When the city of Milwaukee experiences violent crimes now, something different happens. The Black Strings Triage Ensemble arrives and re-consecrates the space by surrounding it with healing classical music.
This hopeful story has moved me deeply, taking me back to a time in my life when I lived in a house that overlooked the railroad gate to Naval Base Kitsap. I held vigil as shipments of fuel propellant entered and left the base. Afterwards, I knelt on the tracks and prayed. Burning cedar became a cleansing sacramental which reclaimed that space and the empty space in my soul. It began the healing process.
Take solace with me from the actions of these musicians. Who knows. Maybe some musicians among you will feel called to begin this healing ministry in your city.
Although we are not celebrating Rosh Hashanna today and the calendar may not mark the beginning of another year, I offer Marge Piercy’s poem to give us hope that every day is new and we can come back after immigrants are rounded up like cattle and congresswomen are told to go back to the country they were born in if they don’t like this one.
The head of the year
The moon is dark tonight, a new
moon for a new year. It is
hollow and hungers to be full.
It is the black zero of beginning.
Now you must void yourself
of injuries, insults, incursions.
Go with empty hands to those
you have hurt and make amends.
It is not too late. It is early
and about to grow. Now
is the time to do what you
know you must and have feared
to begin. Your face is dark
too as you turn inward to face
yourself, the hidden twin
of all you must grow to be.
Forgive the dead year. Forgive
yourself. What will be wants
to push through your fingers.
The light you seek hides
in your belly. The light you
crave longs to stream from
your eyes. You are the moon
that will wax in new goodness.
I simply have no words for the treatment of migrants at America’s southern border, so I rely once again on the words of poet Jack Gilbert and the sculpture of Albert Gyorgy to convey feelings intense enough to move us to action.
THE ABANDONED VALLEY
Can you understand
being alone so long
you would go out in the middle of the night
and put a bucket into the
well so you could feel something
tug at the other end of
Jack Gilbert in Refusing Heaven
Members and staff of Seattle Mennonite Church recently sat down with members of the LGTBQ community to hear their need for respectful inclusion and their practical suggestions for responding to it. My faith community took a step on our journey toward radical hospitality by changing the signs on our bathroom doors. Pastor Amy’s blessing in our names holds us responsible for personal and communal conversion. It is a step toward realizing our commitment to radical hospitality.
In worship Sunday we blessed our new all-gender restroom signs and some trans and rainbow pride stickers for our windows to the world and (re-)committed to our ongoing work of radical hospitality and of (un-) and (re-)learning. Then one of our amazing kids Sunday School teachers invited his class to make a list of “things people say are boy and girl things” and discussed who decides which are which (kid answer: we do). Then they made their own trans flag with those things. #church (Pastor Amy Epp, Seattle Mennonite Church)
Blessing for gender-inclusive and trans welcome signs
Based on Acts 10
by Pastor Amy Marie Epp
God who is all gender and no gender,
God who became incarnate in a body, who is no-body
God who created our bodies and identities
and is present in each of our bodies,
expressed through our identities,
Bless the work of the Gender Hospitality Ministry Team,
As, on behalf of our congregation
they seek to make explicit our welcome
of your beloved queer and trans bodies
into our worship and spaces.
May we truly proclaim, holy and what you have called holy.
May we proclaim welcome what you proclaim welcome.
May we, like Peter, see clearly the vision
that allows us to lean deep
into our identity as a body of radical hospitality
May these signs – markers for our doors and windows –
also mark us.
May they mark us and our doors as open.
Open to your Spirit and open to all who enter,
That your welcome may be our welcome.
And that even when we harbor fear and uncertainty
we may use these as an opportunity for understanding
– of ourselves and of our neighbor.
We pray in the name of Jesus,
whose Spirit is with us and welcoming us still.
For the third time on these pages I post this poem with hope and a prayer that nonviolence will replace violence, that deep self will replace ego. I share the poem today in response to the possibility of yet another war in the Middle East.
Photo Credit for flags: wikepedia.org
In June, even though I couldn’t see the lake I at least had a piece of it. On this August morning thick underbrush enveloped me and I lamented the loss of the lake.
At first I felt closed in and irritated that the city had not followed through with its mandate to prune. What about the common good and our need for beauty, after all? A practice of sitting ensued and soon I felt protected by the semi-circle of green, holding me, shielding me from the pending evil about to descend on Portland Oregon today.
Earlier I had sent loving kindness to the far right hate groups Patriot Prayer and Proud boys, due to hold a rally there. I sent loving kindness to the counter-protesters. I imagined nonviolence prevailing.
At the lake I imagined the overgrown green surrounding all of them with love and nonviolence and I called on all that is holy to shield them from the evil of hate. The little lake that I love is not what I needed. Nature knows best.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hatewatch” has experts all over the country monitoring hate group activity. Here are some links that detail the rally in Portland today. Heads up Washington State voters. Our primary ballots are due this coming Tuesday. Are you aware that one Republican candidate running for U.S. senate is Joey Gibson, the leader of Patriot Prayer?
The headline in the Seattle Times reads “For third day, grieving orca carries dead calf in water.” (July 26, 2018). As I write this morning it is the sixth day the mother has carried her dead baby on her nose, diving down deep to retrieve it whenever it slips off. I don’t have words to express how I feel. The photo says it.
Elephants also mourn, holding wakes for fallen elephants. In a PBS production I saw a herd come across the remains of a bull elephant. They circled the skull caressing it with their trunks, even lingering over it. Around and around they went, emitting those low rumbling sounds humans cannot hear by ears alone.
I mourn that many humans no longer hear. We seem to have forgotten how to care enough for one another to hold vigil.
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release indifference
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release hate
Breathing in I care
Breathing out I release fear of the other.
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release indifference
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release hate
Breathing in we care
Breathing out we release fear of the other.
May the merits of this practice extend to all sentient beings in the universe.
Photo Credit: Seattle Times
This morning I feasted on a video from American Public Television entitled, Borders. PBS describes it this way:
“BORDERS explores the relationships and influences that Mexican and American craft artists have on each other and our cultures.” You can enjoy it here:
As I luxuriated in the rich, intense colors and the spiritual meaning inherent in the folk art I determined to learn more and to incorporate Mexican culture in my life more. Then I was slapped in the face by Donald Trump’s assessment of the Mexican people and I wept. This poem, Mother Hospitality, emerged as a spiritual practice to deal with my waning hope.
Caged within the borders of his fear
the xenophobe hunkers down untouched
by the diffused difference of cultures
casting bits of light on uncaged seekers outside.
Mother Hospitality tootles across the globe
picking up variegated pieces of light and love.
Her basket swings blithely on her arm in rhythm
with the hope that beats in her heart.
She watches for signs of cracking
then, quick as she can, tosses in a sliver of light
Enough to rattle the cage.
© rita h kowats 7-24-18
Photo Credit: free download from https://kathleenhalme.com/explore/cage%20clipart%20person/
Recently I overheard a conversation in which someone exclaimed exuberantly, “You are so completely yourself and true. How refreshing!” How refreshing indeed, to listen to Ardine Martinelli tell her story with the power that only comes from a soul fully reconciled with her humanity, and living it truthfully.
The memoir, Listening to My Life, is the story of our human journey. Young women hungry for a femtor, and young men longing to learn respect for women will glean much from these pages. Abusers desperate to repent and the abused who seek to forgive may find healing in the telling of a life who has listened to itself. Profound wisdom awaits all who venture in.
With every passing chapter, episodes of my own life passed before me. Martinelli’s narrative is so compelling that I felt mandated by an unseen force to truly listen to my life as I read hers. I finished this book with regret that it ended, and came away inspired to continue listening to my life with as much integrity as the author has lived hers.
Please visit Ardine’s blog where she posts excerpts from her book and timely pieces that emerge from her life today as she lives it.
On my way home I passed the girls and stopped to chat. They showed me each new leaf on a shrub they had discovered and their brother told me the story of the Tyrannosaurus Rex that lumbered across his T- shirt.
from “A Brief for the Defense” in Refusing Heaven, Jack Gilbert
We must risk delight. We can do without
pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness
in the ruthless furnace of this world. To make injustice the
only measure of our attention is to praise
photo credit: James Bowe <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/29848680@N08/41372593744″>Buttercups</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>