Thursday, November 21, 2013

"Via Feminina", "The Feminine Way"

My husband told me once "You are the true feminist."  I bristled at the comment.  To me the woman who would be called "feminist" was sharp tongued and never held back from pointing her finger at any man that she saw as being a conduit for the ongoing victimization of women.  I certainly did not feel that I treated the men in my life in that way nor did I see them as being cruel and heartless creatures who were purposely keeping me from growing to my full potential as a human being.  I needed my husband to explain further what it was that he was meaning by this statement.  He went on to tell me that my growing knowledge regarding the divine dignity of both women and men was leading me into the necessity of being open to the truth of God and that God's divine Truth would most certainly speek of equality of dignity and what has been distorted by sinful humans.  Even though I had purposely stayed away from most LiberationTheology literature I was most certainly being drawn back to the theology of those who continue to be marginalized and diminished within our society and the world whether they be poor, women, or men.  Eventually I would find myself needing to engage with the wisdom coming through Christian feminist writings.

I do not feel like a victim.  I have never felt like a victim.  I was raised by a single mother and have tried to raise my daughters and son to reach their full potential as human beings with the knowledge that their dignity and gifts come from our gracious and loving God.  This theology was handed to me through the life of my mother who knew abandonment, suffering, sacrifice, depth of love, and a colder world handed to single mothers. Her gentleness and ability to create a life for me that deceived the look of poverty placed the world at my feet.  I was taught by the Sisters of St. Joseph, Carmelites, and the Benedictines that my education was a gift to be cherished in the knowledge that many women around the world were denied this opportunity.  I loved to learn so this was not something that was difficult for me to do.  Outside of my studies the only other thing I had to do was to wash all the blackboards on the first floor of the school as a way to assist my mother in paying for my tuition.  This was a small sacrifice of time but necessary for me to receive the outstanding level of education that was provided by these very educated Religious women.

It wasn't until I became a mother and wife and recessions occurred that I began to "feel" the  beginnings of encroaching expectations.  It was a time when women were embattled in the fight for equality and respect in the workplace and in the home.  This equality would begin to present itself as a picture of choice; choice to remain in the home parenting my children or the choice to enter into the work day world of the men and place my children into the hands of other women in varying day care situations.  Women began to fight with other women over what was the "right" way of living their lives and as a young mother this became a very confusing and guilt ridden time.  What I did know for myself, though, was that my ability to cook, sew, garden, and presevere was being limited time and time again through what was fast becoming my "need" to work.  

 Need was being crafted within the framework of advertising agencies and youthful women everywhere were beginning to replace the "ways" of the older women with the touted, new, less stressful ways of pursuing self interest and personal growth, demanding equality of household duties from spouses, all the while caring for the children. Things such as growing vegetable gardens and fruit orchards as well as baking and canning were subtly being replaced with microwaveable dishes and fast food restaurants.  Quantity of time was being diminished to the possibility of living life to its fullest and only needing to provide quality of care.  Bras were being burned and what was viewed as old prisoning traditions were being outed and destroyed in favor of new "ways" for women to "choose" to live their lives.  Who we were as women was entering into conversations as never before. 

Thus it is that transformation can come through the forceful push of a generation but it has certainly left me wondering if we, as women, have truly lifted up and affirmed the co-steward dignity of womanhood or if the desperation for equality led us more completely into the trappings of our culture of purchase.  G.K. Chesterton once wrote that he hoped women would not pursue the world of men for certainly they would fall as men have fallen into lives that were imprisoned by the workings of society.  He saw women as having more choice in their movements twithin the home then men who had such expectations of success placed upon their being.  I have thought of his words often as I have lived the last 30 years of my life watching the battle between women lessen and become more of a clash between the "have's" and the "have not's".

During this same period of time the Catholic Church has also undergone many different changes in regards to human diginity and equality.  An example would be that when I was a child, I had to wear a covering over my hair while in church and was not allowed any further towards the altar than the Communion rail.  Boys were altar servers as a way of getting them comfortable in the company of the priests and Bishop and to question a possible vocation to ordination.  When I was about 7, I went to Mass before school and was met at the door by one of the Sisters and told that I no longer had to wear anything upon my head.  There was no explanation just an expectation of doing what she said.  Later I would come to understand this as one of the changes from the historic 2nd Vatican Council.  When I was about 13, I was invited by one of the Sisters to read Scripture at Mass.  I was nervous but my heart sang at the possibility of being closer to my God.  When I came to Mass that day, I was met by Sister who told me that the priest had said that I could not read at Mass and she was very, very sorry. 

Today, through the courage of other women, religious and lay, and the enlightenment of male leadership, we have girl altar servers in many Catholic parishes.  Women teach, they sing in and direct choirs, and they read Scripture from the Ambo.  As a woman and as a mother of women and girls and as a grandmother of many girls I am very grateful for this movement towards inclusion.  I struggle with the term "equality" here, though, for my experiences today do not speak of equality of spiritual direction or of curiosity of authentic creation.  The things I see into place appear to be more of systematic change than revelation of truth.  Pope Francis seems to be challenging this.  Theologically I must challenge this. 

There is no "place" for women or for men within the unified ministry of Christ Jesus.  Holy Scripture is clear about human equality and Christ's relationship with both men and women.  It tells us that "no one knows the spirit of a man except the man".  All of us as Christians need to turn inward and seek God within ourselves so that He may reveal to us all that we are.  Then, it is we who go forward to clarify and reveal this to others.  How do we influence others to seek out, to be interested in, the spiritual life of each other?  How do we throw open the doors of the Church and pray that the Holy Spirit continue to find us worthy of His advocacy and direction?  How do we affirm and celebrate each human life as God's goodness given as hands and feet  for the world?  Could we truly find a more fully disclosed truth by looking through the lens of the "feminine way"? 

I have begun my research and I am so pleased to discover so many lovely women writing theological books on the subject of women and faith or women and the church with such love and grace.  There is a need for historical and modern accuracy so the violence of the sins of oppression, aggresion, poverty, sexism, etc. reveal themselves.  In the midst of this I see the willingness of these women to meet theology head on.  I do not see much in the way of manipulation of thought or the question of aggressive retribution but instead find a more Christ like willingness to engage and wrestle with realities of human life and seek God's will revealed.  An example from She Who Is by Elizabth A. Johnson "By Christian feminist theology I mean a reflection on God and all things in the light of God that stands consciously in the company of all the world's women, explicitly prizing their genuine humanity while uncovering and criticizing its persistent violation in sexism...In terms of Christian doctrine, this perspective claims the fullness of the religious heritage for women precisely as human in their own right and independent from personal identification with men.  Women are equally created in the image and likeness of God, equally redeemed by Christ, equally sanctified by the Holy Spirit; women are equally involved in the ongoing tragedy of sin and the mystery of grace, equally called to mission [vocation] in this world, equally destined for life with God in glory." How beautiful and yet how tragic that women today still need to claim their authentic equality. 

This is such a huge and wonderful endeavor on behalf of the Church.  It moves my heart today to say to all my Christian brothers "Please do not create a 'place' for me but, instead, ask me where the Spirit is leading my spirit for I have opened my heart to the Truth of the Lord and it is He who is revealing to me the way in which I am to go.  Let us be brother and sister.  Let us love one another and celebrate each other's goodness.  Let us offer each other a firm, loving hand of peace and fellowship trusting that the Spirit of God will move where He wills.  We will be beside each other in His peace and not worry or take upon those things that Christ has asked us to give to Him.  I promise that I will be your partner in faith and Iwill do my part in discerning God's direction for my life.  If we come to a place where we are uncertain and the unknown sits before us, we can prostrate ourselves together upon the altar of the Lord and ask Him to grace us with direction.  I love you, my brother, in all your fullness and fruitfullness as God's beloved son.  Now, I think, it is your turn to love me in this same fullenss and fruitfullness as God's beloved daughter." Amen.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


My furthest memory of an ironing board was that of a place to crawl under and imagine myself being hid in a space between the kitchen and living room.  My mother pressed many things so the ironing board could not be folded up and put too far away.  In those days it was not uncommon for me to see her ironing my brother's under shirts, us girls' bras, and even socks.  Pillowcases were ironed and placed in a tri-fold until taken out on Saturdays when bed linens were changed and washed.  Of course, in those days the irons weren't the magical steam spouting light weight appliances of today.  They were heavy and sat on a metal stand at the end of the board along with the misting bottle and spray starch.  It was quite a chore for our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers but there was something about watching a woman iron and starch a shirt for someone she loved that appeared sacramental.

Last night I was ironing my husband's shirts and began thinking about my life around the ironing board.  I have my mother's board which keeps reminding me on occasion that wood does not last through too many lifetimes.  Soon it's springs will stretch too far and its wood piece that catches on a large tack of some sort and holds up the board itself will no longer catch and it will not be able to stand.  It, like the women who have appreciated its usefullness, will have to go away and within a few generations be forgotten.

There was another time this past year that I was standing at the ironing board pressing a man's shirt.  It was a beautiful lavender colored shirt that belonged to my son in law.  He had died suddenly a few days before and I had asked my daughter if I could take the clothes he would be buried in and press them for him.  I knew how much he liked his clothes to look clean and pressed when he was dressing for work or other special occasions.  It was the last act of kindness that I could give to him.  In the time it took me to press his shirt, pants, and tie I felt the holiness of God that comes with loving someone to death.  This ironing was a simple act but it was an act placed in the spiritual realm of "doing unto others". 

As I recalled this moment last evening I wondered if I had also pressed my mother's green dress that was chosen for her burial or if she, maybe, had pressed her mother's dress or my grandfather's dress shirt, pants, and tie.  I also couldn't help but wonder who else's clothes I may iron for this same purpose and who it will be that will lovingly press mine.  Sacraments are like that.  They can wash away sin and initiate like that of baptism or they can sanctify and make ready like that of annointing of the sick.  Their holy and life changing grace comes from our loving Father in Heaven who abundantly gives to us ways in which we can be in relationship to and reach Him.  The saints who have left their legacy of wisdom for us assure us that anyone who opens themselves up to God's goodness within these earthly activities, even that of ironing, will surely discover a depth of holiness that exists within the very act.  

St. Paul challenges all of Christ's faithful followers to learn to pray ceaselessly.  With my mother at her ironing board during the course of so many of her life's challenges and happy moments I am sure that prayers are embedded within the grain of its wood.  I know that when I stand by its side and I shake out a uniform shirt for one of my children or I begin pressing my husband's shirts for work, or tablecloths to be used to bring color to the spring gardens I can feel my spiritual self coming forth slowing down the busyness of my day and bringing to me deep thoughts of life and God.  May God be praised for its utility, its memories, and the many prayers prayed at its side.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Soul's Voice

I began my research today to educate myself on the "theology of women".  The first book I perused stated you cannot look at the history of women without seeing oppression, victimization, isolation, abuses, and powerlessness.  This was hard for me to read.  Intellectually I certainly know that this is a true representation of the history of women within humanity but, I suppose, I began to realize just how deep sin can distort God's creations and I felt very sad; sad for all women who have been treated in their lifetimes in ways that were unjust, lacking in mercy and respect, and especially for those who have experienced the force of demonic madness.  I knew in my heart that this was not the direction I should begin in for it would stop me as surely as I had begun.

It isn't that I am cowardly and unwilling to face these realities, it is because I know in my feminine being that it isn't a portrayal of the fullness of the story.  Women have been persistently trying to survive and survive well while feeding, in some way, their created dignity.  Some were good, some bad, some holy, some lazy, some carefree, some delightful, some vicious, some leaders, some radical, etc.  Within our human history we will certainly find individual lives lived.  Choices will have determined one's movement towards or away from God even within the oppressions of time, state, and church. I know that it is this picture of the whole woman, complete with her choices of holiness or sin, that I needed to begin with.  It is "she" with her authentic being created and known by God before her birth.  Through God's grace and mercy within her sinful humanness she is also full of goodness, possibilities, and spiritual gifts and God places her upon the earth to desire Him, do His will, and bring His presence of compassion and care to all "others".  Through God's sacrament of baptism her original sin is washed away but her tendency towards sin remains.  She will have to make her way, as we all do, through the experiences and choices of her life working within the framework of what she is given as a child and what she accepts as an adult.

Some would say that I should begin my journey with the awareness that there should be no differentiating between men and women.  A theology of humankind should be sufficient citing "neither male nor female ...".  I understand the desire for a "sex free" theology where differences cannot be used to separate and diminish but there is a difficulty with that and I think it begins with the awareness that to get to that spiritual point of understanding "all" within the goodness of God, we, as human beings, need to first start at the bottom and work our way up the spiritual ladder of enlightenment.  That means that we need to start with the creation of men and women, accepting the truth of differences established within Genesis, the Holy Scripture of God, and with interest, desire, and prayer seek to uncover God's Truth as we move upward into His mysterious infinity.  We need to ask Him if it be His will to bring us greater awareness of His creation "woman" and if so, reveal this to us through His Word, His Tradition, and His relationship to women through His Spirit and her spirit.  This honors God and with trust in His perfect justice we are then able to move forward in our discovery.

 The second book I looked at began with the soul of a woman, her mystical creation by God carrying within it God's image of His goodness.  The author talked about how men and women, being co-stewards of the earth, cannot attain a full understanding of themselves without attaining understanding of the "other".  Within the first part of the Introduction I knew that this is where my journey must begin...the woman's soul and the mysterious within every woman's being.  Questions begin to erupt within me.  I have such a strong desire to sit with groups of women and ask them to tell me about their personal relationship with the Holy Trinity.  How does the Spirit move within you?  Have you had experiences where you knew in your heart that there was "more" to the story?  As you were giving birth did you sense the presence of generations of women who have come before you?  Question upon question, an eternal invitation to speak up and out about life in God and while doing so, grow in personal and communal faith in the One who saves us from the possibility of a dark and bleak life of sin where oppression and deception distort and destroy all hope and joy. 

As a teacher and student of theology and as a director of spiritual discernment I have discovered for my self that God has sent me forth to seek out the soul's voice in whom ever I encounter for it is here that I can be of greatest service.  Within that it means that I will have to address all of those people, states, and institutions, including churches, that may stand in the way of the soul's voice being heard, affirmed, and celebrated as the gift that it is.  The parallel journey is that this speaks to my authentic created self.  I have come to know her and to know her well.  Having given myself over to the will of God and the awareness of human life and salvation through Jesus Christ I have come to know the importance of pursuing the fullness of life I have been given that has from its earliest beginning been drawn into the light of the Holy Spirit and with this awareness look outward onto the landscape of humanity and do what I can to bring to life the soul's voice of each and every human being that I meet. Within this will be the soul's voice of the woman. 

So, upon this foundation of creation in God's goodness and continued life in relationship with God, I can look back upon the weaknesses of humanity written within the realities of its history and allow myself to look truthfully upon the landscape of today.  May I be energized by the Spirit of God for this mission and strengthened in faith and love to encounter the continued oppressions within the world's cultures, especially the culture of the Church, and be the hands and feet of Christ through Spirit-led words of wisdom. May all women feel the love of God today given from His Spirit to theirs for in His Truth He has lifted the creation of womanhood up and said "It is good". 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Who Are You Woman of Christ Jesus?

I was watching television recently and a commercial came on.  In this advertisement there was a beautiful young woman, probably around 28, who was dressed in a summer dress that swung with her hips as she walked past other men and women on the street.  The men, of course, turned to look at her as she passed by while their female partners kept walking towards their destination.  This woman, smiling as she went, then had the words "Modern Muse" placed over her as a title of "role".  At the end of the commercial the term used by the unseen speaker was "inspiring".  I was left "hmmmmm'ing" to myself wondering what it was about this woman that was supposed to be noticeably inspiring.  Was it the way the men were so inspired to notice her and possibly pursue her if the movement of their partner didn't remind them that they had been heading somewhere and with someone that apparantly mattered to them?  Was it the way that she had chosen her clothing and perfume that was supposed to inspire the public to purchase?  Was her beauty, like that of Helen of Troy, supposed to inspire speechlessness?  I wasn't sure and after many days of reflecting upon this inspiring woman I am still not sure. 

What I am sure about is that this ad does not sell truth to individuals who value truth; truth of dignity and inspiration, especially of women.  I have no finger to point.  The ad is doing what it was meant to do and that is to make a woman want to do whatever she needs to do to look like that, walk like that, dress like that, and smell like that so that she, too, can gain that type of reaction from men.  It is a billion dollar industry within our culture.  I only have a "call out" to my sisters in Christ to seek out the fullness of their created dignity and to present it as inspiration to all who come into relationship with them.  Young girls need to "see" and "hear" the women in their lives who will let them know in their individual ways what it truly means to be Spirit inspired and live inspirational lives as co-stewards of the earth and all that God has created to dwell upon it.

Beauty has been distorted in my life time.  My mother was beautiful with her downy head of white hair and her short stature and Jergens infused soft, nursing hands.  Her deep chocolate French eyes mesmerized me the day before her death.  She loved God and she loved her Catholic faith filled with Sacrament and holy writings.  She promoted prayer and reflection especially during Advent.  She brought comfort to all those she ministered to in her nursing career.  She was poor and yet had a sureness about her, most of the time, that spoke of knowing that many material things just did not matter in good Christian woman's life.

I never knew my grandmothers but I knew my husband's grandmother and mother.  They, too,were inspirational in their love for family, food, and acceptance of hard work.  They laughed and loved cards and good jokes.  They talked of hard times and perseverance.   They could demand silence from the children and yet be ver attentive at times of tears all the while teaching them ways to survive and survive well. 

I have also known Sisters of St. Benedict who helped me to learn through my early education.  I think of their inspiration fondly for the living of their monastic lifestyle kept me "wondering" about the choice of ways of living and loving God.  There was sternness and love; generosity of time and talent and willingness to explore the theology of God.

So many inspiring women....women of other religious families, women who own businesses, women who haven't been able to have children who have sought ways to bring some a mother's love, women who lead, and women who write.  Few of these women, though, have clarified their spiritual life's journey and given it to our culture and the world as gift.  It is time.  It is like a pregnancy that has become overdue.  Each day that goes by without its birth is a day of longing that affects all of us women and leaves us to the mass produced, commercially created inspiration of the muse.

Rise up women of God and let the world know who you are.  Walk, talk, and breathe God's direction.  Enter into discernment and grow in your understanding of His creation of you and the will He has for your life today.  Go forth and serve the Lord and inspire all who see you today.  AMEN

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Theology of Woman

Pope Francis has stated in his recent interview being shared in many ways on the Internet and other forms of media that the Church needs to gain theological knowledge about women.  This is necessary so that the Church can move more fully into her authentic fruitfulness.  I did not see where he might have put a call out to theologians to begin researching and writing like others might have but his statement still lingers in the air like incense.  It makes logical and faith sense that Pope Francis would do this for it was God's will that men and women be co-stewards of all that He created.  To only have an ongoing historical picture of half of the story leaves most desiring the authentic view of the other half.  This is a blessed opportunity for clarification and education.   So this is a "call out" to all of God's created daughters to speak out about what it is that we would want the Church to know about us?  What have we discovered about our co-stewardship of humanity, the environment, and care for all creatures?  What is our personal relationship to Jesus Christ?  His mother, Mary?  His disciples?  His continued ministry? Our sins? Here is the moment for us as theologians and as women to pray for direction from the Holy Spirit in seeking out the feminine voice and to affirm and lift it up into the realm of its created dignity.

It is an interesting dynamic when the spotlight is turned on the one who has been tormented, abused, forgotten, mistreated, powerless, etc. and asked "What is the truth about you?"  This is certainly an opportunity for "going inward" for the Church and seeking transformation through the discovery of what longs to be uncovered.  How do we get to a spiritual place of providing insight without first ridding ourselves of all of our masks and insulation? My answer...spiritual discernment.  This is the time for turning to the Holy Spirit in prayer and seeking out God's will as to what He would choose to have revealed.  We can do this with complete assurance that whatever His Spirit directs us to do will be best for the Church and the world.  

It has been a difficult but provocative journey for me to discover my own voice.  A voice that is authentically a theologian, a teacher, a pastoral minister, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter, a sister, a gardener, etc. God has gifted me with spiritual gifts that support my ongoing vocation of mercy.  I have walked with children suffering at the hands of tormented parents.  I have walked with Hispanic mothers who feared greatly for the lives of their children being raised in poverty and who revealed their battle with depression brought on by the machismo of their culture.  I have walked with the cognitively disabled and have allowed myself to be drawn into their simple living within the social service structure.  I have been called to be in communion with homeless men, women, and children, veterans, and prisoners, alcoholics and addicts, cancer survivors and those losing their battle to disease. 

I love my Catholic faith for it speaks to the universality of my experience but there needs to be ongoing discernment regarding relationships with my ordained brothers in the Church for toleration is not affirmation.  I am happy reading theological writings on God and how He continues to be in relationship with people of every age and I am humbled in the midst of spiritual discernment students and the movement of God's Spirit actively engaging their spirit.  I have witnessed great generosity and destruction from sins of greed and injustice.  This is truly who I am and anything that I say or write comes from this fullness of life. Some would call this my bias.  I call this my voice.

May God be praised through the prophetic words of Pope Francis and may all women turn inward to seek out their authentic creation and speak out about what they find there.  I will try to do my part in listening and learning, writing about it and teaching it, exciting the younger generation of women with its possibilities and help to spread God's balm on those elderly women who have suffered at the hands of ignorance.  This is certainly a new and lovely day when the men of the Church turn to the women of the Church with interest and respect for difference.  Thank you, Pope Francis, for being actively engaged without fear to the tuggings of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, September 9, 2013

I am on vacation with Henri Nouwen.  His book, Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, has drawn me into his awareness of God's active relationship with us human beings.  Whether men or women God continues to call out to us in the midst of our grief-stricken lives.  He calls out to us with His infinite love knowing that if we "hear" Him and turn towards Him that our suffering will be lessened.  What Henri discovered through the course of his own life and through the "hearing" and the "seeing" of the suffering of the ill people he ministered to is that all of our lives our suffering.  Human life suffers because there is sin in our world...there is sin in the form of poverty, there is sin in the form of injustice, there is sin in the form of greed, in the form of illness, in dying and death.  There is sin in the form of confusion and fear, violence and disappointment.  There is sin in the form of fighting and bullying; in the form of any type of activity that harms the dignity of ones self and others. 

We were not created to live sinful lives that needed death and resurrection as an entrance into our eternity.  We were created to love God and in loving Him we loved all around us for within everything else we heard and saw Him. So how well are we doing at this today?  Where is it we go to reflect on this Truth and to examine ourselves, our conscience?  Jesus called His disciples "away" to pray and reflect on what they were being taught by Him.  He calls us, too, as His followers to understand the sense, through faith, that we need to have intentional "going away" time or we will fall into the devilish trap of being completely spiritually depleted. 

As I sit in the midst of the love of my son and his wife I read the words of Christ written by Henri and I realize with greater depth the joy of this blessing in my life.  God's presence comes to me through them, their animals, their home, their care for me, the natural surroundings of where they live and I find that I have needed this respite more than I knew.  I was beginning to forget how important it is for me to sit in the silence and just know that God loves me, the ME He created and understand that the ME cannot  be subject to what others think I should have been or should be.  It needs to be fed by Him and I together.  The work that I have to do is to reflect upon this and discern what gets in the way of this absolutely Divine, intimate relationship.

Today I went on my e-mail account and saw the e-mails from my daughter's teachers.  Their new system of quick, accurate testing and current grade responses are formulated to inform and enlighten all who view them.  The other day when I went over them with my daughter I saw her tears in that she was given these grades that were less than her total beginning 9th grade experience.  She had tried so hard to encounter this new High School experience with grace and the assuredness that she would learn wonderful new things.  The studies were hard and she knew she would have to focus to keep herself balanced with her school work, her family life, and her need for fresh air in the form of bicycling.  I do not think either her or I were expecting what felt like an immediate grading of her new experience.  What I saw was the flogging of her spirit.  Her whole experience was being graded by this computerized system of instant communication.  My eyes saw and my spirit felt that this is not a healthy way for her.  Some how, some way I need to giver her permission to not live this way, to live in the life of the spirit and the love of God and to learn enough about herself that she can reflect on whether or not she is doing the best she can with the gifts that she has been given.  I want her to be able to problem solve the techniques of problem solving and that will require quiet time with God in prayer where He opens wide the infinite possibilities and the "ah ha" moments occur. 

In future years sociologists will write about how all of our technological advancements affected our lives, both outwardly and inwardly.  There will be studies and volumes that will sit on bookstore shelves trying to make sense out of what the societal movements were and judgment will come in the form of whether or not the populace was "better off" for it.  Many volumes will account for the many definitions of "better off".  Future generations will study our actions in the classroom and will decide which ways need to be relinquished because of their inadequacies.  I write this and my soul cries "God have mercy". 

For today I will bring myself back to Henri and his writings on relationship with God and how the world, even an extremely knowledgeable, instantaniously communicating world, needs to "Be still and know that He is God" for communication like all worldly things can become an idol to replace Him if we are not intentionally choosing what we focus our lives on.  We have permission from Him to not let anything, ANYTHING come between Him and us.  I will be telling my daughter to turn all of this communication off.  We will watch over her grade at Mid Term but the days between will be more relaxed and focused on healthy living, not on communication overload.  Her focus needs to be on her spirit and God's Spirit and that will only take place in the "going away" of Christ.  Blessings...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Cry of the Poor...The "Bored" Worker, The "Zoning" Parents, The "Gaming" Child, the "Fashionista"

"The Lord hears the cry of the poor...."  When you hear these words sung in worship or written in Scripture, who are the "poor" to you?  Are they the poverty stricken? the homeless? the seriously mentally ill? Are they you?  Our culture seems to put the emphasis of the term "poor" on the impoverished child whose tenuous living conditions and lack of healthy food and nurturing love have left them vulnerable and easily manipulated in seeking out their identities.  They are poor and their poverty speaks to the sinful nature of many but in ways this differs from the poor of the psalmist.  In the psalms the poor is the psalmist himself.  It is he/she who is reaching out to God for comfort and relief of real life terrors including that of spiritual darkness presenting itself in the forms of weariness, or melancholy, or blindness, bitterness, and the fear of the viciousness of others.  In our culture today, who are the poor?  I have worked with the Midwestern American poor and have seen the effects of unemployment, addictions, illness, and sloth.  I have rejoiced with their successes and sat with them in the silent despair of their shame.  The poor called me forth into ministry and gave me the experience and knowledge to write about them and their "situations" but they are not the only poor that I have encountered.  I now see another group of poor congealing and struggling to lift their eyes to heaven for relief and that is the poor of those who have been swept up into the tidal wave of continued experience.  These are the bored, the restless, the zoned, the ones who dream of "getting away from it all" but can't help but bring it "all" with them when they finally are able to go.  They stop "seeing" and "hearing" their loved ones and their neighbors but focus on the "reality" of others whose sad, self-focused lives are watched not to educate and nurture but to be exploited and entertain (I write this and cannot help but see the resemblance to the Roman Colliseum and all of its activities).  Time begins to be seen as a weapon of destruction.  Silence and reflection as a punishment.  The call to connect with land, water, air and sun only a means for detached enjoyment.  All of it leading to the poverty of spirit; to the hunger of the soul and the loss of identity leading to discomfort of body and mood...restlessness, anxiety, depression, grief, dissatisfaction with life and lack of energy, contentment, comfort, and peace. All ready to go from being the healthy to the ill in the midst of a lifetime. 

Where is God's mercy today for these poor in spirit?  How does His Spirit continue to try to console in this age?  St. Augustine's wisdom was that we will always be restless unless we turn to God and rest in His will, His creation.  This brings to mine Jesus' question for the disabled man by the side of the pool when He asked "Do you want to be healed?"  This man sat waiting for assistance.  He did not respond as one who is creative and able to reach out to those around him. I think this question, once again. should be asked of all who suffer the effects of this addiction to experience so that the clarification of the answer can help to draw them forth from their zombie-like existence.  Life is here.  It has not left. It is only covered with a veil of illusion.  It is still filled with wonder and joy.  The earth smells of delightful fragrances and there are still people sitting in each other's company by firelight, looking into each other's eyes and laughing and sharing stories of old.  There are great grandmothers holding great grandchildren on their laps singing lullabies and bringing the comfort of sound and touch.  There are birds in the air darting back and forth into the blue sky drawing each other forth into formation or screeching stay away.  The rabbits are in the garden and the tomato plants grow 6 inches a day. The season is changing and soon another will come.  The air is fresh where we are and the sun rises and the sun sets on the timetable of God.  It is all still here while you remain bored and discontent.  The stars will shine whether or not you take the time to notice that which was used to present to Abraham God's promise.  The fish still fill the stream and there are still those who sit calmly by the shore to catch them.  The forests remain whether or not you walk their paths and smell the peppery smell of the pines.  Children still sit in classrooms singing of beauty and love and the fireflies still move silently and brilliantly through the late summer nights.  Nature and the human beings in front of us still remind us that God and all of His goodness is still here.  His promises dance right out our windows.  His saints and angels watch as the lights go out in our homes at night and hear the parting words of those inside.  God's words of "Just let Me love you" move with the wind through the boughs of the trees in and out of yards onto the sides of concrete structures and into the wildness of the un-trailed wilderness, and hover over the vastness of the water.  It is His mercy, it is Him, and He is still here calling to all of us to make room for Him, the Creator, the Savior, the one for whom we live this life.  We need to look for His will within each and every experience and if it is not found we need to shut down the clanging noise and sit with Him in the freshness of His presence. Our very lives and our very eternity depends upon it.