Cracked: The Sequel

Chapel Service

Baystate Medical Center

July 28, 2014

These books on the altar represent the chapel services I did not give and will not have a chance to give:

  • God Got a Dog – about our opportunity and responsibility to embody divine love
  • Song and Dance Man – one of my learning goals was to give a chapel service on something I learned from my work with elders at the nursing home
  • In God’s Name – a beautiful story of the many names we call God, reflecting our needs and our experience of divine response
  • Henry Works – a bear inspired by the life of Henry David Thoreau, a Transcendentalist which is one of the historical streams of Unitarian Universalism
  • Moody Cow Meditates – a book I have joyfully used as a part of worship to talk about meditation and strong feelings
  • In the beginning there was Joy – a wonderful rhyming journey into the cosmos of Original Blessing by the Christian theologian Matthew Fox

It seems important to bring them here as my way of acknowledging all that we have done together and all that is left undone. Of course, I am not talking just about sermons and chapel services here. In 11 weeks, there is only so much one person can do. Even as a full-time staff chaplain, there is always something ~ someone ~ left undone.

We CPE students are leaving.  Though we have our rituals and our reflections, our ceremonies and our good-byes, there is so much that has been opened and so much left undone, so much come to be known, and so much left to reside in the territory of uncertainty.

Instead of something new, I want to return to what I preached on at my first chapel service earlier this summer. Cracks. If you were here, you might remember I quoted from Leonard Cohen:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Over this summer, I learned of the existence of a Japanese form of art, originating in the 15th century, called kintsugi. kintsugiThis is the process of repairing broken ceramics by mending them with a clear lacquer resin that is mixed with gold powder (or other powdered metals). In filling these cracks, these places were we encounter the broken aspects of the pot or the jar, the cup or the bowl, we see beauty and a new kind of wholeness that draws us to it, some might even say more attractive than the original.   I even read that some of the so-called damaged pieces fetched higher prices – were more valued – than their so-called flawless counterparts.

I know this will not surprise most of you, but in college I was an ardent feminist. Another not surprise: I still am. Back in college, I collected and hung on my door images and quotes that I found powerful. I remember a postcard of a woman, I believe it was Deena Metzger. In the photo she is outside, a wide sky the background. Her arms are spread wide, her face turned upward toward the sun, an expression of exaltation and contentment. Oh, one other thing: she was completely naked. One breast fully visible, as was the tattoo that covered the scar where her other breast had once been.

Her tattoo was not made of resin and powdered gold, but like kintsugi it brought out a beauty that she shared with others who might not have been able to perceive the beauty of that missing breast, that symbol of disease. With this photograph, she was not preaching from her scar, but was creating art from it, literally and symbolically, and thus, contributing to humanity’s capacity to turn towards the broken places, not away.

Deena Metzger

Deena Metzger.  Photo by Hella Hammid.

 It reminds me of the poem by Jane Hirshfield, For What Binds Us, excerpted here:

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest –
And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

Who volunteers to have their heart broken? Who chooses this, on purpose, over and over again? Yes: chaplains.  We do. We not only speak of that Great Divine Love which name God, we embody it. We are walking works of love. Or at least we try our best.

$(KGrHqNHJDUE+O,FNWnYBP5(lLQvDw~~60_35I don’t know about you, but I can’t tell you how many times I fell in love in the past eleven weeks – basically every time I knocked on a door and was invited in.   And like the quote from Carl Jung that shared with us last week, in meeting each person, in risking this possible love, sometimes it caused a reaction, and I have been transformed.

It is like what that Wendell Berry poem from this morning told us:

No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.

Since I don’t know exactly how many times I fell in love, I can’t tell you how many times my heart broke. That is the risk of love: offering it, embodying it, holding it out in invitation, holding onto the possibility of it (in this mad, mad world). Broken-heartedness.

 Over and over again my heart has broken. So has yours. And yet, here at the end of this internship, I shine. I glow. So do you. There is gold in these cracks, in these broken places. Let us hear their message:

Everyday

you have less reason

not

to give yourself away.

 Amen. Blessed be.

Resources:

https://blog.etsy.com/en/2012/cracks-and-the-art-of-repair/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/02/AR2009030202723.html

http://www.lakesidepottery.com/Pages/kintsugi-repairing-ceramic-with-gold-and-lacquer-better-than-new.htm

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Don’t Fear the Reaper: Reactions When I Tell People What I Do

Cold-brewed-coffee-or-espresso-is-added-to-chai-tea-for-a-delicious-chilled-drink.I was in line at my local food co-op, which just so happens to have the planet’s best dirty chai (the treat I get for myself after an especially hard day’s work). It’s embarrassingly expensive, but nothing else compares. IMHO.

This morning, I was more needful of being seen than I usually am so, when the cashier asked, “How are you?” I let it be a question, rather than a social greeting.

I answered, “I could be better. I’m just coming off 24 hours at the hospital.”

He looked at me, a kind expression on his face, and asked, “Were you the patient? Or the MD? Or an RN?”

I responded, “Chaplain.”

From the look on his face, I’m pretty sure he heard me say, “Grim Reaper.”

Grim_Reaper_by_totemicdruid

Grim_Reaper_by_totemicdruid

It hadn’t actually been 24 hours, as scheduled. It had been 27. I stayed three hours extra because… well, there was a very good reason that involved newborn life and a dance at the other end of that continuum. Which is probably why I was on the more needful side of wanting to be visible to others. I knew I would be going home to an empty house (the rest of my family temporarily strewn around the rest of New England) and though I wanted to hide under my bed covers, I also wanted to be known and seen and maybe even given permission to cry.

On the first day of learning to be a hospital chaplain, they warn inform you about the myriad of reactions you will encounter. There are the people who will smile in relief at your knock on the door. There are nurses who will give you a heads up which patient needs your presence. There are people who will ask for a chaplain themselves, wanting something specific from their faith tradition or just knowing they want something and it has some spiritual quality to it.

Then there are the other reactions.

  • The patient who would welcome a visit from a spiritual leader, but when they hear, “chaplain,” they also hear, “Christian,” and that’s not their thing. (And their thing has been historically, and likely even in the present times, oppressed or silenced by representatives of Christianity…)
  • The people who have been so hurt, traumatized, denied by religion that the presence of a chaplain is not only painful to them, it enrages them and can be experienced as a reminder of that violation.
  • The ones who are wracked with guilt, not so much for any wrong they have committed, but because they haven’t gone to church/synagogue/prayers/ _______________ in a while, and think that a chaplain is the enforcer of such things, or will judge them, or withhold something from them.
  • The ones that would like something spiritual, but they see some explicit artifact of specific religiosity (a clergy collar, a hijab, a cross, a habit, a skull cap, a kippah) and cannot, or will not, let that chaplain be of service to them.
  • There are those who are not religious, who are not even “spiritual, not religious,” and who look for strictly secular forms of support, not knowing or able to hear that true multi-faith chaplains “serve people of all Beliefs and no Belief.”
  • There are the ones whose tradition doesn’t allow female clergy, and they have bought into that value hook, line, and sinker. “Thank you, dear, but no thank you.”

Then there are the people – patients and medical staff alike – who believe the presence of a chaplain can mean only one thing: bad news.   Usually death or imminent death, a.k.a. the Grim Reaper.   This is unfortunate. When it takes place in nursing staff, it can lead to families sitting with their grief alone for days on end in a hospital room while their loved dies, with no chance to build a relationship with the chaplain so that they can be better served when the patient’s time has come. 

So, when the cashier shut up, stopped looking at me, and got all kinds of awkward-y, I kinda knew what was probably going on. Maybe long ago he had a bad experience. Maybe it wasn’t so far in the past.  Or maybe he’s really uncomfortable with anything related to the topic of death or dying. If that’s the case, he’s in good company. At cocktail parties, it is a real buzzkill to tell people that this summer I am working as a hospital chaplain. Because, when I do, they get all awkward-y and either create some reason to flee or, if they have more success at managing initial impulses, they (usually abruptly) change the topic of conversation.

I am regularly a decade behind in pop culture when it comes to media, so please don’t laugh when I share that my daughter and I spend quality time binge watching Grey’s Anatomy. (We are in the second half of season five…which originally aired six years ago). I rant every episode about the absence of a chaplain on that show. (At least OITNB has had a chaplain twice.) I rant about how all the beautiful doctorpeople work out their high-drama psycho-shit on their unsuspecting patients.

Chaplains, at least, get formal training in how not to do that. True fact.

I wonder: if there were images of chaplains in the media doing what I do ~ what my colleagues and mentors do well ~ would my cashier buddy have had the same reaction? If he had seen on his favorite television show, or Netflix series, a chaplain who sat with someone fearful of their own mortality, or as they blessed a newborn baby, or as they helped a man out of control of his rage be able to contain it enough to say good-bye to his beloved sister, or sat with a distraught ICU nurse who had just one too many deaths that day and needed a shoulder to cry on – would I have still been seen as the Angel of Death?

As long as there has been television, there has been a plethora of doctor shows.  So I don’t mean to pick on just Grey’s Anatomy.  For instance, I just pursued the list of characters on the tv show, House, M.D. There’s a hospital pharmacist, there’s even a Carnival Goer, but I did not find a single chaplain. In this nation that is supposedly one of the most religious among developed countries, is there no need for spiritual healing at the same time that there is medical healing going on?

When addressing a national group of doctors, Rabbi Abraham Heschel once said,

It is a grievous mistake to keep a wall of separation between medicine and religion. There is a division of labor but a unity of spirit. The act of healing is the highest form of imitatio Dei.

Amazing strides have been made in this arena since he spoke those words in 1964. One huge stride is the move towards a multifaith approach that recognizes all people, whether affiliated with a specific religion or not, have spiritual needs. These needs can be independent of one’s religious identity. In a society that is becoming increasingly less identified with one religion or any religion, this is an essential step.  Is there room for improvement among individual chaplains or hospital programs?  Hell, yes.  But there has been great progress and continued movement in the right direction.

Part of breaking down the wall of separation is to make spiritual services at hospitals more visible in the wider world – not just more visible at hospitals, but also in popular culture.  

grey-s-anatomy-greys-anatomy-1663492-1024-768-grey-s-anatomy-sons-of-anarchy-doctor-who-fringe-weeds-5-tv-shows-to-binge-watchSo this is a shout out to the stunning Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of Grey’s Anatomy (and who might be a tad busy with Scandal, but a girl can dream), and to ABC, which just this past May renewed the show for an 11th season. Maybe, just maybe, the 11th season could have an appropriately beautifulpersonchaplain join the crew, just once or twice, providing spiritual support that meets the needs of the patients, not the personal-drama needs of the doctor interns and attending physicians.

Then maybe, just maybe, there won’t be as much need to fear the “Reaper.”

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Homily at Interfaith Iftar, July 19, 2014

one breaks the fast at Ramadan by eating dates

one breaks the fast at Ramadan by eating dates

Let me start with gratitude. Thank you for this opportunity to take part in this interfaith iftar. Thank you for this chance to come together across faith traditions, across beliefs that share commonality as well as contradiction. Thank you for the honor to be one voice among the many voices within my faith tradition of Unitarian Universalism.

I feel especially thankful to be here with all that is going on in the world, the relentless march of violence; hostilities that cannot be traced to their origins and threaten no foreseeable end; senseless deaths that bring great sorrow and no consolation. Thank you, that we ~ and others around the globe now and at other times ~ may gather together as an act of peace.

I’d like to start with a quiz – well, really, it’s a single question — gathered as we are on the occasion of an iftar, the breaking of the daily fast from sunrise to sundown during the holy month of Ramadan. I ask this question because a friend of mine just attended the iftar hosted earlier this week at the White House. This got me wondering about the history of the White House hosting iftars. I wonder if anyone here can guess the year – or even the decade –when the first iftar took place at the White House?

The year was 1805. The president was Thomas Jefferson. It took place at sundown on December 9, when Tunisia’s Muslim envoy to the United States visited the country during Ramadan. 1805!

Human memory can be short-sighted. Some of us – me, included, until not that long ago — look to the current presence of Islam in the United States and think this is it. Yet there is a long history of Islam in the Americas. Though there is some indication of Muslim presence during the centuries of exploration (and imperialism), the first significant wave of Muslims in America was when African slaves were forcibly brought to this soil. It is believed that 10-15% of those people were Muslim, some of whom continued to practice their faith in secret ~ including an African American community on one of the islands off the coast of Georgia maintaining a contiguous prayer community until the early 20th century.

It is so important that all of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, learn this history and share it, for sometimes, this nation acts like Islam is a stranger in a strange land, alien and unwelcome.  It is we – this group of people from across differing belief systems, different faith communities, differing religious perspectives – who must call this nation – whether we be citizens or residents or guests – to live into its enshrined values of diversity and inclusion.

So if it was Thomas Jefferson over 200 years ago who held the first iftar at the White House, do you know which U.S. president said, when speaking before a gathered Jewish community, affirming America’s commitment to interfaith cooperation by insisting, “the Government of the United States…gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance”?  I love the lilt of the language, so I thought for sure it was Jack Kennedy. Sounds like him, doesn’t it?

It was George Washington, speaking in 1790 in Rhode Island, articulating, restating, and reinforcing this nation’s commitment to pluralism in a religious context.

As we here do so tonight. By gathering at this interfaith iftar, risking connection with each other across unfamiliar ritual, we offer ourselves, our lives, and our service in search of an honorable pluralism of respect and celebration. As people of faith and conscience, we can always look within ourselves to know ourselves better and to better ourselves.

Yet, it is something altogether braver to look outside, to those from other perspectives, to strengthen the best in our own traditions. And to encounter those growing edges modern life brings to us that our ancestors either did not face or did not face in a way of lasting relevance.  

One of my interfaith heroes, Eboo Patel, a Muslim man who co-founded with a Jewish friend the Interfaith Youth Core (in Chicago and now nationwide), describes interfaith cooperation among people of contrasting political opinions. He says,

I think interfaith work is about building positive relationships between people whose diverse religious convictions shape their dramatically different politics. I believe that is both an end in itself, and a means to another useful end—expanding civic space, strengthening social cohesion and increasing social capital. How else do you have a thriving diverse democracy unless people who have deep disagreements on some issues are able to work together on other issues?

Expanding shared civic space and strengthening social cohesion is not just some theoretical idea or fodder for an elegant speech. It is the very life of life, it is the very honor of the passage of death, it is compassion and hope in the times inbetween. I have spent this summer as a hospital chaplain here in Springfield, providing comfort and spiritual healing to patients who are gravely ill. These patients come from a wide diversity of faith traditions: Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Jehovah’s Witness, Lutheran, Baptist, Hindu, Pentecostal, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Christ, Eastern Orthodox, Buddhist, and none of the above.

Tonight, I am accompanied by some of my chaplain colleagues, honored by the invitation to join you, as we are honored and blessed to serve the wider community. As multi-faith chaplains serving all hospital patients, we know that we are better chaplains if we have an authentic appreciation for each patient’s faith tradition. We expand our appreciation through interfaith engagement of many forms – learning, relationships, community events like this. Thus we ensure that when there is need in our country, in our communities, in our families, in our schools or hospitals, we are able to respect, honor and celebrate.

Let us end in a prayer (adapted), written by the Unitarian Universalist minister Kathleen McTigue:

We gather today as a diverse body of people

from many faiths and traditions.

We do not speak the same language of worship.

We follow different teachings, made known to us

by sacred voices and scriptures through the ages.

We do not utter the same prayers, nor do we even

use the same words if any word at all, to speak the name of God.

Nevertheless, we gather [in worship].

 

In our gathering we honour and celebrate our diversity.

We do no seek a unity that would deny our differences.

We seek rather a deeper union,

a union woven through choice and intent,

Through time and attention,

Through respect and compassion,

Until we recognize that we have become a whole cloth,

A cloth made rich and textured and vibrant through our differences.

 

Each of us can hear, in the beating of our own hearts,

The ancient rhythm of the loom at work,

We are woven together.

We are bound to one another.

We belong and with each other.

Let us [worship] break bread together.

 

ramadan_poster

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Prayer for Learning Self Defense Skills in a Hospital Setting

I wrote this prayer to frame a class on Non-Violent Physical Crisis Intervention required for staff at the hospital where I am a chaplain intern this summer.  Its purpose was to bring a trauma-informed understanding of our efforts.  Feel free to use this prayer or an adaptation of it in any setting where you are learning about personal safety and self-defense.   Of course, be sure to give the author proper attribution.

This morning our sacred task is safety. The safety of patients, the safety of staff, our own safety. It is an unusual thing to name the art of self-defense a sacred effort, but let us bring such intention to our efforts this morning, let us bring such intention to each other this morning.

We are called this morning to learn skills that bring us not into verbal contact with those who are upset and not into tender contact with those who are agitated; instead, we learn a firm and insistent contact whose intention is to bring greater peace and well-being when they are unable to do it themselves.

We offer our bodies, holy and whole, not as sacrifice, not for damage, not to danger or exploitation, but in aspiration of teaching and learning, to generate more peace, to grow non-aggression, with our goal of bringing suffering to a close. Should we hurt someone in our learning, may we seek forgiveness. Should we be hurt by someone in our learning, may we offer forgiveness.

Let us recognize that in seeking our own safety, the safety of our colleagues, and the safety of the one who is seeking to do harm, we, ourselves, may be experienced as doing harm – let us ask for humility in the face of this paradox.

Let us recognize that too often, those who seek to do harm, have experienced harm themselves, and generate more violence. Let us recognize that too often, those who seek to bring peace, have experienced harm themselves, still healing, willing to risk memories and pain in generating more compassion in this world.

Let us step into our pastoral power that pairs compassion with release holds; pairs kindness with alert attention to escape routes; radical concern with learning the concrete skills that minimize damage that can be done.

There is no separation. We are all a part of that Great Inter-being, known by many names. Let us use this knowledge we are learning and skills we are practicing not distance us, but bring us closer to our fellow human beings and our Sacred Source.

 nvpcpi

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Blessing for a Newborn Baby

In every birth, blessed is the wonder.
In every creation, blessed is the new beginning.
In every child, blessed is life.
In every hope, blessed are the possibilities.

Every child born into this world is something new, something never before, original and unique. Newly born, __________, you are called to fulfill your place on this earth.

This family was a complete family before you arrived; now, somehow they are more complete.

They shall do their best to teach you; it will be up to you to learn.

They shall try to guide you in right directions; it will be up to you to make right decisions.

They shall love you to the best of their abilities, honoring your gifts and needs; it will be up to you to love yourself fiercely and without apology, sharing that love in ways that make the lives of others, and the way of the world, better.

Brother/sister _________, do you promise with all your heart to love her and help her grow up to be strong and smart?

(Parent #1)* ________, do you promise with all your heart to love her and protect her, to notice her strengths and give your gifts that her strengths may grow and when it’s time, to let her go?

(Parent #2)* _________, do you promise with all your heart to see the brilliance that is in her, to hold her when she needs holding, showing her the path and letting her walk it on her own, but never alone?

Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace of the shining stars to you
Deep peace of the Son of Peace to you

(these last lines borrowed from the Iona Community)

* of course, if there is one parent, these lines can be combined as the person giving the blessing is so moved!!!

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Crack in DC: Continuing to Witness Resurrection and Redemption

A few days ago, I listened to the interview of Ruben Castaneda, author of a new book, S Street Rising: Crack, Murder and Redemption in D.C.  It’s a memoir of a neighborhood and a city during one of its most stressed times. It is also the story of the author, who ~ while reporting for the Washington Post on Marion Barry’s (the then-sitting mayor of DC) crack-smoking habit ~ was an active crack addict himself.   The interview was compelling in its depiction of our nation’s capitol at the height of the crack epidemic. I knew some of which he spoke because I was there.

In 1991, I lived a few blocks from the epicenter that Castaneda describes. I lived near the U-Street Metro station, which had just opened but hadn’t yet dispersed the “ladies of the night” that walked the neighborhood. This was before it became gentrified ~ or given my presence, as an out-of-work, white college-grad hoping to find work in social services, it must have just been starting. Now, it is a hopping cultural mecca, much like it was during the same time period as the Harlem Renaissance, and not at all like it was after the riots in 1968 after the assassination of Dr. King.

When I was there it was more like the tail end than the height – crack was raging still, but just not at its apogee. I remember, too, that heroin was on the scene again, or still ~ insidious as it always is, sometimes taking a backseat to the new, sexy drug on the market, but always there, always outlasting that new sexy thang, ready to step back on center stage and take more life.

For over a year and a half, I worked at a homeless shelter just six blocks from the Capitol building. It was the only job where I have been officially reprimanded. It is the only job where I was told I had to change my clothes (on my first day, I had dressed down so as to be more accessible to the residents, but I was told by the shelter director that I was being a poor role model and should dress business-like in order to inspire the residents and prepare them for what work life looks like – for realz). It is the only job on which I was physically assaulted (punched; ended up more startled than hurt). So it may sound funny when I say this, but it was one of my favorite jobs (so far).

I am thankful for all the different edges that job brought me to – encountering and resisting racism; encountering my own racism and being called on it; rebelling with cause against unjust treatment of workers and residents; breaking rules to try to save the life of a child (which sounds melodramatic, but was nonetheless real, and devastating); hitting my head against a brick wall of homophobia amongst the staff in a context where there was a lot of lesbian life happening among the residents; and crossing cultural and interpersonal chasms through vulnerability and authenticity.

It was also my first (but certainly not my last) explicit experience of being witness to individual lives of tragedy, trauma, and occasional triumph. One of the clients I worked with froze to death at a bus stop outside the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Though some of my other jobs had me thinking this way, at this one I became convinced – and still hold this belief – that if we could end incest, we would vastly decrease – if not eradicate — addiction and homelessness. Nearly every resident I met – it was a shelter for women – had been sexually abused, certainly as an adult, and more often than not, as a child. Still, there were stories of triumph – like the two overnight workers ~ Ethel and Yvonne ~ who had been residents of the shelter at one point in their lives, were in active recovery, paying it forward.

There are many of these residents whose memory has taken up residence in my heart and head. Ardene, who OD’d. An old lesbian couple – Mary and Eleanor – whom I visited when Mary was placed in the city’s old, dilapidated psychiatric hospital. The Butch who was knocked up and gave birth to a little boy who played a huge role in my life and now doesn’t. The little lost old woman who was dying of congestive heart failure and did not know from whence she came — it turns out it was the Midwest and she got to see her family before she died. And then there was Renee:

Miracles come grudgingly
Don’t just happen
Don’t just descend upon us
From some spiritual high-up plane
Trumpets blaring as white-faced angels
Proclaim imminent arrival.

Miracles don’t just ease in and out of our lives
Making of us better citizens,
steadfaster friends,
kinder bodhisattvas,
gentler lovers,
surer seekers.

They emerge, slowly,
Inch by torturous inch.
Hesitant, even hostile,
A reluctant configuration of
Instinct and happenstance.

Miracles are not volcanoes
but they erupt from an inner core
Hot, festering, greedy
Burning with earthbound violence designed to
rip the ground out from under.

I have known a miracle.

Impulsive explosions that regularly barred her from shelter
A crack habit showing no signs of abating
Desperation disguised as freckles dotting her haunted yellow cheeks.

Month after month
She sat across from me
Scratched metal desk
delineating our separate lives.
She got in my face:
“I know which car is yours.”
She pointed to my face:
“I know which scar will go where.”
Her rage bubbling wildly,
untempered by a true target.

Instead of slashing my tires, somehow,
Somehow,

She told me her story:
Cast iron pan to his head,
after nighttime visits from a phantom father.
Weeping on a curb, behind her a burnt-out shell of a house.
A daughter torn from her adolescent arms,
never seen again.

I am not sure which is the miracle:
Her very survival
or that in this tormented place,
dank with our own ghosts,
we found each other long enough to give light.

I wrote this poem nearly two decades ago. I am always thrilled to share it, for it is part of my intention to continue to witness the life of this woman. I don’t know what happened to Renee. I suspect she succumbed to her addiction. It certainly seemed to be going in that direction the last time we encountered each other. Maybe she experienced the same kind of resurrection that S Street neighborhood is experiencing. Maybe she experienced the same kind of redemption that Ruben Castaneda experienced, in which he kicked the habit and came back to the S Street community, even preaching at the neighborhood church on Easter.

Or maybe, just maybe, each time I share this poem, and each time you read it, anyone reads it, Renee is resurrected and we all take part in her, and our own, redemption.

 

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Imagining a better abortion conversation

irrevspeckay:

I have not been blogging much, given my current obligations elsewhere. This blog post caught my attention and I feel it is worthy of a larger audience, so I am reblogging it here. Thank you, Amy, for writing it and sharing it.

Originally posted on Sermons in Stones:

Every time abortion is debated I have this wish, this longing, which, forgive me, I’m going to articulate as a list. As with many polarizing debates, people tend to hunker down in their camps pointing at the most extreme versions of their opponents’ views (possibly fictional): “She had a ninth-month abortion so she could fit into her prom dress!” / “He thinks people shouldn’t even use contraception!” We know the stereotypes: Pro-choice people are just callous and selfish and eschew personal responsibility. Anti-abortion people just hate women and fear sex.

I believe (and fervently hope) that there is a vast realm of people who do not all agree about the ethics of reproduction but do share the following values, or strive for them, even though we get very nervous about how others might exploit them to ends we don’t share:

(1) We think sex is a valuable and precious part…

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