Monday, October 15, 2018
Friday, February 23, 2018
Monday, January 22, 2018
Why must we suffer?
I can’t say that I’ve come up with any definitive answer, but I have kind of changed the question to, “What is suffering doing for me?” Meaning, what can I learn from it?
Physical suffering has taught me compassion, patience, the importance of rest and care for my body, to meditate, to exercise, to stretch. It has taught me to slow down (a bit!). I have learned to sit with pain and listen to it and be present for it. I can decide not to let it rule my life. I can connect with other people to help me cope.
But, its negative energy also has the potential to teach me bitterness, complaint, resentment and anger. I can eat compulsively, drink and/or abuse pain medicine to try to relieve it. I can lash out at others. I can isolate.
I have choices in how to respond to suffering.
I have wondered if one reason our society is in an epidemic of drug, alcohol and food abuse is that we do not teach our children (and we have not been taught) how to deal with suffering. We shield them from losses and disappointments. We do not teach them about death or let them participate in processing the pain of loss. In some cases, we don’t even teach them that they cannot always have what they want, when they want it. Or we teach them they are the center of the universe and it revolves around their needs. We teach the illusion that life is fair and can be perfect and that we can be happy all the time.
No wonder people self-medicate to escape suffering! How would they know how to cope?
Over the past year, I have watched a friend go through an unbelievable amount of suffering with the most amazing attitude and self-care. She has gone to support groups, found spiritual help, used healing arts, and reached out to friends. She is suffering, but she is doing it in a way that allows her to journey through the dark night to a place of grace. What an inspiration!
I wish us all such a path of “good suffering”.
Wednesday, January 3, 2018
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Although our topic was healthy living, the conversation often turned to race, in a good way. It was usually very meaningful and just the kind of dialogue that everyone seems to be calling for on a national level. Two of the core group were even from the same county in Appalachia, one black and one white and both in their 50’s. They compared stories of racism growing up and they became good friends.
One day, an older white woman, who had come for the first time, accidentally used the word “colored” instead of “black” or “African American”. This term was once considered the politest way to discuss someone’s race (hence the NAACP) and is the term she had grown up using. She was instantly berated by an African American woman in the group. Although our little core group tried to pour oil on the troubled water, the damage was done and the Caucasian woman never came back. An opportunity for connection was severed.
When people lash out against “political correctness”, this is part of what they are pointing to. Is the litmus test for racism really whether I use the right terminology rather than my actual actions? If I ask a question about your hair does it really indicate racism or could it just be a real interest and desire to understand you better? How long will we waste energy on these superficial, meaningless things and avoid the real deep dialogue that forms relationships and heals ancient wounds?
This morning, after a shocking election, it is manifestly clear that decades of labeling and shaming those we perceive as racist has not eliminated racism. It has been growing like a cancer beneath the surface. I think the suppression of this voice has helped give rise to the noxious hate-filled movement of “Trumpism”. We think of them as old white people, but we see students on campuses shouting “Trump, Trump, Trump”, and they say they are reacting to the echo chamber of political correctness on campus. They are coming from all age groups. Supporters talk about his authenticity. He “tells it like it is”.
Visible Trump followers are only the most vocal and ugly. Over the years, I’ve had conversations with moderate Caucasians who have shared that the politics of victim-hood and the accusations of micro aggression and racism have made them completely back off trying to have any conversation with a person of color. This has sometimes fed resentments and intolerance in people who started out trying to genuinely create a relationship. I wonder how these people voted in the privacy of the voting booth.
In an environment where even innocent questions from well-meaning people are viewed as “micro aggressions” and use of the wrong (ever changing) term to describe someone’s race is a minefield, dialogue cannot happen. Relationships cannot happen when friendships cannot form because of an attitude of anger and condemnation. No one feels comfortable getting to know someone or trying to understand another perspective when their every word might generate an accusation of racism.
Isn’t the perspective of a Caucasian parent whose child couldn’t get into a university because of Affirmative Action valid? Can’t we open up the dialogue to allow expression of that grief and anger, while still acknowledging that Affirmative Action may be necessary from the point of view of overall societal justice? Aren't I allowed to be outraged that my child was bullied by a group of African American girls because she is white?Must my only contribution to any interracial dialogue be “mea culpa”? Are only some of my experiences valid? Can't we acknowledge that racial profiling and aggression sometimes happen against white people, too? When I’m attacked because my skin is pink, is the only response I should make “I deserved it because I was born white”? Isn’t that actually racism?
We cannot have real healing unless we allow all experiences and points of view. And every side has its truth. How can we challenge someone’s perspective and introduce the possibility of changing it if we don’t even allow it to be heard? A lot of people are talking today about a big chunk of the population that feels unheard and is very, very angry. As hard as that is for me to think of, maybe we need to start by listening.The national dialogue has to be, as it was in South Africa, about truth and reconciliation from ALL SIDES. It has to allow expression of things that might seem very offensive, but channeled into a structure that begins a journey toward understanding. It has to acknowledge that, even if I find your perspective abhorrent, until I acknowledge your pain and recognize it as real, we cannot even begin to change our opinions.
I will continue to be an advocate for equal rights and black lives. I will continue to fight hatred and bigotry at every turn. But I fear that if we don’t find a more open dialogue, the cancer of race resentment will never be removed.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
2) Fess up when you mess up. Ask for and give forgiveness. It’s super healing.
3) I don’t need to share everything that comes into my head. It is good to shut up sometimes and listen.
4) I really wish I hadn’t shared some things. I extend a general apology for my thoughtlessness to anyone I’ve hurt.
5) Most diets are gimmicks and there is no way around the truth of ‘eat less, exercise more’.
6) This knowledge has not ensured that I follow this advice.
7) Life is best when I just get comfortable with being uncomfortable and jump in.
8) ‘Fake it till you make it’ actually works. Acting as if I’m happy/competent/confident/etc.
almost always helps me be that person. Except for tap dancing.
9) Even when I’m absolutely positive I’m right, I might be wrong.
10) The times I failed, was most hurt or humiliated were the times I grew the most and found a wonderful new path.
11)What you give is what you get: love, joy, friendship, laughter, even money. Live a generous life and, in one way or another, it will be returned to you.
12) Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold. Thank you, beautiful friends, all around the world! You’ve made me rich!
Monday, March 14, 2016
One of the panelists, Alexis Eduardo Francisco, is a member of New Day United Methodist, a church in the Bronx that is committed to crossing boundaries and being radically inclusive. One of his comments filled me with both recognition and sorrow. He said, "I realized I was searching for God, and I knew I wouldn't find God in a church."
Wow. Think about that for a minute. This is not a unique experience. I have heard things like this from many people. I felt so sad about how Christianity has been associated with hatred, exclusion, fear and narrow mindedness and how many people I know absolutely expect that they will not find love, acceptance, or God, in a Christian church.
I am a follower of Jesus. A broken and imperfect follower, to be sure, but as a Christian I feel Jesus should be my role model and that I should take seriously Jesus's commandments.
This brings me to the current political campaign. I am absolutely outraged, offended and unspeakably sad when I hear that Evangelical CHRISTIANS are responsible for the success of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz who, as far as I can tell are saying absolutely nothing that coincides with the actual words and commandments of Jesus. I am also wounded that these people are perceived as speaking for all Christians.
Here are just a handful of instructions from Jesus:
- Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you
- Blessed are the peacemakers, blessed are the merciful.
- When someone in need asks you for something, give more than they ask for.
- If someone hurts you, turn the other cheek -- (don't return violence with violence)
- When you care for widows, orphans, prisoners,or the hungry, you are loving Jesus. If you don't, you do not love Jesus and you will be thrown into the fire. (seriously... that's what it says, Matthew 25)
- Love your neighbor. When asked "who is my neighbor", Jesus told a story about a hated foreigner who helped someone. It would be like saying, "there was this Christian lying in a ditch. A priest, a minister and a deacon walked by and ignored him. Then a Muslim came by, patched him up, and paid for his care."
- To inherit the Kingdom of Heaven, sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.
- Don't be all 'religious' in public, trying to show off. Pray in private. Also donate in private.
- How will you know if someone is coming from Jesus? You will know them by their fruits.
Hm... Do you see any of those fruits on display by candidates shouting their Christian credentials from the rooftops?
And, by the way, Jesus said exactly ZERO about abortion, birth control, and homosexuality. These issues are not a litmus test for Christian faith. People of faith may disagree about these issues but they are not, and shouldn't be, central. Love trumps (you should excuse the expression) all!
Jesus also reserved his harshest words for religious hypocrites, calling them "whitewashed tombs". I think that still sums it up.
I could go on and on, but then this blog would be as long as, well, the New Testament. Which maybe a few politicians (and voters) should actually read.