See and be the light

1200x630-We-Are-Called-To-Be-The-Light-In-A-Very-Dark-World-1080x630Today began like many others. Despite thinking that I should not look at the news so early in the day, I look anyway. It has been years since I have looked to cable news for anything; that is far too upsetting a landscape, one meant to incite and upset more than inform. That leaves me with national newspapers, many of the sort that people refer to as “fake news.”

Today I – wisely or unwisely – read an article about the prime minister of an Eastern European nation. It seems prudent to leave his name out of this post, but you can read it here.  Calling this an article is incorrect, it falls more closely into opinion or, as it is described by the paper, perspective. Yet, certain facts remain, this person is someone steeped in the kind of nationalism that points me over and over again to a certain Anne Lamott quote. (She claims the words were said to her by a Jesuit priest friend Tom Weston, SJ, but it seems that Anne gets the credit.)  So often, those who Continue reading

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Planting Peace

l_hope_bwToday is the day that I celebrate each fall, a day that I designate as “Annual Acts of Hope Day.” I put it in purple because that is a color that just seems hopeful to me.  Today is the day when I will go out and plant about 100 bulbs in and around my yard. Planting bulbs is a “small s” sacrament to me!

bulb_daffodilHonestly, bulbs are one of my greatest joys. You take this dead looking thing, you dig a hole, you plant said dead looking thing into the hole, cover it with soil, then winter comes and freezes us all to bits and pieces, and you wait for something amazing to happen. Or maybe you even forget all about it and then something amazing happens months later…

idp-poster-07Today is also the International Day of Peace, as designated by the United Nations. In my mind, every day should be the international day of peace. *deep sigh*

Peace is not solely a matter of external acts, but of internal decisions. Peace is an intentional way of being. Now, my desire to follow Jesus and my inner dirty filthy hippie combine into wanting to make me all peace-positive all the time. That sounds great, but I know and God certainly knows, that I bring plenty of disturbance of peace all around me, within me and outside of me. Just ask anyone who lives or works with me! Peace is a very conscious and deliberate way of life. A way of life that I strive for, but that I fail at quite often. Very quite often.

So it seems to me that if I can go plant my bulbs, each one a prayer, I have some small shot at being peace today.  Here’s the rub… just like the “peace” that many of us long for, we are not too patient about “being” peace, and then waiting in joyful hope for that peace. At least that is how it works for me! Which is why the bulbs are such a tremendous reminder that peace requires hope. As with all things of God, dynamism is necessary, not any simple “if this, then that” binary equation. Oh, the bulbs may appear very “if this, then that,” but I don’t think that is the case.

Yes, the bulbs remind me that I throw these dead looking things into holes, and much, much later, something happens. Is peace any different? We put our peace into our hearts, sometimes the dark holes of our hearts. In what seems an inhospitable winter, something is happening, that dynamism again, the Spirit. Then almost without warning, we are astounded.422All those dead things into holes over the winter and then this? Not to mention, the many that return and multiply year after year?

And so it is with peace. Let’s plant those bulbs of peace in our hearts. With some patience and prayer, we might find ourselves surprised and delighted by the result. And like with the bulbs, our own hearts, we might put peace out, let it go, and see what blooms in God’s good time.

FAMS501BeTheChangeYouWishToSeeHow to be peace in the world? Respect yourself, but don’t elevate yourself. Smile. Say hello. Don’t expect the worst. Don’t suspect people of some awful thing. Say thank you. A lot. To others and to God, especially when God serves up what appears to be a big problem.

Oh, I don’t do this so well, but as with most blog posts, I’m talking to myself, out loud at that, and you can hear me.

Bonus peace prize: This past Easter, the retired pastor at the church where I work gave me a grocery store lily. It was not in great shape and I did not take care of it very well, if I am honest. (This is not a commentary on his generosity, which is legend, but simply on the condition of the lily!) In its almost deadness, Mark thought that we should plant it. I scoffed at first, but then he planted it and it perked up, giving us another flower in the late spring. It was not well cared for this summer, yet, this was taken this morning. The surprise of peace!

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A Post About What? Liberty, Dreams and Hope.

New York Liberty’s Plenette Pierson (33) center, protects the ball as Chinese National’s Xu Nuo (16), left, defends during their WNBA basketball game on Friday, May 27, 2011, at Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)

Last night, Mark, Erica and I went to see the New York Liberty play the Chinese National Women’s Basketball team (no great link available) at a WNBA exhibition game at the Times Union Center here in Albany. We have seen The Conneticut Sun play at Mohegan Sun before; we like women’s basketball games.

I was struck by something as I watched the game and took note of a group of girls who sat behind the basket and cheered the game with tremendous enthusism. As a 53, almost 54 year old woman, the scene before me was something that I would have never seen as a child.

In say, 1970, when I was 13, there was no such thing as a professional women’s basketball league. Women? Professional sports? Tennis, gymnastics, swimming, figure skating were around, but not baseball, basketball, etc. Yes of course, we have all seen A League of Their Own, but that was a moment in time. An important moment and one that would have impact later, but not just yet.

In any event, I wanted to be a hockey player when I was a kid. Today I have friends who play women’s ice hockey, but at that time, I kept my dirty little pucked up secret to myself. I went skating as often as I could and each time I laced up my white figure skates, I longed for black hockey skates, a helmet and a stick. The strong desire of it – almost sexual in nature, it was that potent – would make me blush to myself and I would stuff it down as I headed off to skate nicely in circles with the other girls.

Then there was the matter of the racial integration, a matter that was (and sadly still is in many ways) working itself out in the 60’s and early 70’s. To see the NY Liberty, women, both black and white was very moving to me.

Let’s add the third thing in – playing the Chinese national team. I recall Nixon’s trip to China in 1972… It was a big deal, but when I was 10, 11, 12, 13… none of this had happened yet. China was still a monster of a country, “communists!” We had to almost hiss that word out between our teeth, lest it sound like something we might want to become. Considering the communist threat was like seeing a swarm of ants about to overtake that piece of potato chip that fell to the ground at the picnic.  Watch out! They will consume!

So here I was, watching an event that simply could not have taken place when I was a girl.  This made looking over at the 12 year old girls who are members of the AAU basketball team, Lady Dreams. all the richer.

Members of the Lady Dreams AAU basketball team for 12-year-olds cheer for the New York Liberty WNBA team as they play Chinese National on Friday, May 27, 2011, at Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y. (Cindy Schultz / Times Union)

The kids were so excited and really seemed to enjoy every minute of the game. And a fine game it was, although at the start, NY seemed a bit slow and the Chinese so nimble. The Chinese women did not look muscular or toned, but they were fast, agile and made great shots. Come the second half however, and wow did things change. The Liberty took off and ended up winning 79-65.

If you have never seen a WNBA game, I do recommend one. Even if you are not a basketball fan, I can’t tell you what a joy it is to watch these women on the court. They are there with passion and I say that both in general and with specificity to each particular game. I am also keenly aware that this appears to be a truly team sport… one does not see individual superstars but the efforts of a group of women with a common goal. It is fantastic and a fresh breeze in the culture of individual mega-stars of sports and otherwise.

Today, Mark McGuire of the Times Union wrote a fine piece about last night’s event. It was entitled, Those in the stands the real story. I was sad – and was aware of it last night, that there was little press coverage. Mark (my husband) noticed Mark (the journalist) because he knows him professionally. There was a photographer from my Mark’s TV station. It was clear that this was not a big event.

(I took this with my phone; we were in the first row, not far from the NY Liberty bench.)

Yet, it was a big event for those of us who were there. The cheering was evident and the excitement of the crowd, including and most especially, the kids of the Lady Dreams.

Another fine moment was watching a little girl, all the way on the other side of the arena, dance with wild abandon, as well as real talent, during half-time. She just got her tiny self into the aisle and when the music played, she moved. Such joy, such life! That is liberty, isn’t it? 

So what is the point of all this? In my own slow-moving and long winded way I am writing about liberty, dreams and hope.

In 1970 none of what I watched in 2011 would have been possible, yet here I was enjoying it all. It reminded me that there is no worse enemy than my own discouragement.

Pay attention, (you knew that there had to be a religious point in here somewhere, right?) signs of the resurrection are everywhere. Even at the TU Center when the NY Liberty plays China.

Ephiphany – A Final Christmas Reflection

(I wrote this for the parish blog last night and it is not as well developed as I might like, but I put it out there and put it out here too. Happy and Blessed Epiphany! I wish you faith, hope and light!)

What a difference! The three kings had only a rumor to go by. But it moved them to make that long journey. The scribes were much better informed, much better versed. They sat and studied the Scriptures like so many dons, but it did not make them move. Who had the more truth? The three kings who followed a rumor, or the scribes who remained sitting with all their knowledge? –Soren Kierkegaard

Thursday January 6 marks the actual date of Epiphany, even though we celebrated it on Sunday. We have such vivid images of the 3 Kings or the magi, yet we don’t really know too much about them.

I am struck by two things on this Epiphany… One is that the real sin in life is despair. The acts of sin and manifestations of them – adultery, killing, stealing, all appear to come out of some kind of despair. I-don’t-have-this-and-I-want-this kind of despair. It means a lack of hope and our faith is about hope if nothing else.

That element of hope is the second thing that strikes me… Out of hope grows faith. Imagine the hope of the magi, their faith. They acted on a hunch and look what happened. I would say that they defied conventional wisdom with their bold act.

It all seems a gamble. Don’t despair. Have hope. Follow the hunch. Nurture your faith, live your faith.

The 3 magi come in at about 2:30 of this video, a little corny but thought provoking nonetheless.

What Do These Videos Have in Common? An Advent Rant of Sorts.

Typically I am busy writing about all things spiritual, especially at this time of year. However, due to over-busy-ness, not feeling well and assorted other things, I am just not posting as much. It is hard to step back but I am learning something about my limits. This is a good thing, but a challenge.

Today I found these two videos. Well, I watched one of them the other day. At first glance, they do not seem related at all. One is haunting and the other is funny. However, I think that both are actually haunting in the end.

The first video is from Bjork and called Prayer of the Heart.

I found it on the Facebook page of Janine Economides, who blogs at Daily Exegesis. Janine says that this is in Greek, Coptic and English. I could work out the Greek and of course the English, glad to know about the Coptic. I am reminded of the unity in diversity that is at the heart of the Trinity.

Somehow, for me today, crying out “O Adonai!” and crying out “God have mercy” are the sounds of my longing. The light is coming as we end this 3rd week of Advent and head into the final week. Come Lord Jesus, please and have mercy upon me.

This other video switches gears – a pretty Jesus-y thing if you ask me. It was on Facebook and elsewhere last week.  Lindy on Facebook and Brother Dan at Dating God, among others, posted it. Jesus was always turning things on their end and using what he had at hand to do so. It is from Stephen Colbert and I have to tell you, initially the title of it had turned me off a bit. This is why being judgmental is a problem – what might we keep out?

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jesus Is a Liberal Democrat
www.colbertnation.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:368914
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog March to Keep Fear Alive

You see, I really truly find it loathsome when Jesus is identified with any political party. Momentarily I forgot the irony factor, I guess and did not watch the video. Well that and I was busy. In any case, Colbert is not saying that Jesus is truly a liberal Dem, but he says some really important things. These things are also a prayer of the heart.

Stephen Colbert appears to know more theology than most people. He, ever in the role of court jester,  sharing challenging truth through humor, says so many things in this piece. I think he makes his point well.

Of course it feels good to people both on the left and on the right to claim Jesus for their camp. However, even just a little analysis shows the flaws in that; Jesus was not here to mediate politics but rather to redeem humanity. Which he did, politics aside. He catered not to the Romans or to the established religious hierarchy of his time.

That said, Jesus was very clear about the essence of unqualified and unconditional love and charity and that does sort of trump all other matters. And it would make him more like a Democ… well, you know.

I read a quote the other day, from John Kenneth Galbraith, who said, “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” 

Isn’t that what we all try to do? Get busy on the proof?

However, what are we called to do is change. Whoever we are, whatever our stand. Christianity, change, transformation. What proof?

The act of change in and of itself is the proof. That might be why so few of us are capable of it. I know I have a record of epic (to use a word my stepdaughter coined) fail-ization.

That is the prayer of the heart, to cry out to God for mercy. That is the point of giving without limit. To change.

It is that simple.

Change. Transformation. Hope.

Be born in us this coming season. Please. Again and again and again.

A Tale of Hope Found In a Bit of a Rant. (alright, more than a bit of a rant, crying out for hope)

I just found this video on Facebook, from Shannon of Finding Grace Within. For those of you who do not know Shannon, she is a Catholic prison chaplain in Washington state; her constituents are men. File under, Find God There. She is remarkable.

Anyway, Shannon recommended watching this and in the 4 minutes that it took to watch I went from curious to weeping copiously. And wanting to share this.

This young man, Michael Huerta, is so hopeful. His hope is a reaching out to the less hopeful, a reminder that if you can just hang on.

We punish a lot of people with our words and all the negative imagery of sexual orientation. And I think that this pushes people of other orientations to extremes sometimes (note – SOMETIMES, not all times) and that has other folks complaining about things like “flamboyance.”

Don’t get me started on flamboyance. I may have to smack you upside your anti-flamboyant head. Flamboyant friends saved my life. I wasn’t suicidal but I felt terminally unlovable. It was LGBT friends, men in particular, who taught me to fall in love with myself and to be who I truly am. It was many of these same friends that were foundational in my return to the Roman Catholic church 20 years ago.

We can judge or we can love. I hate the sanctimonious “hate the sin but not the sinner talk.” Love the sinner – which is all of us in case you haven’t noticed – and the sins likely to be expiated.

That may be because we unchain those held down by our judgments each time we love instead of judge.

Trust me – I’m talking to myself too, for all the people I judge for things other than sexual orientation.

Anyway, this young man has a message for us all. It is the most Christian message of all and that is the message of hope.

Christian or not, lack hope and you lack life. It is that simple. Someone I know often reminds me that he lacks the faith that the next Kleenex will pop out of the box. He may lack the faith, but I know that he has hope. Faith without works is dead; faith without hope is a lie.

Happy Birthday Michael Huerta. Happy Hope to all of us.