill to swallow, because to each of you who really hates a section of the population for whatever reason…stop, because they are precious in God’s eyes.

Ouch, I know that can be harsh.  So I have to see preciousness in the people who literally make my skin crawl? Yes.  That doesn’t mean that we all go hug a random criminal or (insert name of the faction of the population you hate the most).  So here is where I move beyond “of consequence” and on to consequences.  Saying the phrase, “of consequence” and believing it is hard.  Most people I know are insecure and struggle, in a variety of ways, with low self esteem…that includes those who appear über confident and present the illusion to the world that their shit doesn’t stink.  It is what drives the angry divisive, bullying behavior of people today.  Those who really believe they are precious, essential, loved and important just don’t behave that way.  I also think it is why people refuse to accept responsibility for their own choices, and how that is manifested, I suppose, is different for each person.  For example, I think the one of the reasons the Pharisees hated Jesus so much is that he took their power over the people away.  If Jesus was the Messiah they had been waiting so long for, they were no longer formidable.  Their self-worth depended on knowing more, having more power, the exclusivity of being the God’s chosen people, rendering them more important that everyone else.  Jesus virtually pulled the rug out from under their belief of who the Messiah would be, not a mighty King, but a loving servant.  That could not have set well.  They were precious in God’s eyes and yet there were dire consequences of what they did.  How are we supposed to love that?

Being “of consequence” will never render the “consequences” of any our actions in the world null and void.  We all live by the choices we make and often suffer the fallout of choices others make.  We have to hold others accountable, but only in a way that offers the possibility of being “of consequence” again.  I’m not naive, the world has some pretty evil stuff going on.  But remember that we are not alone, God is truly with us and for us…all of us.  And until we can believe that we are all precious in His sight, even though we all sin, we have to stop throwing stones, the kind that destroy and not build up.  We have to stop blaming the government, the 1%, the poor, ethnicity, ideology… the list goes on and on.   Jesus said, that whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.  Holding ourselves and others accountable while still seeing the worth in all sinners is how we grow and how we grow to understand God.  I just want people to understand that the kind of choices we make change when we look in the mirror and believe that the person who is looking back matters, is important, and is an expression of God’s great creative mind.  Because if you can’t see God’s creation when you look in the mirror, you won’t be able to see it in others either.

 

 

Dancing Naked before the Lord

David Dancing before the LordSome of you have heard this story, but it bears repeating for the sake of context…When I was getting my degree in Theology, my professor asked the class to pick a verse in scripture that summed up our faith. After much thought, I chose King David dancing naked with abandon before the ark of the covenant. At first, my professor was offended, until I explained that my faith had always been stripped down, joyful and with abandonment. It’s true. Some people are good at math, or art, or sports… Faith has always been easy for me. Inside my head, belief and understanding God has always been easy and obvious…that doesn’t mean that I always understood the practical implementation of it in the world, or that it would be appreciated. Like King David would show us, even those anointed by God are flawed, because we are human. Therein lies the rub, how do the faithful stand with authority in the face of such flaws? It’s easy to be good at math and prove it on a test. But faith? I shake my head writing it, because there really isn’t any good way to prove it, beyond being a saint (which I am SO not)and not look like a total douche. I never felt the need to prove my expertise, and quite often exercise it. And anyway, why is it important?

Last year, my focus for 2014 was to walk forward on an open road, to take God at His word that he has something in mind specifically for me. If He would rid my life of illusion and pretense then I would walk forward without question, wherever that may lead. As it usually is with those kinds of promises, I had no fucking (excuse the expletive, it is part of letting go of pretense) idea what would entail. Once stripped of illusion, it is a bit frightening to realize that most of the world’s population thrives on it…including those anointed by God (and yes, I include myself). So here I am at the end of a year of walking, standing with deep fear and trepidation with the knowledge that regarding faith and God, we have so obviously gotten almost everything wrong…like 2 + 2 = 5 wrong. I’ve known it for a while, and it has slowly been eating away at me. My response to God was this: What the hell am I supposed to do with this…AND more importantly why me? I am of no consequence…people will laugh at me, especially those who know me. To which God responded, all of my children are of consequence, you said you would walk wherever I lead…and this is where I lead.  So stop walking and keep quiet, or keep moving and start talking. So here I am, standing naked and afraid and feeling charged to explain what God is all about, ready to pee my pants, except I am not wearing any.  And then I remembered King David dancing naked.  I want that back…not the naked part, the with joyful abandoned part.

So, before I start sharing my insights (it took me ten minutes to even come up with a noun to describe it).  I’m going to relearn to dance.  To dance with joyful abandon that God graced me with a gift I didn’t have to pay for, and I am pretty stoked about that.

Things that I must say at the get go for the coming year :

1) I will write without pretense, and often without propriety…so I apologize ahead of time, what can I say…I’ve always been a good girl at heart and some days it may be a stretch for me.

2) I will most definitely piss people off from time to time.  I can live with that, because I piss myself off more than anyone can ever know.

3) I truly believe that this is what God requires of me, in all seriousness, I do.

4) I am of sound mind, though of uncertain temperament.

5) Love is the root of everything…and is what compels my dance.

5) Understanding God doesn’t require perfection…just willingness and commitment.

6) I pray everyday, all day.

7) All God’s children are of consequence, not just those deemed so by society.

Breaking Bias

Breaking bias

Full Definition of BIAS

1
:  a line diagonal to the grain of a fabric; especially :  a line at a 45 degree angle to the selvage often utilized in the cutting of garments for smoother fit
a :  bent, tendency

b :  an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially :  a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment :  prejudice

 

c :  an instance of such prejudice

d (1) :  deviation of the expected value of a statistical estimate from the quantity it estimates (2) :  systematic error introduced into sampling or testing by selecting or encouraging one outcome or answer over others

4
a :  a voltage applied to a device (as a transistor control electrode) to establish a reference level for operation

b :  a high-frequency voltage combined with an audio signal to reduce distortion in tape recording

It seemed timely to post about bias because of the turmoil that is going on in Ferguson right now, that and a tortured call from my eldest son at 4 in the morning who, while trying to be the voice of fact and reason, was obliterated by a friend who challenged him as a privileged white person with deep racial overtones.  Understandably,  he is nothing like that, we didn’t raise him that way, but upsetting nonetheless.  It isn’t always helpful in the face of such raw emotion to be challenged on the lack of factual information.  Ferguson triggered a  powder keg of emotions that have been festering for a long time .  Justifiable or not, this kind of raw emotionally charged situation, already escalated by a media that capitalizes on frenzied, angry incitement and violence, has to be approached with the delicacy of a political surgeon, and not by online postings that polarize the situation further.  The horrible events that happened that day were so entrenched in a long history that none of us were directly involved in and can ever know accurately.  Telling someone in the throws of that kind of emotion to calm down or keep a level head, no matter how well intended, never sits well.

All of us are bias.  It is the inevitable result of a solitary perspective.  It isn’t necessarily a bad thing…just a simple truth.  But to perpetuate that singular perspective by insulating yourself with only those who think like you do is how situations in Ferguson get out of control.  I’ve always told my children that true empathy must be rooted in caring for another plus factual information about something you’re not directly involved in because it will give you the necessary tools to help more effectively.  I had a great Evidence prof in law school that hammered that notion home: if information presented does not lead to the truth of the matter at hand, it should be excluded.  It is also why we don’t watch Fox news or MSNBC at my house…they are too biased, and often irreverently so.  I’m sure that will get me in trouble with some, but hey…I’m one of those fools who actually believes that the truth will set me free.

I don’t know how to solve the problems in Ferguson, it’s horrifying to watch and so beyond my wheelhouse of experience that it feels almost impossible to find the truth I desperately need to broaden my perspective.  Everywhere I turn I see bias that distorts whatever truth may exist out there.  That isn’t an excuse to forgo any conversation, because while I may never know what really happened there, I do know that addressing issues dealing with race, violence, police mistrust and the questionable way this whole crisis was handled have to be part of the solution.  I won’t say that level heads must prevail because that would be my bias…but I will say for those of us on the outside who cannot offer any solutions at this point, we should shut up and listen more, that would certainly go along way for the people of Ferguson.

 

Healing the Body

getting betterI take all the struggles in the world a bit too personally because I do believe that none of us is insulated from the pain, that we are all connected to each other.  When I look at the world and try to see it as the body of Christ, I see so many wounds in need of healing.  I see the different parts of the body fighting for supremacy and importance.  I am reminded of what Paul said in the first letter of Corinthians: “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, let all parts share its joy”.  So, a midst a tumultuous and suffering world, part of my regimen of zen is to take stock of the things that cause suffering, but also those things that I can honor and celebrate.  In so doing I can be more effective in creating peace and balance, not only for myself but the world.

While I realize that I am just one person, I also know I am only as effective as I believe I can be.  I know how easy it is to give into despair and hopelessness given all that bad that happens every day.  The past paralysis of my face is a good metaphor (almost fully healed, by the way).  When one gets too immersed in the pain in the world, and I see it every day as part of my job, it’s easy to turn to an isolated insular state of existence.  That is what Paul commands us not to do.  So, I breathe, take in some quiet and look to the healing that I’m surrounded by every day.  Since it feels like I am at our clinic all the time, it’s easy to for me to be immersed in the function and bypass the miracles that happen here each and every day.  We are blessed to have an amazing group of patients who are already keyed into the magic that happens at our clinic.  Some you out there may have heard of us, some have not.  But I do know it is a true center of healing and wellness in the world.

I know there are plenty of testimonials on Steve’s blog, which you can link to from this site as well as on his  you tube channel.  I would have linked them all, but for some reason, I couldn’t embed the links into this post.  All I know, is that Edling Chiropractic is an incredible place of healing in a world that too often, puts cost and convenience above health.  I am surrounded by the many lives our clinic has touched every day, and I know there are countless more that we could help.  I am grateful to Steve for patiently working on my autoimmune issues and bringing my smile back.  I am grateful for all the successes we see each and every day, and the wonderful people who are committed to their health.  As many of you have been challenged to do on Facebook, being grateful abates the overwhelming despair that works so hard to take over our lives and wreck havoc on the body.  I am lucky to be part of Edling Chiropractic, and proud of the work Dr Edling does.  My smile is proof.

 

 

 

The In-Between

roads-divergingWhile I don’t claim to stand in the middle on every issue, knowing how passionately I feel about some things, I do venture there all the time.  Mostly, because I don’t trust my own bias.  I have learned throughout all my studies, in theology, education, leadership, and the law, that a singular perspective rarely reveals a complete truth.  Looking at an issue from inside the shoes of an opposite view can reveal a lot.  I have to admit I’ve understood a greater truth when I’ve ventured off my polar end and visited the other side of an issue.  What saddens me the most is that I get the distinct impression that acknowledging bias is akin to admitting a deep weakness or lack of faith in one’s ideals.  Even more so is the judgment from both ends that to venture off my post is being a flip-flopper or worse yet, a challenge my commitment to this country.

Looking at a problem from a 360 degree angle is the best way to understand it.  I have said it so many times before that I’ve begun to wonder if too many people have drunk the Kool-Aid offered by those who simply want to perpetuate the vitriol.  I am sickened by our Congress, just sickened, with law suits, temper tantrums, and hypocrisy.  It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that there are problems in this country, and I believe it is not unpatriotic to make that statement.  We are not the best anymore.  It is not the fault of our president, or the 1%.  We all have had a hand in the mess we are in, created by this horrible partisan war that is so stuck on blaming someone, in the most horrible fashion I might add, that we are no different than the Hatfields and the McCoys.  The response no less stupid, childish, and dangerous and plays to the weakest flaws of humanity.

So let me share these conclusions after hanging in the in-between: guns are a problem in this country…too many people have died, especially children.  So, second amendment extremists: just shut-up.  And to the invasion of privacy by our government: knock it off, we are not the Soviet Union.  Regarding the income disparity: The 1% have too much power, because money does talk…period.  To those who are struggling: I know how you feel, but working hard and innovation does work, feeling sorry for yourself and succumbing to being a victim does not.  I am amazed and proud how many helping hands are out there for those who are willing to invest in themselves and not rely on someone else fixing the problem.  I have honestly come in equal contact with innovative wealthy and poor, who are great hard working people who should be honored and not pigeon-holed into a stereotype.  It just isn’t fair.  But I’ve also met my share of slimy, entitled assholes too, both wealthy and poor, who would sell their soul for a better piece of the pie.  Neither end can claim freedom from skeleton’s in their closets…humanity is just too flawed.

What I worry about the most, though, standing in the in-between, is how little outrage there is, beyond hating the president, and immigrants, guns and the 1%, for the future of our children.  Sure, I’ve heard both side make claims that it’s the children they are fighting for, yet our public schools are still failing; children are deteriorating, both physically, mentally and spiritually.  The programs that could help them never come to fruition because there are too many powerful lobbies that keep standing in the way…and personal bias.  Our children are our greatest resource…we should be investing the most money in them, yet we don’t.  Any way you look at it is always a bad thing to allow children to fail.

There is one concluding issue I want to address while I am standing in the in-between.  It is a balancing act to hold true to a principle and yet remain open to the best way to handle it in a country of varied principles.  Yet, for this great American experiment to continue working, that is the most important commitment of holding a governmental office.  I know that those elected can’t always support my personal agenda, most intelligent people would understand that.  And I don’t use the word intelligent lightly…because I think there is an astonishing lack of intelligence in government today.  There is a definite blurred line when it comes to who has the proper training and credentials to run for office.  We should demand only the best and brightest to take on the complicated business of running our country…which is why I take great offence to people like Joe Blow who think they can do a better job, just like I wouldn’t want a plumber to do surgery on me, any more than I would want a plumber as a president.   I mean no disrespect to plumbers…I trust them implicitly by having them fix any and all problems at my house. As one who studied law, though, I do believe that lawyers better understand the intricacies of all that the constitution demands and are better suited for higher office.  That is my personal bias, challenged quite often, which is why after my venture to the in-between, I learned to be open to those who are committed to service because they are called to do so…but only after they become prepared by understanding the workings of government and putting personal agenda’s aside for the whole of their constituency.  That is a rarity today…it just is.  Sound bites from positions on social media and cable news prove how little understanding there is about how government works.  It astonishes me, more than I can convey.  The people who claim to think they can actually do a better job with so little background is as bizarre to me as the same person thinking that they could perform surgery, without the proper training…  I believe that to the bottom of my heart….I took government and constitutional law…it’s hard, for a reason.

The one final thought I would implore those who embrace their own polarity, don’t buy into the bullshit that those on the other side are evil.  They are not.  There are wonderful people on both ends who want the same thing and are grown up enough to hammer out their difference to come up with greater solutions.  Go find them.

 

 

Bearing Burdens

559I suppose it is good that my body provides me with an unmistakable sign that my stress is out of control, that my autoimmune disease will just not tolerate.  In hindsight, which is always 20/20…I could feel it coming on…the second incidence of Bells palsy, only this time on the other side.  After an initial round of tears, the rational calm took over.  I must self-care, do all the things that I would rather ignore, but can’t.  This body of mine, broken or not, is the only tool I have to fulfill my purpose on earth…and I had better take care of it…which I haven’t.  I forget to get adjusted, do decompression, do my stretches and strength exercises…there is always so many other things to do.  I know I’m not the only one, my symptoms are staring me in the face.  Others are not so obvious.  So, take a moment, say a prayer, do something kind…for yourself.

With Privilege, comes Responsibility

privilegeI tell my sons this all the time.  Much of the lifestyle we live, is earned and I am proud of that.  As much, however, is not.  I am always mindful of that I live in a rich country, have freedoms that others fought for, have the ethnicity that offers more opportunity to me than to others.  I am gifted spiritually by Grace, and perfected by God’s sacrifice.  I am NOT entitled to anything, except the opportunity to love as Jesus did and help bring light to a world that often seems dimmed by smoke and subterfuge…so that we cannot see that we are blessed, created by and vindicated by God.

I can’t help thinking that if we really believed that we were greatly privileged, and wore that greatness as a badge of honor, we would embrace the responsibility to love and honor each other so much more easily.  We’ve been lulled into believing that we will never have enough, will never be enough, and the world’s acceptance matters.  We should be better at it by now, you know, loving one another and being the Body of Christ.  We are way too obsessed about gaining what is rightly ours…when nothing really is, in this temporal world, all is fleeting and none of it will matter in the next world.

I know it doesn’t mean we stop practically living in the world, but we would live differently if we really believed that we could.  I think that is what Jesus meant when he said, “Sell all you have and follow me”.  With the privilege of Grace, comes responsibility.

In the Blink of an Eye

illuminationLate last night I received news as I anxiously set my alarm so my son and I could witness the blood moon lunar eclipse that a high school friend of mine had died this past summer.  It completely took the wind out of my sails, since I had literally just done a search for her on the internet.  Most probably the obituary didn’t come up because I included her maiden name in the search, and I felt horrible that I hadn’t had a chance to reconnect like I’ve done with many other friends from the past.  Those of us messaging in that moment talked about a reunion of our Young Life friends, a group I was involved in during high school.  So many good memories, and most importantly, so many building blocks that were essential in becoming the woman I am today.

We don’t celebrate those friendships like we should.  I missed the chance to tell Ardy how much she meant in my life, I will try harder to not miss other chances that come my way.  So here is a challenge: post a shout out or memory of a person who influenced you, and thank them…I’m sure you will make their day!

Embracing the Simple Things

hand_wateringI used to spent a long time pondering why Jesus used such simple parables and metaphors in sharing the blueprint for building the Kingdom of God.  It all seems so basic and simple, yet we are still so far from the goal. This is how I explain why: if we can’t begin to see God in the smallest scenarios of our own lives, and apply those simple truths to everyday experiences, then there is no possible way for us to begin to apply them on a grander scale, or to use his parables, like planting a seed in shallow ground, or those who pray for just show.  Jesus’ stories eliminate every excuse we can manufacture for why we don’t live God’s  dream for us everyday.   So, while I do try to learn from those simple parables, I try not to focus on my failures but become inspired in even the simplest of tasks I can do that work for change and growth.  Who knows what the result will be far down the line, but it is encouraging to know that every small effort is part of something infinitely larger, that even in my small way I help create the stuff that dreams are made of.  I may not live long enough to see the fruits of my labor, but I am thankful that my effort, whatever comes of it down the line, can be like the mustard seed that Jesus spoke of, so small, but when planted deep into good soil, and nurtured will become  something much bigger and greater.

Mastering Ordinary Love

The song “Ordinary Love” by U2 sparked a notion in me that substantiates a belief that I’ve had for a long time.  Here is the link:

These particular words strike a chord:

“We cannot fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love, and we cannot reach any higher if we cannot deal with ordinary love”

It seems all too often, that many Christians bypass mastering the skills of ordinary love to claim expertise in the extraordinary love of God… in reality, if we can’t master the basics, if we bypass the difficult process of learning to love as Jesus taught us, the simple everyday expression of patience, kindness, slowness to anger and judgement, walking in another’s shoes etc., we can NEVER comprehend the extraordinary love of God, and love as God does.  In a sense, it is like bypassing all that comes before any high achievement and claiming entitlement to the prize anyway.

Let me be clear, mastering ordinary love is different from sharing in the grace bestowed on us by Christ’s great sacrifice.  That gift isn’t earned, it  is free to all, but mastering love only comes with often painstaking practice and experience.  Grace is the conduit to an endless source, which only is as powerful as our ability to master ordinary love and infuse it into the world.  That is what Jesus meant when he said: “they will know you are my disciples by how you love one another.”  It doesn’t have to be complicated…it’s all laid out in the Gospels.  It is putting it to work every single day, as strenuously as we would an exercise program, with no shortcuts, that creates a Master.

 

 

Birkie Fever

Birkie finishacross the lakeice beardEvery year in February, when the weather (especially this year) becomes almost too unbearable and spring is a distant memory…a fever begins to build here in the tundra.  Chatter about conditions, grooming, weather, training, technique and fueling the fire are constant.  An obsession to train regardless of the conditions, this year including continuous subzero temps, all hinges on one magical race: The American Birkebeiner.  The Birkebeiner is always held on the fourth Saturday of February in Hayward Wisconsin.  The race runs from Cable to Hayward, a 52 kilometer feat that is daunting enough for a beginner to feel as if they climbed Mount Everest and still difficult enough to qualify as a World Loppet for seasoned professionals.  Thousands of skiers in multiple waves, depending on your qualifying time, start at the same point and begin a journey that truly binds them into an elite brother/sisterhood.

Nothing compares to it.  There is something completely insane about skiing 32 1/2 miles in skin-tight uniforms, freezing faces and beards, multiple clouds from the moisture of warm breath hitting ice-cold conditions, lungs burning from bitch hills and the euphoria that comes from successfully making it to the top over and over again.  But they do it, every year without fail.  The hours after skiing across the lake and downtown Hayward over the finish line, is spent replaying the best and worst moments and making a plan to do even better the next year.

What is also amazing is how well this international feat usually plays out.  There are no worries about crime and violence.  A town of a few thousand transforms to 10 times that amount and handles the influx with ease.  This year, the warming tent had some problems, but that won’t stop the fever, it just gives the participants a point of reference when they talk about the many Birkies they’ve done.  It connects people from all over the world; knowing someone has done the Birkie breaks down walls and creates immediate friendships.  If you can ski that far in long underwear, you must be a quality human being.  I agree.  All the qualities it takes to finish that race, are qualities that will make you shine as a human being.  I just don’t think bad-hearted people could do it…it’s too hard, stamina like that demands hard training that is developed over time, there are no short cuts.

Sadly, I wish I could be one of the many that partakes…my broken spine won’t allow it.  I can say that have I biked the trail, so I know how grueling it is (the black flies biting at my ass were a great incentive to keep going).  I live vicariously through my husband and close friends that partake in this joyful insanity.  This is the kind of fever you hope is infectious, to inspire every other challenge one faces in life…even if it is simply tolerating winter until spring.

 

Foodie

clementine chickensweet potato and black bean chiliportabello and eggspaghetti squash casseroleavacado hummusbake chicken with sweet potato and carrotsThe phrase, “eating healthy is too expensive” causes such a deep visceral reaction in me that I literally see red.  I have to take a beat and get to my zen place before I respond.  We are a wasteful nation with horrible priorities.  It frustrates me that people spend more on cars, than their own bodies.  It saddens me that people can drop a wad on vacation, tanning package, and wardrobe included, but will consciously put toxins in their bodies.  It’s acceptable to spend copious amounts of money on making a body look good, and completely disregard what it needs to function.  Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost all that much, except that you’ll live longer…which costs money too.  It is all about perspective.  The money you spend at the grocery store, will save you money that you may otherwise spend at the doctor’s office, future prescriptions and heaven help any other malady you may come down with after eating crappy food and damaging your body for so long.

A body can not thrive on packaged, processed and chemically corrupted foods, or eating foods that make you feel ill afterwards, foods you may have a sensitivity to that subsequently run havoc on your body’s ability to function optimally.  It is time to stop whining and start treating your body right.

I believe the body is a temple.  It is the only tool we have to live our life to the fullest.  It is a biological masterpiece that deserves the same luxury treatment you give your car, or your pet, or whatever other indulgence that takes precedence.  It doesn’t have to be hard, we all have busy lives…but it does have to be a priority.

Catching Fire

catchingfireIt has been awhile, for good reason.  I am woman caught on fire.  In the last two weeks, the archdiocese I spent more than a decade working for, and the University where I received much of my training, released the lists of priests who have been accused of sexually abusing minors.  The pastor of the first parish I worked for was on that list…and some who I have personal knowledge and experience of that should be on it were not.  While my relationships with some of these men did not fall within the perimeters of the alleged abuse, it was still abuse.  Suffice it to say that the rage I feel is based on countless power struggles during my tenure with the archdiocese that I believe impeded my ability to do the job that I was hired to do, called by God to do, and ultimately became the central reason I walked away from ministry.  Given my personality, I always knew that I would have some difficulty working for the Catholic Church.  I was an attractive, smart, strong willed, vivacious, intelligent woman.  For those of you who think I should also include egotistical and arrogant to the list…yeah well, given all that I sacrificed during those years, believe me, while my list of vices may be many, false humility and lack of objectivity aren’t part of the list.  Anyway, what matters is that given who I was and what the church was at that time, I knew the road would never be easy, and I took extra precaution to live a very pure life, to which I never strayed.  But I never thought for one minute that I would be immersed in such a deep struggle between the sacred and profane.  I can’t even regard them as people anymore at this point, because the manipulation and the mind games were so malevolent that even in the face of  knowing rationally that something was way off with whatever situation I faced at the time, often I was the one left feeling like the sinner and they, the saint.   I learned to work with blinders on just to survive, but I was too angry so I moved out of parish work to teaching after that, which didn’t turn out much better.   The suggestions that perhaps if I dressed more appropriately for my profession, the rumors that went around never would have started.  Shortly afterwards I cut off my hair.  I’ve included some pictures to prove I didn’t dress like a whore, nor did I dress like a nun either.

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I thought long and hard about what details to share, but I don’t think that would serve any purpose other than just more titillating proof of the kind of abuse that occurs in an environment of ultimate power, and fueling even more  hatred won’t offer answers, just annihilation.   The girl I was at the time wouldn’t like it.  She would be embarrassed, humiliated and hurt, and just because she may have not been the typical theologian she deserved the respect she worked hard for.  Still, after all this time, I don’t hate the church…I worked with too many wonderful and spiritual people during my time there.  I do however hate the path the church has taken, and I can’t walk down that path anymore.  For me, I knew I needed help finding clarity…that was what therapy was for, and given that the therapist knew I had never been sexually active at the time, said that I had all the symptoms of someone who was the victim of sexual assault, only on a spiritual level.  She helped me see there is a much deeper dimension to the kind of power struggles I faced, and lost.  I didn’t appreciate until I read those lists of names what a deep toll being a victim of spiritual, sexual assault took on me.  I had many great plans and ideas back then, to manifest the Gospel in new and exciting ways, but I just got worn out and gave up.  Meeting my future husband and moving to the woods of Wisconsin saved my sanity, which remains tenuous because I live in crazy town (too many men, too little common sense).

It is my hope and prayer that Pope Francis can not only clean up the mess, but begin to heal the many wounds caused by the hierarchy.   But until I see evidence of that change, my faith life remains catholic…with a small “c”.

Silly Cat

Picture 004It is so weird…the weather is really cold, I tackled Cyber Monday, my eldest son comes home from Montana for the first time in four months, I’m cleaning for the holiday celebrations, my cat died….yeah MY CAT DIED.  Just sleeping on my bed.  When I went to move her over so I could go to sleep for the night…she didn’t spring into action like she usually does.  We all freaked out a bit, because she wasn’t very old, and then the practical me kicked in, cleaned, wrapped her, autopsy, cremation.  The vet said she found no cause…most likely a brain or heart incident.  I feel kind of funny in the face of immeasurable losses people have experienced around me to focus on my cat, death still shockingly disrupted my life and for a moment shed the film that often clouds my vision.  It is amazing how an animal becomes ingrained in the rhythm of life and softens the mundane.  So much more for our loved ones.  We have to fashion new ways to celebrate their presence in our lives and imbue everyday things with their spirit.  And yes, I do believe even my little kitty has a spirit.  For this holiday season anyway, I pray my faith expands my sight to beyond what my human eyes can’t see to what my soul can.

Incognito, by any other Name would ruin the Greatest Irony Ever

richie-incognitoI usually never weigh in on stuff like this, but since it appears to me that most everyone has missed one of the most obvious issues, (yeah more than the name “Incognito”) let me begin with this: the word incognito means to be in disguise or anonymous to avoid detection.   What is the NFLer in question’s disguise?  To use the vernacular of the sport that seems to be flying around…he has the smallest stones of all, he is a coward of the greatest degree, he is not a “real man”.  Ultimately, there will continue to be a lot of discussion about what made Jonathan Martin leave the Miami Dolphins that day and while everyone gets to have an opinion, most, including me, won’t be privy to the real story.  What I want to address here, then, is an issue that is far more subtle and I think plagues us far deeper as a society than in just the National Football League: what would a “real” man do?  What sickens me most is all the comments I’ve read that disparage Jonathan Martin for not behaving like a real man, or the filth about the size of his testicles, or the fact that Incognito was bullied as a child, or just as offensive (to me anyway) for him to quit acting like a girl.  So, is a real man one who takes the hazing, lets the mindless drive of testosterone rule?  Is being a real man being the nastiest lineman on the field?  Well, this five foot two red-head who has put the fear in many men by being a girl, calls BULLSHIT!

I say for the umpteenth time that I live in a household of men.  My husband played D1 football.  My youngest son wants to play college football too.  And while I begrudgingly (at times) play the sports mom, I have never tolerated the bullying that goes on in the locker room or the field.  My husband and I tell our son to show up, keep your head down and play hard.  Do what the coaches tell you to do whether you like it or not.  Reject the tendency to be that guy, that sycophant that kisses everyone’s butt to move ahead, or the one that tortures everyone else to hold power over them.  I know it can be hard for him when he sees “that guy” get ahead, but in the long haul one’s integrity is what you carry with you, your whole life.  The illusion of all that awesomeness fades over time, my husband has plenty of stories about what happened to the “assholes” on his University of Minnesota team.  I certainly want my son to carry into his future the knowledge that he worked hard and didn’t get ahead by manipulation or force.  I believe you can be a leader in sports without all that other bullshit.  Yet, I know it is hard to be strong and successful and not be attacked for being weak if you won’t lower your standards and be just one of the guys.

There is a growing trend today to define men through the eyes of testosterone…a huge package, a visceral tongue, and a big ass gun.  Yes, I know stereotypes aside that there are men out there with all those attributes who keep them in check, but I have so many anecdotes to the contrary that I wonder if what kind of men we’re creating would be better suited for the wild west.  I think you can have a sport like football, where hazing the younger players doesn’t disfigure their manhood, and leadership knows when enough is enough.  That the younger players pay a hefty amount for an expensive meal for their seniors is of no concern to me, because I think they make too much money anyway.  But the disparagement over race and violence and just being dirty should never be tolerated…even if Jonathon Martin laughed about it at first because he felt the culture demanded that response.  I can tell from experience that, that kind of continued bullying just beats you down over time, until it’s just not possible to take it any more.   The fact that there are many great guys in the NFL doesn’t matter to me in the least in this situation, because the environment gets perpetuated some how…silence is complicity in my book.

There are far too many stories of increasing violence of players off the field.  Shouldn’t we address them rather than just brush them off as incidents too few to pay attention to? Personally, when I was teaching at the Academy of Holy Angels, a football player threatened me by standing one inch from my face and asking me what I was going to do to him if he didn’t sit down and do his homework like I asked.   I said: “I know you may be a physical threat to me”, and then I walked over to the phone and called an administrator who was also his football coach to come down to my room right away.  Then, taking all the strength I could muster,  I walked back and stood in the exact same spot and said back to him: “but if you touch me, you will have to answer to him”.   And as if by divine intervention, Mr Randall Peterson came walking into my room.  I will never forget that day.  That moment is still a source of hope for me because I knew that Mr Peterson had my back, that he would never tolerate that kind of behavior from one of his players.   And while I completely understand that my situation and Jonathon Martin’s are not the same, I do have to ask these questions: “Who was there to watch his back?”; What kind of leadership exists that could defend Incognito’s behavior over Martin’s?”   Incognito may not be the anti-christ.  He may actually have some good qualities.  But it will never excuse that kind of bullying, or make him a real man.

The Comforts of Home

comfort of homeThis has been an overwhelming week.  Tragedy strikes, the kind that one wonders if its possible to come back from…and then, small miracles happen that renew hope.  I have to say what an honor it has been to work together with amazing people in this small little hamlet who have responded with no less love and compassion than heavenly angels.  The effortless ease with which we pulled together to help our friends, our neighbors, attend to whatever needs there may be, is indeed inspiring.  In the lull of day-to-day, it’s easy to isolate in our own personal dramas and let the negativity of the world overwhelm and discourage us.  Then, by no small miracle we are given an opportunity to pull together and bestow the kind of loving embrace that soothes the wounded soul.  Broken hearts of a few are augmented by the functioning hearts of the many.  We are the body of Christ as we pull together and carry our friends in their need.  From a simple desire to sooth and help, to comfort and to heal, to mourn innocence gone too soon, connections happen that strengthen us all.  I feel in this moment the magic of my simple yet extraordinary community.  Regardless of position or politics, we are a community to be proud of, the best that America has to offer, and proof that in even in the darkest moment our hope will prevail.

In the Quiet, Her Melody Sounds

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????There is so much noise in the world… voices that breed chaos and fear, that drown out hope’s melody.  Then, there are the voices that still the noise and soothe the heart.  The simple beauty of innocence, in which the melody of hope bares the true litmus test of God’s presence and reign over this world.  Sadly,one of those voices in full swing of transforming the world, moved to join the choir of heaven to magnify the purity of her singular sound.  Our human ears may not have the physical ability to hear the fullness of that heavenly choir, but in stillness I hear Sarah’s simple voice and know that she is here, her melody continuing in the day-to-day.  Once created in the image of God and sanctified by Him, her melody will continue for ever more helping heaven quell the tide that evil brings.  She will forever sing for her family, for friends for those who have lost the ability to hear the song of hope.  Through her melody I pray that loved ones can find comfort as they miss her physical presence.  In remembering her, I will try even harder to listen and to hear the unique song of all of God’s children and celebrate that through them, hope will reign.

Nice Guys Finish Last?!?

finishlineI hate this phrase.  I hate the message that it sends, that nice guys aren’t winners, that in order to “win” you have to be an asshole.  It really all depends on perspective though, doesn’t it?  The greatest success  of a race is always to be the first one, the fastest, grabbing the brass ring, the big payout.  What if that isn’t the real success of the race at all?  What if what we have traditionally defined as coming in first, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?  What if focusing on first so much, that you bypass other significant events that make crossing the finish line so much more evolutionary?  I think of all those people who took shortcuts, cheated and lied to be first, and whose only focus was on the line itself have really lost the race entirely.  What did that really get them except for a moment of glory that soon tarnishes because the truth always eventually comes out anyway…and they never really know and understand the difficulties of the lessons they’ve been able to conquer along the way…they just skipped that part.  Nice guys don’t finish last…they may finish later, but with a whole lot more.