How I Kicked the Good Girl to the Curb

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Last year I kicked being a good Christian girl to the curb. I said goodbye to proving, striving, earning in the form of praying, Bible reading, tithing and church attendance. My assumed approval by God was contingent on these four pillars and it was time to let them go. While I did not intentionally set out to obliterate all four in one year, it just happened that way. Circumstances arose, I couldn’t do it anymore.

I couldn’t sit in church and not be pissed off.

I couldn’t read my Bible without wanting to lob it across the room.

I couldn’t pray without feeling like I was trying to earn some favor or seek God’s approval.

I couldn’t give money to a church I didn’t trust.

These four acts were my salvation. These four acts were the determining factors of my faith. These four acts were my currency with God.

I wanted a church that included everyone, where fear was checked at the door, where people could come as they were.

I wanted to read my Bible with the lens of freedom and grace, without fear of condemnation, without fear of misunderstanding. I wanted to read the Scripture from the perspective of infinite love and mercy.

I wanted to pray, not so I could proclaim my righteousness or be in a constant mode of requesting. I wanted to pray with the knowledge that perfect language did not matter, that resting in God’s presence was plenty without having to come up with a bunch of words. I needed to just be, to lay my head upon God’s formidable breast, and hear Her speak mercy, I got this, baby. You’re good. I love you.

I wanted to give money to a place I believed in, that reflected my heart, my values, the work I needed to see done in the world. Maybe this is selfish. I don’t know. I do know I was not giving with the prescribed cheerful heart.

Last year was important. Last year was necessary. Last year has ushered in this year.

We attended Easter service at our new church – the place that now receives my tithe, the place that informs my reading of the Scripture, the place where I know I can pray in a way that is honest and hopeful, filled with rest and renewal.

I attend church at a place, where on Easter Sunday the music and the meditation were led by a woman, where the message was delivered by a woman. The news of the beautiful, restorative, life-saving work of the Resurrection – relayed by terrified women, generous women who were on their way to tending the dead body of their Lord. According to the Gospel of Mark, Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary the mother of James reacted maybe not quite as we would expect.

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. (Mark 16:8)

I can be those ladies. I can be a woman that receives precious information and freaks out, running as far and as fast as she can. I can be her. I can be the woman who washes the feet of Jesus with her hair, foolishly wasting her savings on perfume. I can be her. I can be terrified and insecure, in a stable, screaming alongside farm animals while giving birth. I can be her.

I want to be the woman who screws up but still receives grace. I want to be the  woman who asks for forgiveness. I want to be the woman who stands firm and trembling in her story, who knows her mind and who may or may not apologize profusely at the slightest of perceived wrongs. I want to be the woman who lives in freedom sometimes, and other times is bound by the obligations of her life. I want be the woman who loves others well because I love myself well.

I want to be safe AND fierce.

I want to mess up but return with hope in the beauty of forgiveness.

I want to piss people off – oh wait, not really, I like being liked.

I want to raise my children to love the unlovable, to champion the rights of the least of these.

I want to drive a nice car and not feel like I have to apologize.

I want to recognize my beauty and not feel shame.

I want to embrace my extra ten pounds without feeling obligated to eat produce for every meal because I don’t believe I have the right to take up space.

I want to claim armrests on airplanes.

I want to drink a beer and eat ice cream just because.

I want to run and not care how fast I go, or what I look like.

God, in Her infinite wisdom, revealed the person of Jesus to women, ordinary, common, normal women – both young and old. Our work in the world, our work of love and nurture and leading happens because we are loved, we are enough, we are holy. Let us kick the preconceived expectations to the curb, let us stop trying to be good and small and cute and choose strength and might and ferocity in our own unique and powerful ways. Let us set aside comparing and envy and work together to accomplish our beautiful, created work.

Let us love well, the people in our lives, revealing the hope and heart of God through Jesus Christ.

I Did Not Know What I Did Not Know (Guest Post)

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You are in store for a treat today. My dear friend Paula Williams has a unique perspective on the differences between males and females. You see, Paula used to be Paul. She is an accomplished pastor, teacher, counselor, parent and spouse, writer… to name a few. Please read this – you will be grateful you did. Paula blogs regularly at www.paulastonewilliams.com

I have always been a bit of a Renaissance person. At one point I was taking home paychecks as a television host, adoption caseworker, non-profit CEO, Evangelical megachurch preaching pastor, operator of homes for individuals with mental retardation, seminary instructor, and magazine editor and columnist. I loved the challenge of mastering a plethora of responsibilities. Well, that, and I happened to be running away from myself. But that’s not the subject of today’s post. And besides, I’ve been writing about that for a while now. We’re probably all getting a little tired.

When I look back there are a number of threads running through those varied jobs, yet one stands out. I did not understand its importance until my life took a major turn. These jobs were all handed to me – a tall, successful, well-educated, white American male who was clueless just how entitled he was. Oh, I worked hard, but given my privilege, that hard work sent me to the top of the class.

Because I’ve flown well over two million miles with American Airlines, I know a bit about airplanes. Over the years, on a rough flight I might comfort a seatmate by saying, “There’s nothing to worry about. This is a DeHavilland Dash-8 100 series turboprop, one of the safest airliners in the sky.” People believed me because I acted as one with authority. I can’t tell you how many times a seatmate, or even a flight attendant, would ask, “Are you a pilot with the airline?” I looked like a pilot. I looked like the host of a national television show. I looked like the preaching pastor of a megachurch.

But that was then.

Last month I was on a very turbulent flight from LAX to Honolulu. The woman seated next to me said, “I can’t remember a flight this bad.” From my frequent flyer bag of tricks, I replied, “Well this is an A321, and it’s actually a little underpowered. When it has a full load of fuel and every seat is taken, it can’t fly above the weather.” The woman did not ask if I was a pilot for the airline, she just glanced as if to say, “You should keep your thoughts to yourself.” She asked a flight attendant why the flight was so rough. He answered, “We can’t fly over the weather.” She thanked him and settled less nervously into her seat.

I thought, “How on earth could this woman be so dismissive of me? I gave a more thorough answer than the flight attendant, but she acted like I was an idiot. What’s up with that?”

Of course I knew good and well what was up with that. The same thing has been up with that everywhere I go, from the airport to the car repair shop, to the hardware store. My bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, doctoral degree, and three page curriculum vitae stand for nothing. I am summarily dismissed for one single reason. I am a woman.

I do have a little sympathy for successful, straight, white American males. No matter how hard they try, they will never understand how much the world is tilted in their favor. Short of changing genders, race, or sexual identity, it is impossible for them to know. Cisgender females cannot truly comprehend how difficult it is for them to be heard. What they have experienced is all they know. It is all their mothers knew, and their mothers before them. They were enculturated to accept flippant dismissal.

For every woman with whom I have ever worked, I am so, so sorry. I thought I was one of the good guys. I did not know what I did not know. If you thought I was aloof, or arrogant, or dismissive, it is because I was. I was ushered into that entitled existence by an education system and church that elevated me above you. I am deeply sorry. I ask your forgiveness.

And now, a word about the church that entitled me so.

I have preached in three of the 12 largest churches in America. Today I would not be allowed in the pulpit of a single one. Not only would I be barred because I am transgender, I would be barred because I am a woman. The irony is the things I know now make me twice the person I was before. But women’s voices remain silenced while churches stumble in the dark with a leadership blinded by its own entitlement. It has made me into something I never expected I’d be – a feminist.

Just yesterday I was speaking with three Christian women I deeply respect.  I would consider each a strong feminist. I said, “Now that I live and breathe among you, I realize I am still far from an essence you gracefully carry. Maybe it is because you are mothers, and ponder things in your heart that accumulate toward wisdom. Or maybe it is because you process not in part, but the whole. Or maybe it is because you stand there with your defiant nevertheless, born of love but refined by fire.”

As we parted ways I looked at these powerful women and thought, “The day will come when the walls of Jericho fall and the church becomes whole and love wins. Maybe I won’t get to preach in those churches again, but these women will.” And so, I pray, it goes.

Grateful Like A Pro

 

Untitled design-11Sometimes moments come along where we get to see ourselves from an objective viewpoint. Sometimes we are pleased, other times disturbed. I have had one such week.

I have, for much of my life, tended toward jealousy, toward competition and what Brene Brown calls scarcity. My self perception limped along with unmet expectation and comparison. I feared if someone else got what I wanted, it could never be mine. My self-raised bar smothered joy, for I could never meet the perpetual moving line of success.

This week was unique for me, a gift beyond my imaginings. I participated in Jeff Goins’ 7-Day Blog Like a Pro Challenge. Enrolling on a whim Sunday evening, I’ll just say I had no clue.

My blog is in the tender toddler stage. As I find my gait, my rhythm, I am determining who I am and what I want as a writer. Early on, topics came easy, my voice flowed effortless. Significance discovered everywhere, words and phrases at the ready. In this new, more mature place, choices are necessary to prioritize this work. Solitude, renewal, nature required to tend to my internal environment, fostering and coaxing the words. Busy-ness renders me scattered and overwhelmed – extinguishing any fire of inspiration and wonder. Writing is my new job, butt in the chair, my discipline.

This Challenge provided myself and my fellow bloggers an opportunity to emerge from our dark and comfortable online corners. The idea of self-promotion rendering many of us insecure and terrified. Writing is a solitary sport, one can wear stretch pants and no makeup, we can hide behind our words, our persona. I was tempted to give up, but something kept prompting and inviting. Follow Me a small voice whispered.

At first, comparison and competition were having their heyday, trouncing and traipsing across my confidence. My fear was on high alert. My view shrouded by the lens of scarcity, of measuring. The vulnerability of art leaves us writers wide open for attack, and oftentimes this attack comes from ourselves.

Many of us were in full blown anxiety mode by the second day. The daily requirements tempted to send me packing. Make an ebook? What? Install a plug-in, are you kidding me? Campaigns and pop up boxes and newsletters? I’m not sure about this. I think my life was pretty good last week. I don’t need this. But I did. I needed all of it. I needed community and I needed to trust myself. Requests flew on Facebook, we asked for help, we offered help. Kindness and patience reigned. Many of us reached the day’s end jubilant and triumphant. The day’s success now a launchpad for our futures – creating, inviting, exploring.

A grace showed up, reticent at the start, building to an overwhelming rush. Kind words and compliments gathered steam, a solid and sure act of unselfish abundance.

Inspiration and reassurance set up camp in our little online village. Generosity flowed rich and full as we lobbed our concerns and fears across the keyboards and airwaves. Fellow compatriots responded with equal kindness, offering solutions. We made efforts to lift one another up. Choosing to bear burdens, rather than to compete and win.

Each of us brings something unique and new to the table. Each of us, with our stories, our perspective, our gifts offer a myriad of new ways of seeing the world, of offering beauty. There is no right or wrong, no winners or losers. There is only us giving, afresh, with hand-wringing humility and hope. There is only us receiving another’s gifts with warmth and gratitude. We are invited to remove the measuring stick of division, refusing the temptation to place ourselves in front or behind on the line of comparison.

In the economy of love, there is no scarcity, there is no fear of waste, there is no concern for oneself. In the economy of love, where we dwell is where we serve, where we dwell is where we receive, where we dwell – there is room enough for all.

Thank you to my new friends who, this week, have shown me my best self, the self I want to be more often. When I resort to the old way, to the default setting, I have you as my beacon – a breathtaking guide toward kindness.

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Don’t forget to enter your name into my giveaway: 

A free copy of the book, “Grounded; Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution” by Diana Butler Bass.

Leave a comment here for a chance to win. So far, the odds look really good!

 

A Thank You & Giveaway

 

Untitled design-7Today brings me to Day 5 of Jeff Goins’ Blog Like a Pro Challenge. While I am grateful I stumbled upon this event, I am tired. Someone in our Facebook group said it would take her a week to accomplish each day’s task. I have written a manifesto, managed to install plug-ins, designed an ebook (which is available to anyone who wants to subscribe to my blog), set up a pop-up (those annoying little things that dangle on the screen in front of what you’re trying to read. Yeah, one of those…), I now know how to design and dispense a newsletter – I’m novice, but I can do it, and I have guest posted. All in four days.

Our assignment today is to give something away to our trusty readers. And, you know what? It’s about time. You are all good to me. I appreciate your kind words, your encouragement, your invitations to expand on something I said. I am so grateful that there’s been nothing hateful or hurtful, I have not encountered anything divisive.

I am moved by you. Thank you.

Like many of us, expectations can get the best of me. I tend to be hard on myself, demanding perfection, and think I should (oooh, there’s that word – none of us should ever should on ourselves) do more or be farther or better.

You all keep me grounded – in love, in faith, in real, in generosity. Thank you.

So, in the spirit of being grounded. I am giving away a free copy of the book, “Grounded; Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution” by Diana Butler Bass.

Please comment here, on this blog, and you will be entered into my raffle. Names will be drawn Friday, March 25. It will be completely honest and anonymous, monitored by my teenage children. How’s that for accuracy and fairness?

Regret and the Sound of the Rain (guest post)

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This is a guest post from my new friend, Jackie Lea Shelley. We are both participating in Jeff Goins’ Blog Like a Pro Challenge, where we bonded over cuss words. Please take her words in.  You can find more from Jackie at jackieshelley.wordpress.com  

Enjoy!

There are a lot of things I would wish I would do differently. I try hard to steer clear of regret, classing it with things like blame, fury, and shame, bits of my emotional map that I would cage, if I could. Regret never has seemed useful. Things are done, and gone, and it was a live performance.

But today, I have regrets. They have little to do with the sound of the rain, except that it reminds me of the day I walked away from a nine year marriage, and that is a regret. I don’t regret that I got married, because I loved, and learned, and lost, and gave birth to the most painfully beautiful and beloved creatures I have ever had the privilege of being completely and deeply terrified to lose. I don’t regret that I walked away, because I was drowning.

I regret that it happened. I regret that it hurt. I regret that I’m still sitting in the middle of the consequences.

I regret all the minutes that I let fear and doubt and shame drive me. I regret that I’m not half the person I wish I was and know that I could be.

For once, I’m allowing myself to wallow in it, in the frustration, the anger, the blame, the rage, the hurt, the grief, the sadness.

I’m letting it in with the sound of the falling rain, uncaging the sorrow.

If there’s anything to come from this indulgence in reflection and emotion, it’s the desire to do better with whatever time is left. I’ve never lived with regret. I’ve never dwelt in blame. I’ve tried to contain my rage. I’ve tried to escape from the grief, to laugh through the sadness, to be defiantly joyful in the middle of sorrow.

But I am willing to live through today with all the unacknowledged regrets and the sounds of the falling rain, if it will help me to choose better, today, tomorrow, all the tomorrows.

Some days are for rain, and some are for sun. Some days I write about hamsters, some days I weep.

Eventually, I get up off the floor and get back to living without regret.

Why Christians Need to Stop Saving People

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I was raised the pastor’s kid of a pastor’s kid. I had the answers, knowing the ins and outs, having a firm handle on the rights and the wrongs. I believed in Jesus, that if He was invited into my heart every single summer at camp my chances of going to Hell were lessened. I knew how to be afraid. I knew what it meant to earn and strive. I memorized Bible verses like a champ, earning me a regional bid for Bible Quizzing as an 8th grader. My guilt and desire to be worthy led me to start Bible studies in high school. Church was the family business, our second home on Wednesday nights and Sundays, morning and evening.

Not only did I have all the answers, I assumed it was my responsibility to share these answers, to save the “lost”.

The quest  to earn my way into God’s favor meant I was required to lead people along the path of salvation.  I relished the moments where I could insert a God or a Jesus and an I’ll pray for you. I believed my heart was in the right place for this was the peak of God’s call. My righteousness flamed, peace held remote, grace invisible. An overactive conscience revealed consistent shortcoming, and heaps of guilt.

In retrospect, having a penchant toward shyness and a severe lack of confidence protected me. Loud and obnoxious debate and Biblical defense did not fit my personality. Shame was aroused by my zero converted-to-Jesus rate. I attended conferences in stadiums filled to the brim with “on fire for Jesus” youngsters. With the energy and aspiration to rescue our worlds, we were commissioned and charged to save our wayward friends and family.

The notion that humans have the power to save other humans has been an ongoing reality for my lifetime, and continues today. I am not sure where this idea arose, for the process we have come to accept is not delineated in Scripture. Many Evangelical churches base their success upon the number of conversions – those who accept Jesus into their lives and experience baptism. While I don’t disagree with this practice, for I have benefitted from a life surrendered to Christ, I find the idea of racking up numbers and statistics and reports while also building relationships around this commission, manipulative. This call to “save the lost” means we have the power, we have the sole responsibility to change hearts, to sell Jesus, to somehow meld grace and truth. Whose truth?

Our job is not to sell Jesus. He can do that for Himself.

Our job is not to play judge and jury, calling out what we believe to be sin.

Our job is not to withhold compassion, kindness, generosity because someone holds different beliefs and values.

Our job is not to proclaim that Christians have all the answers and know best.

Our job is to let go of our control, determining who can participate in receiving God’s love, and how this love is manifested.

Relationships must be built on a foundation of trust and earned respect. We wield misplaced influence when we make friends and family our Jesus winning projects. The Christian-ese words and expressions of faith are not useful nor helpful. In loving people we learn them, we discover them. Salvation is not our work, nor can it motivate our actions toward another. Our work is to be authentic, honest. Our work is to serve, through presence and empathy while seeking to understand. In doing this we discern how best to love, growing our compassion while engaging with attentive hearts and ears.

We accomplish our work of love when we see no other, when we understand there is no Muslim or Buddhist or Christian or Catholic or LGBT or black or Latino or male or female or young or old. There is us, together, people getting through the day, with life and problems and joys and suffering. Parents with children and jobs and questions and health issues. People with financial concerns and fears and success and goals.

We participate best in the life of another when we recognize our only work is love. Loving God, loving others, loving ourselves.

We are not qualified, nor commissioned for any other work.

Nickeled & Dimed

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“Dime” Photo by Claire, the Shepherd

We ushered in the arrival of Claire’s newborn lambs two weeks ago. They appeared early on a Tuesday morning. Claire stopped me in my backwards tracks, in the driveway, while shuttling the oldest to school. Her eyes big and wide, voice shaky and infused with nerves relaying the news that Penny was pushing.

The first healthy baby girl slithered out at 7:30. A second girl within minutes, a perfect stillborn. Penny’s attention remained glued to the first, her instincts evidenced by clucks and chatters and copious licking. To our great surprise, a third body spilled out – larger than the first, shattering our expectations and experience. Two little girls, alive and well, Nickel and Dime.

Our hearts opened, our stomachs churned, this sudden responsibility of lamb infancy a burden I was not prepared or equipped to carry. We introduced the youngsters to teats, the process more difficult than I assumed. Tiny bodies chilled and shocked by the cruel introduction to winter, with sharp, pungent odors of birth and barn. Dime’s leg was double jointed, her prospects of nursing limited by an inability to stand secure without the leg failing her. The sharp jut of her hipbones offered a solid handle for me to pinch between thumb and forefinger to elevate her rear end, to prevent tipping.

Our brilliant neighbor girl, a precious resource. She offered her expertise for the morning’s duration, providing advice and supplies to counter our novice insecurity. From the cleaning of wooly pelts to the sucking of noses, her partnership and offering, priceless in our overwhelmed state.

Learning curves offer a harsh reality, a revelation of the most intense vulnerability. New jobs, babies, fresh relationships, marriage, goals and dreams, school, new adventures – at the outset, all hold a level of risk that hides from view. The initial stages are filled with wonder and dreams and excitement. The fantasy holds beauty and power, the knowledge that a remarkable story will be told someday. The romance, the giddy excitement of new carries us forward. Yet, as we move along the path, intensive effort and unclear work is required to inch toward the goal. Questions arise, seeds of doubt are planted, yearning for the old and familiar, the presumed safe and easy.

And in the low moments, we forget. We forget the call, the desire that spurred us forward in the first place. The risk and uncertainty, too great a burden to bear. The temptation to return to the known, regardless of the suffering. The story of God’s own people remind us of the power of the familiar. The Israelites after wandering around in the desert desired the familiarity and certainty of their life in Egypt, a life filled with the horrors of slavery and exploitation. At least life was predictable. They knew what to expect. The relief of the promised land, the promised unknown can seem too distant, too impossible.

And here is where the best stories arise – if we hang on, if we surrender in trust, clinging to the smallest tendril of hope, a microscopic seed of faith.

After three touch-and-go days, mom’s milk filled in abundant. Our fear and worry alleviated, a cheer rose in my heart. “Thank you, Lord.” I did not know the angst I was carrying for these lives. The lambs now abound, chasing chickens, enjoying the freedom of the fenced yard expanse. Their bony, saggy bodies an afterthought, daily weight gain measured in pounds. Our grateful hearts full of mirth, a multitude of visitors share in the therapy of a lamb snuggle. The fear of failure a distant memory as we watch their solid little bodies gulp with gusto and greed. Mama’s close eye remains, their plaintive cries echo when they skitter too far from her watchful gaze. Her bleating call piercing the yard, connecting mother with baby.

We can choose vulnerability or we can choose safety, the two cannot coexist. The call to living a wholehearted life is never easy. Guaranteed moments of doubt and failure will plague our efforts, but the reward goes to the person in the arena. In the words of the fabulous Brene Brown, from Daring Greatly:

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

Belonging Together: Family Vacations and Redwood Forests

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Our family’s two week vacation of choice, or necessity, was camping. We loaded up the minivan and another car, or a borrowed RV, sparing no lawnchair or bicycle. Our comfort and recreation top priority. The chosen destination for my teenage years was the California State Park system, specifically the California Redwoods. Favorites included: Prairie Creek State Park, near Arcata, CA and Big Basin Redwoods outside of Santa Cruz.

Having a pastor for a father, meant that our family of seven vacationed on a budget. The California State Park system was suitable for the pocketbook. In exchange for a campsite, tent and supplies for one week’s use, my dad handled the work of chaplain for the campground, providing an outdoor Sunday service. Each Saturday, our reluctant brood canvassed the campground, dispensing flyers, inviting all to attend the following day. My sister and I sang, the boys played instruments, I broke out a rousing flute solo, Dad preached a short sermon. While I would have rather been a million other places, the umbrella of trees, the amphitheater with the intimate congregation, provided an unparalleled setting to showcase our talents, while basking in the astonishing beauty.

The California Coast Redwoods, a remarkable feat of creation, few living things compare to the forest’s vast grandeur. The trees tower upward of 380 feet in height and 29 feet in diameter. The coastal fog and rain supply needed moisture. Under the shelter of needles, one feels held, protected, ensconced in the faded, muted light.

Trees grow together in Fairy Rings, or family groups. A collapsed mother tree will provide an ideal birthplace for young clones to emerge out of her root base. These infant trees with their identical genetic material, perpetuate the species, re-creating what is already unique and perfect, the family’s roots all shallow and connected. The “duff” – dirt and stuff – of the forest floor, the substrate optimal for this regeneration, a product of the decomposing work of bugs, banana slugs and damp air. Recycling at its finest occurring right before our eyes.

This morning I read from A Grounded Lent  by Diana Butler Bass:

Have you ever been somewhere that made you feel like you were home? A place that gave you a powerful sense of connection, of mysterious presence, of knowing yourself more deeply? Some scientists now suggest that our genes carry patterns of memory that we inherit from our ancestors, and these memories actually connect us with people and practices from long ago. We do “remember” places we have never been. In this way, the past is always with us. Perhaps some places jog deep and ancient memory, alerting us to a different reality than the one of our immediate experience. Is this one of the ways we “remember” God? Are there places that serve as the holy ground of our lives?

The Redwood forest is one of my places, mysterious, tapping into the unknown portions of my body and being. Wonder – the only appropriate response. I recognize I am a part of something larger than me, something timeless, superseding my human era, a place where past relatives may have stood, the same response of awe and wonder filling their bodies.

We sprout from one another, as the trees, not as exact clones, but as part of the human tapestry. Our shared experiences, our bodies grounded together. God, the Creator, dwelling with us, working alongside us through creation. The care we provide for one another and the care we provide for the earth a direct corollary to our care for God. Tending to our communities, our land – tending to God. Dispensing love to the least of these, the sick, the imprisoned, the poor, the hungry – loving God. The earth under our feet, the oxygen of our lungs, the water comprising our bodies, demonstrates our connection to one another. The organism of our collective humanity, linked and intertwined as the Redwoods’ root system.

We belong together. Your children are mine, my children are yours. Your unrest is my unrest. Your lack of peace is my lack of peace. Your unjust treatment is my unjust treatment. Your child’s exploitation is my child’s exploitation. The pain of yours is mine, too. We dwell under the same stars, the same sky. The sun’s rays shine upon us all. Our connection through dirt, through sky, through water.

The news has been overrun by fearful rhetoric of walls and borders and deportation and THEM. There is no THEM. There is me and you and us and we. Our collective humanity, our we, our us is threatened. Our collective needs a break from the fear. Our children need help, our mothers and fathers and sons and daughters are suffering. I bear in my body the ache of another. My discontent, unattributed pain and angst, my striving and competition – all a reflection of the world’s need, of our need.

May we see, may we act in the work of relief, the work of bearing burdens and lightening loads.

The needled canopy offers solace, the low-hanging fog, the mystery of shrouded treetops. The fuzzy gloom a welcome refuge from the burden of the bright light. I find comfort, knowing I am held, I am grounded, weighted by the thousands of years of the treed existence. My life, other lives lifted and supported by another’s once lived.

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I would like to introduce you to the Al Antoz Family. A family of 10, Syrian refugees presently living in a camp in Lebanon. Our family is sponsoring them within Lebanon and if you feel inclined/connected please join us with any contribution as it will make a remarkable difference in this family’s life. You can read all about the Al Antoz family and our campaign here.

20160224_113758Hamsa Al Antoz, age 4.

Thank you for donating and recognizing we all belong together.