Prepare to be surprised

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A few thoughts for the Second Sunday of Advent…

We have expectations, which is pretty normal and human, of who or what Jesus Christ is or will be. Therefore we may miss many of the cues that he is right before us or within us. An example of this is found in today’s Gospel when we hear about John the Baptist preparing the way. In addition to our expectations of Jesus, we have them about John. He is speaking to us always and we are pretty just not seeing or hearing him, or ignoring him if we do notice. Maybe it is time to prepare the way of the Lord by preparing to be surprised, delighted, astonished, challenged, and comforted.

We hate waiting and we hate to change. These are two of the biggest things that are asked of us by God. Most of us respond with resistance. Sometimes waiting is the best thing we can do, no matter how hard. At other times, when those of us who have power tell those of us who do not have power to just be patient and wait, it becomes an abuse of power. It is pretty sick and cruel, but we do it all the time, it becomes second nature. I am reminded of Rigoberta Menchú who received the Nobel Peace Prize on this day in 1992. She once said, “My people are hungry. Don’t speak to us of buildings and police forces, we need food and respect.” (I have this on a Pax Christi daily calendar, but I must say, I cannot find the quote elsewhere, but I’m going with it.) If you are hungry, cold, sick, naked, or subject to injustice, imposed waiting can be a weapon. And if change comes, whether we seek it or resist it, when it does come, it impacts all of us. Everyone needs to prepare for that because sometimes the change we seek, that meaning the justice and mercy of Christ, might not look or feel exactly how we imagined it. Surprise!

We love to make things complicated. The “no pain, no gain” model of life has taken root in many forms. We know that the way to the Cross involves Continue reading

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There WILL be bread

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Today’s readings are among the most beautiful to me. Just yesterday I thought of the Isaiah reading, and then boom – earlier today, as I sat in the dim lamp light aided by one flickering Advent candle, I opened Give Us This Day and there it was.

The imagery in Isaiah is so powerful:
On this mountain the LORD of hosts
will provide for all peoples
A feast of rich food and choice wines,
juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines.

God is not fooling around. The is for ALL peoples, a feast, not some little energy bar type snack that tastes like cardboard, one that is meant only for a certain few who have somehow “earned” it, and includes Continue reading

Just not always

Mary-Oliver-Quotes-1To everyone who thinks that this is some dark, brooding, portent of a post – I can promise you that it is anything but. I found this snippet from Mary Oliver and it clicked. What was I looking for? I was looking for something about gratitude – from Mary Oliver.

Remember that sometimes the very richest and most meaningful gifts come wrapped in the most terrible paper at the most awful time. Of course when we are in the midst of anger, terror, sorrow, fear, and pain, it is not possible to remember this. At least not consciously.

May your Thanksgiving – or your ordinary Thursday for those of you not in the US – be full of good things. And if it is not, cling always to hope and know that gratitude and good will come.

We try to be grateful, we feel grateful – just not always.

*Here is a an interesting review of the book that contains this poem. 

Gratitude

Shot-Tec-Thank-YouI sometimes post this video to Facebook on my birthday. I think I may have blogged it before… but this time I forgot to post it anywhere! Anyway, another birthday has come and gone (about a week ago now), and as ever, I remain deeply grateful to be alive.

What I love about the song is that it richly exposes some of the things that can bring us to new places. For example:

Thank you terror
Thank you disillusionment
Thank you frailty
Thank you consequence
Thank you thank you silence

Terror, disillusionment, frailty, consequence and silence are among the many gifts my many years have given me. Where would I be without them? How we love to celebrate strength and victory, but there is a treasure that we can mine if we go deep into the shadowy spaces.

With the song on my mind and gratitude on my heart, with Thanksgiving a few days away, I thought this would be a nice way to begin the week. Thank you for reading and following my blog. Postings have been sparse, but I’m still here. And so are you! Thank you!

Get out the vote!

keep-calm-and-go-vote-1920-1080To all of my readers in the US – please go and vote today. It does not matter if your only local elections are for dog catcher and coroner. Our votes always matter. I believe that local elections are what truly matters anyway… change (or lack of it) starts in town councils, school board elections, county elections, state, and so forth. As Americans we tend to get all fired up in the two years prior to a presidential election and apathetic (or smug) during the other two years.

Think of voting as an exercise. The more you do it, the more likely you are to do it. Think your vote does not count? Think again, it does.

Not sure of the issues? Check independent resources such as The League of Women Voters is a good one. You can find your local league easily to learn about local issues. Follow the candidates; if they are already in office, check their voting records and positions. And whatever you do, whatever your partisan preference is, don’t use cable television as a way of feeling too informed. I don’t care if you watch Fox News or MSNBC, they each have their own agenda. Watch it, but press into more independent resources to learn. Newspapers such as the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post are good examples. I’m not going to link to all these sources, you know how to find them.

I think that we can all agree that Facebook and Twitter have their limitations in the matter of influencing elections… enough about that.

Many of us are overburdened, overextended, stretched to our limits. A lot of people count on that to make sure we do not raise our voices and our power as voters in a democracy.  When I get home tonight and realize that I forgot to vote I might think, “no way am going out again, I’m too tired!” And then I remember that there are people who walk for days in other parts of the world, just to cast one ballot. Or that people have died risking their lives to make democracy real in other places. And that people have died to for THIS democracy. How does one not get up and go vote after that?

So please – go vote today. And if you are not registered, tomorrow would be a good time to go and get registered. It is a privilege, let us not waste it. Our future depends upon it. Especially in off years like this one.

#metoo part infinity

MN0079706I’m back… yes, more #metoo is on my mind. Rather than saying part 1 or part 2, let’s just skip ahead and say part infinity. It kind of goes on forever.

Today the internet is lit up with the news that actor Dustin Hoffman sexually harassed an intern in 1985. There has been a great deal of surprise about this, including my own for about a second.

Honestly, I am talking to myself as much as I am talking to others as I say this… I think we should stop being surprised at learning some other person of note has committed some form of sexual harassment because it is so systemic.

Think about it, women were essentially chattel for a great deal of history, and remain so in many ways and places. A big part of the white nationalism movement goes beyond issues of race, color, ethnicity, and also seeks to return to a time when women knew their place. Zoom out – it is part of something much more significant, and we are all involved in it. This is why it is still a challenge for many women, let alone men, to use the term feminist. I myself avoided it for a long time, and it was not because I saw myself as some little lady.

As someone who is often seen as too demanding, too loud, too outspoken, too angry, too emotional, too strong willed, such a bitch and more, I have to always work to be self-aware. Am I being one or more of those things? Or is what I am doing just what I should be doing as a human being in the world. Let me tell you, far too often I rise up only to be cowed into some kind of shame that I am “too_____” (fill in the blank). For so much of my life I have just owned that too quickly, letting others off the hook.
 

Dustin HoffmanSexual abuse, rape, assault – these are crimes of power. Dustin Hoffman would not have said “I’ll have a hard-boiled egg … and a soft-boiled cl*toris.” to an intern if he did not think he could get away with it. Worse yet, it probably wasn’t even thought out – simply a reflex given his position. That this was done in front of an entourage, and of course they all laughed hysterically only adds to the abuse.

One of the worst #metoo experiences I have is about a man who simply used the most disgusting descriptions of sexual acts as he tugged and pulled on a bottle of wine that he was trying to uncork at a company function. Some of our coworkers were no more than ten feet away. In a low voice he questioned what I might like to do or experience in terms of his struggle with the wine bottle using the most vile and explicit language.  Honestly, I was in one of the most senior management positions, higher than this man, but I was so shocked that I stood stock still. I do not think a single muscle moved in my body. Did I breathe? I don’t think I did that either. Honestly, I felt terrified although I knew then, as I knew now that this man would never lay a hand on me. Yet this language and these descriptions of what he imagined I might enjoy threw me. And as suddenly as it started, it was over. The wine was corked, he stood up (he had been a little hunched over) and smiled and walked away. I wanted to faint.

One of my first thoughts was “did I hear him correctly?” Of course, the reflex of many women is self-recrimination and blame. “Was I wrong?” was a nearly unconscious reaction. I turned to look at the rest of the room, people were filling up the place after an event. I felt as if I were out of time or in a dream sequence. On one side of the room I saw one of my employees, a woman. She was pretty wild and had had a lot to drink; I remember that I worried she would do something foolish. (She did… that is another story, file under #himtoo. It happens.) Anyway, I could not deal with any of it, so I quietly left and was about to walk back to my room. A friend came along and asked why I was leaving, so I told her. She couldn’t believe it but neither she – nor I – would have thought about reporting it.

The man was someone I had known for about 16 years give or take. He was not someone I would have imagined would do such a thing. He was drunk, and that was not entirely unusual for him or others at this function. It seemed to me that I sort of knew he was having some marital issues, but maybe that’s just because I now know that in reverse. But you see, in some way I was trying to get him off the hook.

Well a funny thing happened on the way to the HR department. As I noted, there was a #himtoo story having to do with my female employee and I was working with my HR person on that. She was a great employee, but also drank a lot and she was a very wild child in those days. We’ve lost touch, but I think she calmed down. Anyway, as I was casually speaking to the HR person, who was a friend, I mentioned what had happened to me that same night.

Well, guess what? She was kind of a mandated reporter. Just knowing about it casually meant she had to investigate it. I was horrified – and ashamed. One, I started to wonder if I had misheard him. Two, I felt ashamed because I just felt ashamed. Three, I did not want this to become a thing. (And we wonder why rapes are not reported?) Too late – things were going down.

Let us just say that of all the possible endings, it worked out well instead of truly awful. I can say this, I was in receipt of what I believe was an almost immediate and sincere apology from the other end. No serious actions were taken, and frankly, I think he was shaken to his bones over this. I did mention to him that he was a manager of young women and that he needed to be aware of his actions. Today I’m pretty glad I actually said that, regardless of how it might have turned out. I have no idea where he is today and while I do not wish ill upon him, I do not need to know.

Most of the stories do not turn out this way. Most of the stories leave us feeling angry, ashamed, or worse. I still have a number of those. But you know what, if nothing else, #metoo reminds me it is actually #ustoo. None of us are alone in this. And the fact that it is pouring out like water overflowing a dam is a good thing.

Expect more stories, don’t be surprised. It is not an excuse but the entire machine was set up this way. That goes a short distance to explain what most men should have known better about, but who consciously chose otherwise.

Here is a song to remind all of us who have been indeed – silent all these years. It makes me feel strong, but I also cry every time I hear it.

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