A powerful story that illustrates the difference of being for the right cause, and being in right relations.
Pema Chödrön, an ordained Buddhist nun, writes of compassion and suggests that its truest measure lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them. In 1987 Dolores Mission Church declared itself a sanctuary church for the undocumented, after passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Soon, recently arrived undocumented men from Mexico and Central America would sleep each night in the church (Guadalupe Homeless Project), and women and children, in the convent (Casa Miguel Pro).
Attention followed and lots of it. The media swarmed the place in these earliest days. As almost always happens, attention begets opposition. I used to dread clearing the parish’s answering machine during this period. It always had a handful of hate messages and vague (and not so vague) death threats.
Once, while I turn the corner in front of the church, heading to a CEB meeting in the projects, I am startled by letters spray-painted crudely across the front steps:
The chill of it momentarily stops me. In an instant, you begin to doubt and question the price of things. Read more…
Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel, says, “How narrow is the gate that leads to life.” Mistakenly, I think, we’ve come to believe that this is about restriction. The way is narrow. But it really wants us to see that narrowness is the way.
St. Hedwig writes, “All is narrow for me, I feel so vast.” It’s about funneling ourselves into a central place. Our choice is not to focus on the narrow, but to narrow our focus. The gate that leads to life is not about restriction at all. It is about an entry into the expansive. There is a vastness in knowing you’re a son/daughter worth having. We see our plentitude in God’s own expansive view of us, and we marinate in this.
Boyle, Gregory (2010). Tattoos on the Heart (Kindle Locations 519-524). Free Press. Kindle Edition.
But I didn’t.
It really should have been a really terrible, horrible, very bad day.
- I lost track of time while laundering/web surfing this morning (not totally unusual), and didn’t wake the girls up until 30 minutes before we would need to leave the house to arrive at church on time if we had to make a stop on the way (which we did, my cupboards are bare).
- Needless to say, I didn’t check the dryer till it was time to get dressed, and all the clothes were still damp. Additionally, now that it is no longer 105 degrees by the time the sun rises in my utility room, bras hung up to dry will still be very damp three hours later.
- I forgot that the dress I pulled out of the closet needs to have the straps shortened until I was pulling it over my head as I was literally walking out of my room towards the front door. Not only did I not have time to change, my other dresses were damp anyway. So I grabbed a sweater. The black one, which I later regretted.
- I had wanted to twist Halle’s hair this morning, as part of an idea I have for the girls’ Poison Ivy look. Since she wound up combing her hair in the car, I decided I would do this at church, because we needed to clean house in the afternoon and I would have to do Daija’s hair in the evening. This was fine with Halle until she got in a tiff with Daija as we were getting out of the car, so she sulked half the time we were chilling on the couch in the lobby..
- I liked the sermon so much over the sound system that I decided that I was going to stay for the second service so I could see it as well. But then I got to talking with a friend and Tyler’s COA mentor… my girls and his were playing so happily, so I just stayed outside chatting and missed the entire service, which was apparently even better than the first service.
- The kids went out to the car while I stopped in the ladies room. As I am sitting on the toilet, I get a phone call that Tyler had tried to start the car so they could listen to the radio (grrr) but nothing happened.
- None of the very few stragglers still at church had jumper cables. It was probably only about 80 degrees, but even at 80F the Sonoran Sun is no joke. I was wearing… a black sweater.
- After a friend from the Quaker House down the street was summoned and came to the rescue with jumper cables AND a non-hybrid vehicle (damn Unitarian Universalists), it was determined that my battery was not the issue. It appeared to be my solenoid. The solenoid on a Buick is mounted under the engine, on the starter, which is a very inconvenient place for it to be if you need to bypass the solenoid to start the vehicle.
So you can see this all has the makings of a really shitty day. Nothing had gone as planned and it was looking like not only was I not going to get my errands done (like, buying groceries), but I was also not likely to have time to clean house, finish laundry, AND do Daija’s hair. Don’t even get me started on what it will do to my Monday if my car is still in the UUCP parking lot.
But then Jason literally banged on the solenoid a few times, and Curly Sue fired right up. We were not only going to get home, but as long as I didn’t turn off the car, I could stop at Walgreens and the grocery store on the way.
And two other friends that I don’t often get to see outside Sunday services, who I’d regretfully declined an invitation to lunch with earlier, gave up their lunch plans to hang out in the parking lot with me until I was up and running.
In addition to having a chance for grown up conversation during that second service I didn’t attend, I also got to chat with church fam that I know well as well as a couple that I often saw in passing during services in previous years, but had connected with on FB over the summer and had enjoyed some great dialogue with.
And I met & exchanged numbers with a mom who is new to Phoenix and our church, who has a biracial daughter one year older and one grade ahead of Halle, who is in Tyler’s COA class this year.
Miraculously, after we left church and the kids were faced with another hour or so of being in the car, they did not fight. They did not complain once. So even though we should REALLY be cleaning house, they’ve been playing outside since we got home. And I’ve decided I’m not even going to be mad that they totally soaked each other with the water hose and have most likely tracked a bunch of mud into the kitchen.
It was a good day. Lots of love and gratitude for my children, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix and especially for Jason the Car Whisperer, who gives the BEST hugs (I’m not kidding… they’re known throughout both Arizona AND California). My religious community rocks!
- Ingathering – Unitarian Universalist congregations often don’t have traditional services during the summer, so the first Sunday after Labor Day is like a little family reunion. The following Sunday is when our RE (Religious Education) programming kicks off. You may remember how excited I was two years ago for Tyler to go through Coming of Age (COA) program. About halfway through the year it was obvious that his heart wasn’t really in it… he just wasn’t ready and his heart wasn’t really in it. I gave him the option to either finish the program then or do it this year (COA and OWL (Our Whole Lives) are offered alternating years). He elected to do it this year, and will go through COA with the same kids he went through OWL with. In addition to a great relationship with these peers, he has a great mentor that he also established a great bond with last year, and says is the coolest grown up he knows after me & his dad. Read more…
A couple months ago my cousin tickled me pink by saying she wished she could subscribe to my FB links feed or something like that. I’m pondering a couple blogs in process and a conversation I had with the tween last night and didn’t get anything written, so I took inspiration from Jessica & decided to just share a few blogs and articles I really enjoyed this week. Read more…
So not quite a year ago, I got a lot of answers to a lot of questions I’d had when I met my (biological) father, who I have since affectionately dubbed “Biker Dad.” One of those questions had been… what am I? I know that on my mother’s side, my nana was second generation English, and my mother’s father was half Native American (I don’t recall the tribe, and the source of this particular tidbit of information is questionable in any case)… my grandpa (my mom’s stepfather) was second generation Italian. So last winter I learned that my (biological) paternal grandmother was second generation Russian, and Jewish.
I’m not sure what this means to me, exactly. I’ve felt drawn to some aspects of Judaism that I can’t really explain, even though I knew it was not my faith. I usually update my facebook status with greetings to my Jewish and Muslim friends on their holy days, but this year Rosh Hashanah greetings feel a little more personal. While it won’t be a religious observance for me, it will certainly be a time of reflection.
On that note, I was tickled by this video shared by a friend…
Last January, I attended an Installation Ceremony for UUCP’s newly settled minister, Reverend Susan Frederick-Gray. It was a beautiful ceremony for many reasons… Rev. Susan herself, whose sermons seemed to whisper right to my very soul. The dedication of a new baby… the child of a young adult who was a coming of age graduate when I joined the congregation. And then, the Nashville UU’s Associate Minister for Music, Rev. Jason Shelton, who gave a moving sermon titled With Hearts and Hands and Voices.
I found myself thinking a great deal about Rev. Shelton’s words… I could hardly keep my mind on the rest of the service. I googled the Catholic liturgy as soon as I got home. I wasn’t sure why I was so stuck on “God is an Orange” except that perhaps it resonated with my belief that not only is “God” in us, but we are in God as well.
Later that night after the kids were in their beds, I unpacked the little travel cooler I’d taken along that day, filled with snacks and drinks to keep little people happy during a long, grown up service. And from it, I pulled out one of those random gifts children give their mothers… an orange so perfect, even after being in a cooler getting squished by food containers, that I thought it must be fake, and dug my nail into it’s perfect skin to test it. I had completely forgotten that Halle had given it to me in the ladies room just before service started. In fact, I dont even think I looked at it before shoving it in the cooler. I took a picture of it (note to self… dust glass top tables before using them in still life photos) and in a memo on my crackberry, paraphrased his words as best I could remember them (if he could see this, he’d realize the least of his worries was us thinking he said God was an orange…)
You have no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift.
Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, But makes us grow in your grace.
God does not need our praise, but we are grateful because of God.
Our prayer does not add to God’s greatness, but makes us grow in God’s grace.
The universe has no need of our praise, but our desire to give thanks is a gift.
Our thankfulness adds nothing to the universe, but instead makes us grow in our humanity.
The orange has no need for our appreciation, but our appreciation of it’s flavor deepens our appreciation of the wonders of our world.
I’ve pulled up that memo several times in the months since. Recently I was encouraged to s l o w d o w n by a friend, and found oranges in my mind and heart again.
I know you have a lot going on, but sometimes you move so fast Im afraid for you. Take some time, be in the moment.
God IS an orange. My daughter was able to see that, without a flashing neon sign from the pulpit. And I need to be more in the moment, so that I could see not only God in the orange, but in my children as well.
Today I give thanks for the abundance in my life love, family, friends, holding hands with my daughters while we share dances of universal peace, and oranges.