Tag Archives: life

Conscience and Survival

Metaphorically speaking, this strikes me as salient to tomorrow’s decision – it’s not a plea to change your vote, it’s simply a  quick-write personal reflection that jumped out at me with this morning’s reading:screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-11-02-01-am

“By 1974, Douglass [James W. Douglass, Catholic theologian, author, and conscientious objector] and his wife Shelley, were living with extended family in Hedley, British Columbia, a remote mining town in the Canadian province’s vast interior. One day, Robert Aldridge, a Lockheed engineer on the design team for the Trident missile, arrived at their doorstep. He told them he had resigned from his job because his conscience was tormenting him.”

Like Aldridge, I know a little something about not tolerating the party line, i.e., default script – and also about my conscience being tormented. Survival for me meant stepping outside that box and proceeding with much fear and trepidation, wrestling to redefine what it was that would inspire and nurture life.

Ironic, perhaps, that this day before election day, I read those words in ‘A Still and Quiet Conscience: The Archbishop Who Challenged a Pope, a President, and a Church’ (John A. McCoy).

The realization that the Trident (a first-strike weapon) would escalate the arms race was daunting, terrifying even – nuclear annihilation was looming.

As a child, I recall that terrifying feeling – and, in a more grown-up way, I’m feeling it deeply today.

One of these two primary candidates is not like the other.

True, I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton, (my friends and family who are will hopefully still love me), but Donald Trump terrifies me like no other presidential candidate ever has. He’s a hothead with very limited understanding of building relations with heads of state – having him responsible to oversee world-stage politics and potential military actions leaves me feeling sheer terror for the United States – but also the world.

“In January 1975, the Douglas’s and fourteen other Canadians and Americans had founded the Pacific Life Community (PLC), a motley group of radical Christians, Quakers, feminists, and Catholic Workers. A summary of their initial meeting noted that ‘almost the only thing we had in common was our concern with the nuclear arms race and our hopes for peaceful social change. In language that would later be embraced by Hunthausen, they said they also wanted to confront ‘the Trident within’ themselves by rooting out the personal violence in their own lives.”

Truly, we’re all in different places, i.e., a motley group like McCoy mentions above, we all have our interests and passions we’re trying to represent, and these can be perceived to be in conflict with one another. But, we might be able to recognize that the core of each focus is that life is sacred, and to be preserved if at all possible.

My life as an American is not more valuable than any other life on this planet, and so I will make decisions to the best of my ability that considers that perspective.

Oh hey, and just to reaffirm – because it has become so much about this – born and unborn, I believe that life is to be held with compassion and sacredness whenever possible – and also true, I say often that it’s not my call to judge another’s decision, and I stand by that. But when the candidates demonstrated personalities outstrip this one-issue concern to implicate the entire world’s annihilation, which includes the expected fallout from world-stage bullying and even nuclear annihilation, I’m conscience-bound to vote for the one who represents the lesser threat.

May we dig deep to find peace in the midst of difference, and ways to sit well with one another in the coming days.

Disclaimer: This is no way reflects the political views of Choices Mt. Shasta, nor is an endorsement of any political candidate or platform. 

Mopping Messes With a Friend

medium_4746330184

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend. It was way overdue. (I confess: I’m the queen of good intentions, with a side of shy.) In my defense, the past few years have been a bit (extra) chaotic. But, yes, I digress – that’s not the point, except, maybe it is.

Life being a mess is a commonality that descends upon us all – thank God, not all at the same time.

I’ve been grateful for faces, hugs, understanding eyes and words – people to love me, and to remind me that life can be found in the midst of the crazy –  and it is survivable with friends who are courageous enough to journey alongside us.

But lunch. It was seriously one of the messiest lunches I’ve enjoyed in awhile. The mountain of paper napkins, (sorry earth!), bore witness to the juicy burger and sandwich elements that needed constant wiping away from both our faces.

There was delightful conversation amidst those oh-so-attractive swooshes of garlic aioli on my friend, and my own swath of thousand-island-ish dressing that decorated our faces. In conversations over the past few years, we’ve identified in our common wounds of life.

I met this friend soon after I arrived back in Weed/Mt. Shasta from what has become known as The Seattle Journey, wounded, wondering, grieving, even unaware of what would be heaped on in the coming months.

She was having her own up-ended-ness in life. But, it was my job-and-calling-as-a-human-and-hopeful-Christ-follower at Choices to welcome folks in pregnancy, parenting, and sexuality-related circumstances – to be a presence of compassion. So, that happened even, and especially in the midst of mutual crises. Manageable crises, by which I mean I wasn’t crying all over my new friends who came for conversations – because that would be awkward, right?

Here’s what I know, and what I try to communicate often: life crises happen, now and again, throughout our lives. It’s called a cycle. Expect it. It happens to everyone. Repeatedly.

Another new friend taught me a soundbite recently: “You make your mess your message.” You already get this instinctively, it’s similar to the vulnerability discussion of how when we communicate our hard places, we find we’re not alone. Shame (and hiding) keeps us from living life abundantly (or at all!), and binds us in fear. Exposing our hard places can often help us to break chains of bondage that keep us from living and thriving.

I’ve walked into to this place of refuge and hope for more than twenty years – not because I have it together, but because that’s where my life landed – and where I’ve found life. I choose to believe God called me here, because I’ve needed this place as much as those who happen by for an (often broken) season of life. (I’ve been known to say that I collect nurses and therapists as friends – I suppose there might be a reason.) My hard places have included a broken heart, divorce, abortion, second-trimester miscarriage, losses of many kinds, and so much more. I relate to the folks walking through our doors. My mess has become my message. I am certainly no better than anyone who has ever walked through our doors – and I truly do not always have it together more than those who come seeking help. But, hey, I posture/put on a game-face quite well.

I explained to my lunch friend that while I hadn’t ever made a formal appointment through the years (actually, decades) to meet with an advocate at Choices, I had, in fact, experienced the same level of compassion and care when life was unraveling for me – only it happened in my office, in the kitchen, or in the front office with so many of our ambassadors of compassion.

Insert it takes a village understanding here. We were never intended to meander through life alone.

“A deep sense of love and belonging is…a need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

Thank you Brene Brown for those needful words.

Read Brene’s words again. And again. Print them. Post them behind a magnet on your fridge. Wonder who in your world needs love and belonging – people you already know, and those you don’t. People who don’t present as tidy and together. Commit to noticing and acting on behalf of those God loves. Be love. Be(longing).

Our guests at Choices are often tempted to think that when they are desperate for help, and finally make the decision to seek it out, that we have it together, have privileged lives, and/or are thinking less of, or looking down on them – so completely not true. Seriously. 

We are the same.
We are people who get it.
We are people who’ve been there.
We are people who can walk alongside you.
We are people who need you to contribute nuggets of life to us. (And you do!)

“We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. ” Jean Vanier, Community and Growth

I don’t get out to lunch very often, but I’m grateful that my circle of friends includes people I’ve gotten to know from the place I hang out during the week, and that we’re comfortable sharing our mutual messes.

And yes, it’s pretty ordinary what we do – except it’s pretty extraordinary too. 

Could We Just Agree to Make Beautiful Music Together?

small__3199296759
photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

I worry. A lot. Some would say (and have), “Get some meds lady!”

What I often worry about, is how people perceive my faith – especially those who financially support Choices, the mission I’ve served, fought for, deconstructed and reconstructed, for more than twenty years – and taken seriously the mission of nurturing life, thereby upending some former tightly held beliefs. (And as Kathy Escobar recently captured so well, my faith hasn’t changed, only my beliefs. If you have a few minutes, take a listen to her wise guiding.) I’ve given up certainty and rightness for faith, hope, love and mystery, which, while that might make some nervous, brings me a sense of closeness to God.

Most people don’t care. Some people do. Others wonder why I even talk or write about it. My life is complex, in that, I’ve mostly not been allowed to be honest about my faith journey – it’s a risky venture when you’re in ministry. And frankly, it has been a tremendous time of loneliness, grief, depression, anxiety, stress, and sadness. Interestingly, there is a life-giving sense to letting my life speak more openly and vulnerably. Why? Because what I find is that I’m not alone. But, that might be another post.

One of the greatest gifts of my life was/is to experience frustration with my faith and beliefs. To have my taught understandings not fit my current life experiences – to being increasingly desperate to find a different understanding…as in, well, surely, there must be more to the story – or at least another perspective that was more compassionate, that would better represent the person I was created to be – and reflect back to the world.

“Learn to be humble by doing all the humble work and doing it for Jesus. You cannot learn humility from books; you learn it by accepting humiliations. Humiliations are not meant to torture us; they are gifts from God. These little humiliations—if we accept them with joy—will help us to be holy, to have a meek and humble heart like Jesus.”
— Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Thanks for the reminder Mother Teresa. I get it. 

So, shifting gears a bit by way of metaphor – remember these are random musings – here’s a little something Jim and I were conversing about this morning – these are just short little insights to help us consider how we might sit with others of different beliefs – but the same faith.

Some people believe there’s only one way to parent, so if you’re doing it differently, from their perspective, you’re wrong. Now consider all the parenting articles, books, blogposts, and opinions from friends and family. I think you get this.

  • Children don’t listen to what you say, they do, however, watch what you do.
  • It is a lived life that speaks, and not the mouth. (Thanks for these words, beloved hubby of 22 years on Friday.)
  • So many perspectives, but love shows up as the strongest factor for change.
  • Even when parents abuse or neglect their children, those children will defend their parents. They will choose to be with them.
  • Every parent has his/her unique gifts – it is as they live into who they are that they give their best gifts to their children. Living into infers it’s still happening, that is, the learning part – after almost 40 years of parenting. (Yes, early start, coupled with later additions, equal lengthy parenting experience.)

This morning, I made the decision to not wake my 15 year old up, because after doing so several times, and hearing his complaint, “Mom, I was just getting up – you didn’t need to come and be sure I was up,” I chose not to, even though I feared he would be late. Was it wrong? Should I have gone to be sure he was up? Some would say yes, some would say no. And that’s my point. There’s no exacting way to do it right.

These albeit somewhat random thoughts are to help us consider the unique ways in which we respond to people who come for care at Choices – we believe that the belief differences present among our volunteers, are a healthy balance in community.

Even when there’s tension. Even when our beliefs are in conflict with one another. Here’s an example of what that looks like: birth control. So, some believe that birth control prevents procreation which is their high value, others believe birth control invites more sexuality-outside-of-marriage, and others believe that if you (actually) want to curb abortion, you will most definitely be a birth control proponent.

Head spinning yet? Just try juggling these, and other tension-filled talks of best practices on a given hot topic!

And here’s where some of the fear shows up for me: depending upon where one lands in the above conversation, one might withhold critical dollars. Consequently, people will not be cared for. People will suffer. Maybe people will succumb to whatever keeps them from finding life and well-being, because having a precise and quite certain perspective implies that difference must not be supported, and by extension, neither must people – the very people we’re called to love and nurture.

Recently I had a conversation with someone who isn’t in a faith stream who uses the word saved, and her first priority isn’t to ensure that they know Jesus – at least not in the sense of reciting something they don’t yet understand. She prefers they experience what knowing Jesus feels like: compassionate, loving, generous, merciful, and grace-filled. Does that make her of no value as a volunteer in a mission where one’s faith compels one to serve? Well, duh, right? Except, I’ve lived with the reality of having your thoughts, words,  actions, and life scrutinized – and truth be told, I’m not very good at being under a microscope. Frankly, it’s terrifying and dehumanizing.

And so I live in constant fear – some would say irrational, hence the meds suggestion – that the manner in which I hold my beliefs, and subsequently that which informs the processes of caring for pregnant and parenting folks is less-than sufficient, or worse (as I have been told), just plain wrong.

But it’s who I am. It’s who, after years of discerning and wrestling with ‘how then shall I live’ most honors my Creator’s createdness in me.

Is there only one way of holding faith? Given that our Creator God, (and creative God?) has shown such grand diversity among the world’s people and places, I’m going with no. I’m going with another metaphor, that of an orchestra, where each musician, in concert together with others, plays their unique part and together presents beautiful music. If everyone played the clarinet in the same manner, with the same notes, well, boring, just boring. I want to hear the cello, the viola, the double bass…and more, the percussion instruments of the cymbals, drums and maybe the gong. Each sounding a bit different – and each contributing to the wholeness of the orchestra.

Could we just agree to make beautiful music together? 

Interestingly, and conveniently, my friend Jim Henderson posted this today, on his birthday – his faith work being one of the key reasons we originally moved to Seattle. If you take the time to read it, my sense is that you’ll grasp a better understanding of my approach to faith and belief, especially this, because, well, this has been on the repeat cycle for the past several years:

“My experience with most Christians and Atheists for that matter is that they cant find a way to sit in the room with difference. They can’t stop themselves from mentally comparing their best with their ideological opponents worst. They either try to re-educate them, control them or exorcise them.”

I thought exorcise was a typo, until I used an online dictionary to remind me that to exorcise is to drive out or attempt to drive out (an evil spirit) from a person or place. And sadly, that is too often what occurs with difference.