Choose Life

Moses repeated the words God told him about the Jewish people’s having a choice life-spirit-feature-imgbetween life and death, blessing and curses. The apostle Paul said Jesus came to take the sting of death away. This poem on Velveteen Rabbi’s blog post this morning, says it all for me about how too often we choose death. For me not only are the gunmen responsible for deaths, the terrorists responsible for deaths but we all are. We are in a world that allows guns – ok so in the UK and Europe we don’t have the same gun laws and the US but we still have guns; young men in inner cities with guns because of fear and need for power, farmers with guns to shoot rabbit, vermin, etc, Policeman carrying guns because there are gun crimes. We live in a landscape that gives rise to fear and hate, for the need to control, for the need to be seen. Too often we choose death not live, we choose to put the other down rather than raise them up. We choose to fear rather than trust, to see the bad rather than the good.

Each time we fear or need power, don’t trust and don’t accept, we are choosing death empower1over life. Yes we need to stop gun crime. Yes we need to stop stabbings. But we also need to stop fear and disempowering others. If we gave people a voice, some place to speak, gave them power without the gun, maybe that would help them choose life over death.

 

Here’s Rachel’s poem

Prayer-after

I loved and grieved from the day you claimed your free will,
Knowing that you too would open into infinite love and grief,

Knowing how your hearts would bloom with gratitude and hope
With every child’s every first, and lament every child’s every last,

As I do and always will with My children’s every first and every last
In the raw and wild cosmic dance we began together in the garden.

What else could I do? You must become what you must become,
Like Me infinitely becoming, infinitely capable of love and grief,

So I clothed your shimmering lights in skins and hid in plain sight
For you to seek and find Me amidst life’s sweetness and sorrow.

How fast your lights flickered underneath: your second son’s blood
Cried out to Me from the ground, too soon returning earth to earth.

The guilty wandered the land howling, pining for peace and safety
Denied by the very violence that condemned the guilty to wander,

Setting in motion also the vicious whirlwind spinning through
Columbine, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas. Where next?

I did not mean for you to live like this or die like this – in fear and terror,
In trauma’s torrents, in shrapnel showers turning streets into killing fields.

You still can choose life: the free will your ancestors claimed for you
Remains yours even now, and still I gasp with loving pride and worry

With your every first and every last, grieving the countless innocents
Returning to Me in My own image too soon, bloodied and bagged.

But still you choose death. Aimlessly you wander the land howling,
Pining for peace and safety that senseless violence steals from you.

Choose to be My love, My strength, My intuition, My prophets, My beauty,
My healing hands – My living essence in this bloody and weary world.

Only then will this cruelest of your roulette wheels stop spinning red.
Oh, how I long with you for that day when you truly will choose life.

 

Claimed your own free will – Eve’s “defiance” in Eden claimed human agency for all her successors (Genesis 3:6-7).

Knowing … bloom – An allusion to the Tree of Knowledge and humanity’s “opening” into the knowledge of love and loss.

You must become – God describes God’s self to Moses as אהיה אשר אהיה / Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, “I Am Becoming Who I Am Becoming” (Exodus 3:14). We who are made in the divine image are also called to perennially become.

Clothed your shimmering light in skins – Because the Hebrew words for “skin” (עור) and “light” (אור) both are pronounced or, Zohar teaches that Eden’s first humans were beings of light, before God made us garments of skins. Even so, our skins cover our light, which we still can see if we look carefully.

Your second son’s blood… returning earth to earth. Humanity’s first murder – Cain killing Abel (Genesis 4) – spilled Abel’s blood (דם / dam) to the earth (אדמה / adamah).

Wander – Cain, after murdering his brother, was condemned to wander the land without peace (Genesis 4:14).

Setting in motion also – From Cain comes not only the first murder but also the rhetorical question – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:8) – that continues to reverberate through the generations, and also the first “Why?” (Genesis 4:6), which teaches all future generations the possibility of teshuvah / return and repair (Radak Gen. 4:6).

Whirlwind – An allusion to the סערה (storm) from which God answered Job (Job 38:1). The storm’s circular shape resembles both a roulette wheel and a gun’s rotating cylinder that conveys bullets.

Choose life – “Choose life, if you and your progeny would live’ (Deuteronomy 30:19).

Aimlessly – The indiscriminate shooter, the nation’s inertia.

My love, My strength… – Seven emanations of the divine, corresponding to the seven lower sefirot of Kabbalistic tradition: chesed (love), gevurah (strength / boundaries), tiferet (balance), netzach (endurance / momentum), hod (beauty / gratitude), yesod (foundation / generativity), malchut (indwelling).

Roulette wheels stop spinning red – For the gaming tables of Las Vegas and the ultimate gamble: walking the streets safe and unafraid.

14 stanzas – 14 for יד, the yad (hand) of God: we now are the hand that must act.

332 words – 332 for לבש, lavash (clothed) in divine skins that cover our light.

 

Rabbi Rachel Barenblat and Rabbi David Evan Markus

(cross-posted to Velveteen Rabbi and to R’ David’s website; feel free to reprint, with attribution.)

Advertisements

Daffodils

xdaffodil2-pagespeed-ic-gijrwg9c4tFor a week of mornings whilst out walking the dog as I walk past the park there have been a group of daffodils who’s faces are turned toward the sun, expectant of the day to come. I kept meaning to bring my camera and take a photo because they said so much to me about looking to the source of light and being expectant and ready for the day. Of course I forgot and now they are gone. It looks like someone has picked them. We have loads of daffodils in and around our park and often people pick them to take home. I hope these expectant daffodils have gone to a good home.

But it got me thinking – how often are we expectant for something, looking to the source and then get snatched away from it? At my church this Sunday we’re doing a little play based around Matthew 23:37 where Jesus wants to gather Jerusalem to him like a mother hen gathers her chicks. A mother hen will spread her wings wide when she sees danger and gather all her chicks under her wings to protect them from attacks by birds of prey. mother henShe is willing to give her own life for her chicks. I think so often we think of God as someone we go ask things from and “look to expectantly” but don’t let him cover us from attack/being picked/disappointment. This verse, and many others in the Bible, do say about God being there to protect and support during times of hardship and distress. I’m not sure there are any, or maybe a few, that say He’ll make the bad times go away yet too often the Christian message is “God will make things wonderful and life will be great” and then wonder why people fall away when life doesn’t work that way, when prayers don’t get answered, people don’t get healed, we get “picked” after diligently “looking at the source”.

expectation_vs_realityI’ve just seen a post from a friend of mine who talks about life’s realities sometimes not living up to one’s expectations. With the things I do – the room rentals and the writing workshops – so often things don’t turn out as expected; I don’t get as many coming to the workshops as said they were, or those who come take things off in a totally different direction, or with the rooms people say they are coming for a certain time and then change their minds. We have just had it with the rooms that a couple and a single person both said they were going to be staying for a while. The single then decided that what she was doing here wasn’t for her and left and then the couple found a flat to rent quicker than I’d expected. For both sets of people this is great news, and I am really happy for them, but what it also means is that things have to lived up to the expectations that I had. Things are changing. It felt a bit like I was looking to a certain way of life and then got “picked” and its all change again.

So we need to be willing to accept the changes, go with the flow and also be kind to ourselves and accept that this can be exhausting, and like the daffodils can bring about major changes in our circumstances. And be willing to just hide under the shadow of His wing.

 

A Response to yesterday’s post?

Ok so I know Richard Rohr did not really respond to my post yesterday but if you read today’s email from him (copied below) it does look a bit that way. I had to post it because I find it encouraging. I think he is saying what I was saying – that we can choose what we look at without denying where we are. So in his example he does not deny the pain the woman is in but the priest reminds her that God has it surrounded. For me that is saying that actually I am in a place where I am still grieving and feeling sad but God has it covered.

So a big thank you to Richard for this 🙂

 

Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation
Dandelion growing in a brick sidewalk.
Spirituality of Imperfection:
Week 2
Perfection of Wholeness
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Last week we explored Jesus’ familiar exhortation, most often translated as “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” A much better translation might be “be merciful.” Only God is perfect. But we can participate in God’s perfect mercy, God’s all-inclusive and impartial love. As St. Bonaventure said, “Christ is the one whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” [1] This is the Wholeness that holds you. You can’t figure this Wholeness out rationally, nor can you control it. All you can do is fall into this Wholeness that holds you when you stop excluding, even the dark parts of yourself.
This is illustrated in the following story shared by clinical psychologist and Buddhist Tara Brach. One of her clients, a woman called Marian, was devastated when she found out her daughter had been sexually abused as a child by her then-husband. Marian blamed herself for not protecting the little girl. Brach writes:
Fearing she might harm herself, Marian sought counsel from an elderly Jesuit priest who had been one of her teachers in college. Crying, she collapsed in the overstuffed chair he offered. “Please, please help me,” she pleaded. He listened to her story and sat quietly with her as she wept. When she calmed down, he gently took one of her hands and began drawing a circle in the center of her palm. “This,” he said, “is where you are living. It is painful–a place of kicking and screaming and deep, deep hurt. This place cannot be avoided, let it be.”
Then he covered her whole hand with his. “But if you can,” he went on, “try also to remember this. There is a greatness, a wholeness that is the kingdom of God, and inthis merciful space, your immediate life can unfold. This pain,” and he again touched the center of her palm, “is held always in God’s love. As you know both the pain and the love, your wounds will heal.” [italics mine]
Marian felt as if a great wave of compassion was pouring through the hands of the priest and gently bathing her, inviting her to surrender into its caring embrace. As she gave her desperation to it, she knew she was giving herself to the mercy of God. The more she let go, the more she felt held. Yes, she had been blind, and ignorant, she had caused irreparable damage, but she wasn’t worthless, she wasn’t evil. Being held in the infinite compassion of God, she could find her way to her own heart.
Feeling compassion for ourselves in no way releases us from responsibility for our actions. Rather, it releases us from the self-hatred that prevents us from responding to our life with clarity and balance. The priest was not advising Marian to ignore the pain or to deny that she had failed her daughter, but to open her heart to the love that could begin the healing. [2]
The only real perfection of which humans are capable is to include, absorb, forgive, and transform human imperfection. Humans are conduits and transformers much more than self-sufficient generators. Such is the character of a whole (and holy) human being.
Gateway to Silence
When I am weak I am strong.

In Different Light

abergele-2000-si-panton-r00322582x
It’s the tall post behind the cafe that I registered for the first time yesterday

I think this part of my journey is about perspectives and today I have been thinking about different lights. The joy of living by the seaside, especially in Britain, is that the sky is always changing and the light is different every day. Yesterday I was walking, a walk I do most mornings, and saw a tall structure that I am sure I had never seen before. On closer inspection it had been there for a while. It was a tall street light!

When I look out to see some days I will see the wind turbines, other days not; some days a few of them, other days lots of them. Yesterday there was an amazing bank of cloud just behind them so that it looked like they were at the bottom of a cliff. The other day the cloud was around their bases so all that could be seen was the blades. The light on my walk

pensarn20quay
where the rain goes

and on my view has very little to do with what the weather is. Where we live often the clouds pass over us to rain on Snowdonia National Park. We are in what is called a “rain shadow” which seems a silly name. I think it should be a “rain’s bypass” 🙂

But the more I thought of light the more I could see that it is to do with what is being revealed, that different place of standing, that different perspective. And I can choose whether I notice or don’t. I can get caught in my own thoughts and miss what the light is doing for today. I have to choose to look, to observe, to remember, and then actually to let it go. No day is better or worse than the other. Each day has its own light – a lot or a little. I have to choose to enjoy the lack of light when the storm clouds are gathering, as much as I enjoy the bright light wishing I had got around to buying those sunglasses.

Glowing personVelveteen Rabbi talked of our light in “Letting Your Light Shine” in which she expounds how before Adam and Eve ate the apple they were just light and that God had to cloth them with skin after they had sinned to conceal their light. As I read it in the context of the journey I am on and with other things I am exploring within in my understanding of God, we can now almost choose how much light we reveal and also how much light we see in others. There are days when I am walking with God and I know that people see His light, or rather my true God-image light, shining through, whereas there are other days when my light is well and truly hidden. I suppose that goes back to the sermon I heard on Sunday about getting rid of habits and hurts so that we reflect God. And actually I think that is what we should be going – reflecting God – rather than trying to “be good Christians”. It’s up to Him not me. I just need to make the space and let the light shine.

But also I can choose how I view the light in others. I can choose how I want to view them.4355a8803ddad25cf59dedb89c2f1a10 And people will give out a little light or a lot but I can miss both if I am not really looking. As with the different skies each day on my walk, that I can choose whether I engage with or not, I can do the same with people. I can choose to engage with them and maybe then, like the the tall street light, see  something in them that I had not seen before even though I had known them a long time.

And often that means we need to let go of past hurts from that person – or who that person reminds us of 🙂

Things that help

beautiful-things-960047_960_720We are finding this part of the house move journey trying. Not difficult but trying. We are stuck in this limbo land of not knowing when things will happen and not having any control of how or when things will complete.

This came through on Martin and Gayle Scott’s update email of their journeying in Spain and other places:

It has though alerted us that the journeys this year are not going to simply roll out as we thought. We must be ready for the many detours. The unexpected will come in the shape of inconvenience, but the richness is in making the journey. We sense we are not to fight the diversions.

I wonder if this is part of what we are learning, that things won’t be straight forward and things will come with unexpected inconveniences and that we are to enjoy the richness ofpicmonkey-detours the journey?

Enjoy doesn’t mean it will be easy but it does mean it is part of the journey. We did feel, and have had it confirmed, that we are meant to be moving to Wales. The people buying our house are not just keep but more than keen, having had in carpet fitters and decorators and want to get started before we move out. The people we are buying from had their loft and the upstairs of their house packed, sorted and ready since the end of December. No one is the chain is deliberately holding things up but things are taking a long time. There are no major issues, but we have learned a lot.

So the plan is that we will leave our house this Friday to go to Wales but from there we don’t know. We had a plan as to when and what but that isn’t coming to fruition at the moment. We are experiencing many detours along this journey that we are having to cope with. Someone did ask if this was a battle but I have never felt that way, which is why I felt that the sentence about not fighting the diversions seems right for us too. We must accept them, not go into battle with them, trust in what God is saying and just roll with it. That’s what it feels like for me – that we have to roll with what is going on. Like being on _CRO0170.jpga ship or pillion on a motorbike, we just go with the way it is going and don’t try to force it any other way. With riding pillion, it works best when we just put our faith and trust in the driver and let him be the one who steers.

This one paragraph as encouraged me even though I am struggling, which I suppose is all part of the journey – coping with the struggles and accepting the things that encourage. Life isn’t one or the other but a mixture of both.

Poem Published

It’s funny but I never think of myself as a “published writer” and yet once again I’ve had a poem published. This time it was inspired from a Mindfulness course I went on. A part of the course which really struck me was about not judging things as right and wrong but accepting life as it is, which I’m sure I’ve posted on here before but can’t find.

You can find my poem on Michael Townsend William’s site under Listening Mindfully. I won’t republish it here because I’d love if you’d go to Michael’s site, Stillworks,  and see some of the other interesting things that are there. I think too often we don’t network enough to show what other people are doing out there. So here you can find me a “published writer”. And in fact it’s not the first time I’ve been published. I am in Bradford on Avon book about climate change where my poem is found. I do have other places that I’ve been published but I do forget. I wonder why that is? Is it because I just plain don’t remember? Would I remember if I got paid for it? Or is it something deeper? To be honest I really don’t know. And that is the thing, we could all spend ages psychoanalysing ourselves but sometimes we just have to accept where we are. There is nothing wrong with looking at who we are, trying to figure out what makes us tick, but if we use it to put ourselves into boxes of one sort or another we’ve missed the point. To look at myself and how I work, think, behave, and to do that with others, is only helpful if I can be Mindful about it – and accept it as it is without judgement, without having to put what I find into a like/dislike box.

Where were you … ?

I’ve just read a post asking “Seven/Seven: Where were you?” and also today was talking with mother of the girl I tutor about remembering where we were when … and listed various events that we remembered and talked of what we remember about where we were.

I commented on the “Seven/Seven: Where are you?” post and said:

I will always remember where I was on 7/7/2015. I was at home in Frome, home educating my daughter. My son had gone to college that day in Radstock. We were really engrossed in something when suddenly we both said “let’s put the radio on”. Neither of us will ever know why but we listened with shock as the reports unfolded. We are Christians and we just prayed and cried.

But also I remember clearly where I was when the Twin Towers were hit –

We were in our first week of our Family DTS in Paisley Scotland. I think it was the first time I’d left my kids for with someone to teach them since I’d taken Ben out of school. Us adults were in a church hall about 2 miles from the main house. Our base leader came in (the days before everyone had mobile phones) and said there was dreadful news. It unfurled slowly. We were on our faces in prayer. It was not just an awful time nationally but for me it was an awesome time realising the things I could pray and the strength I could pray with.

The death of Princess Diana is neither so deep or so inspiring.

We were living in Belfast. We had been there for about 10 months. I was helping out in the Sunday school at the church we had been attending for maybe 8 months. Someone came in and said “Diana’s been killed in a car accident.” Everyone looked sad. I didn’t say anything. I presumed this was someone they knew, someone who attended the church. I remember racking  my brains to think of any Diana’s I’d known. Thankfully I kept quiet and didn’t embarrass myself.

But it also brings back memories of where I was when I hear of things closer to home –

  • when I heard my Dad’s voice on my answer phone and I knew something serious had happened – my sister had drowned.
  • when my husband phoned from our friend’s house to say that friend had succeeded in hanging himself.
  • my Dad bursting into tears in the first ever house I owned to say my Mum had left him for the second time.
  • the colour of the train we were on when we picked up the message from my husband to say his dad was dead

These are a list of events where I can see and smell how things were, that have stayed seared in my brain, where everything is still so vibrant, where something has been capture. A moment in time. And yet there was a prompt on a

Did my childhood kitchen look like this?

Linkedin group I’m part of which this morning said “write imagine your 5-6 year old self and write about the kitchen in your family home.” I couldn’t remember. I know I’ve moved a lot as an adult but as a child we only lived in four different homes and I can only really recall the third house, where I lived from 10-16. I only remember the fourth house because I visited it twenty years after I’d moved out because new friends were living in it. How can I see snapshots for vividly and yet not remember even something vague from a place I must have gone in to over a thousand times?

It is said that memory is an odd thing and that we shouldn’t trust it that much. What is truth may not be fact. Yet those things etched in my brain that I have mentioned above I am sure that they are really true, that they really were like that. In fact there are certain

Maybe this just says it all from http://www.theyoungadultcaregiver.com

words or phrases that can send me right back there. Though I wonder if I spoke to others who were there whether their truth is the same as mine?