Light In Action

Fragile Faith, audacity of Hope, Lit'le Love

Christianity gave me two passages and that’s all I need. 58 books in the Bible, as many as 1,160 chapters, and I only need 2 of them. If I could filter these two ideas into my actions, put them in my resume, and embed them into my voice when my kids are late getting to school; then I don’t need the remainder of the Bible. You doubt me? Read on.
If I just live out the Golden Rule, ‘love your neighbor as yourself‘ I’m half-way there. I love myself equally as I love others. Simple, no bones to pick. However upkeep of my neighbor and myself are both full-time jobs. And they take the upmost care. That’s the rub. What’s the second passage? Consider the 13th chapter in Corinthians. If I make that my recipe for life then I’d be fine. I’d be just hunky dory.

On the road with open eyes
On the road with open eyes

    “All set.” He says dismissively, facing his adventure. But not me, I can’t live so succinctly. I still struggle with ways to face the unknown. Am I prepared for my hike? No, I’m still ruminating on how to act in a messy world. I need your help. I know when he wrote advice to Corinth 2,000 years ago, Paul from Rome, was inspired. The words are like poetry: such beauty with the reverberation of bells across the ages.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Me, now at a ripe age of 700 moons, I know something of what Paul says. I can speak forcefully, my tongue is not wanton. Last month an 85 year-old man tried to commit suicide. When he got out of the hospital, I spent 3 days caring for him. Did I prophesize? My spouse told him that for his 13 grandchildren he should live; I told him by his living he’d inspire others to live longer. Now he’s decided to write another book.

Unlike Mother Teresa, I don’t give away all my possessions, because I love myself along with my neighbor. I’m perplexed about the hundreds of cans and bags of rice I’ve given. Does feeding the poor without much forethought count for doing good? I do give food donations to the community food bank when I grocery shop, and I don’t salivate with love when I do it: but I like doing it as much as I like buying food for us 4 at home. Last week I bought a quart of chocolate soy milk for the foodbank just for fun.

Then Paul descibes love. I don’t have much patience, but I did wait 6 months for Reina to get her divorce. I raged with her, laughed, massaged her shoulders, pored over legal documents. In court Reina’s deadbeat husband asked for both houses and the limo while she took the Nissan and both kids. I was angry, but bit my tongue. The jury is out when deciding if I’m patient.

I totally rejoice when the truth is out. Madoff, Rove, Wilkerson, Blagojevich, and Bryant (and I mean Kobe) need to be accountable to the public. Criminal actions need to be denounced, although punishment doesn’t work. Truth often comes in the face of fear or of harm. So in spirit, rejoice. My brain understands acts of kindness like when I gave a street vendor who was selling a homeless magazine my last dollars. Once at a major intersection, a gaunt man was shuffling between 2 lanes with his can saying US Vietnam vet. I was without a nickel, but I lowered my window to say hi. I gave him some M&Ms that I have stashed in my bag for emergencies, and they clunked inside the can as the light turned green. He flashed me a bright smile, candy rang out more than a dollar bill. Then I came home and my son asked woefully, “What’s for desert, Mom?” I didn’t have any. So I told my son the story of that snaggle-toothed smile from the Vietnam vet. I doubt if that appeased my son’s stomach.

That’s a quick sum of how well I’m dealing with living in love. I fall down everyday. I dust off the dirt and grime and try again. We are crudely-speaking, animals, and any time we can stride forth in love, well a miracle rises out of the compost. What’s your miracles?


Minga's Homefront

I'm thinking about our new year, our new US government, and some luminary Quakers. Despite several snow/ice storms, accidents and fear, I hold onto a vision of new justice for all in 2009. Obama, our bi-racial, bi-cultural, and our world citizen will sit in the White House, which has here-to-for, always been very White. He will have an American Black woman and two 21st century daughters (Quaker students) to guide him, if he chooses to listen! Happy MLK Day !  (I prefer being early to being late.)

I am as always working at home and mining the spiritual lessons taught by 2 strong willed teens. Elias is 16, who eats whey by the drams in smoothies, and owns 12 pairs of sneakers (each one a diff color). He is reading Shakespeare and Paolini this month. He maintains strong grades in high school and throws his body into basketball and volleyball. Asa is 20, completed his 1st semester at Oberlin College with strong grades especially in his lit class of Satire and Humor. He's witty, and reliable. Working during vacations at Lord & Taylor, he looks transformed wearing a suit, carrying his metal coffee cup, and brushing up with the very rich. He loves skiing and seems quite good.

After years of struggle, to find compatibility is a blessing. I prepare quick meals for him-- I offer lots more salmon and whitefish these days. Living together after a year in Spain, I'm much more aware of how central heat pleases my sweetie. The US is decaying, but we have reliable clean water and electricity every day. Thank you, Gaia. With the long deep nights, he snuggles up beside the curve of my ribs and in the morning we leap out of bed. We prance onto crystallized earth, he prowls the street as the sun springs onto a pale sky. Then- he terrorizes other cats while I go running. If you thought his name was Jonathan, I'm happy to inform you it's Ocelot, our elderly cat. Pets are luxurious, but Ocelot helps all the family by showing us that temperature, food and cleanliness matter more than wars or even wordsmithing.

Minga
Minga

My Quaker journey has taken me to off-beat places. I'm charged with encouraging Friends to talk about difficult topics without turning into cannibals. I've talked with different Friends meetings about sexuality, same-sex marriage, and heterosexual privilege. After counting, I've traveled to 12 Meetings to visit and give workshops. What a delight. Also rewarding is my part-time job at the Cambridge public hospital, CHA. I work with women at OB/GYN who live with an abusive partner. It's totally hard work, and I enjoy all 40 women I've met this year. My job differs this year because a core component is working with pregnant women and reversing the violence before the child is born.

Jonathan is, indubitably, wonderful and 2009 is our 25th anniversary. JVB has tolerated my quirks, my rants and our kitchen coated with flour after cookie baking. He and I have a strong partnership on co-parenting, paying the bills, and giving to the community. Other times I bray and he cackles. JVB enjoys laughing, website designing and playing his newest instrument, the bass guitar.

I've felt something tugging inside, like early contractions, when a baby wants to emerge. The inner nudge, call it a Guide, is pushing me to polish some ideas on survival in 2009. I've had a bushelful of Quaker books, many about Quaker abolitionists, and Quaker preachers against 'worldly possessions' (silver, slaves, business), and adoration of the 'beloved community.' Mary Peisley wrote to a Quaker male minister who was distracted from witnessing truth to this "lukewarm, backsliding, degenerate age." She continues, "Consider what thou art doing with these excellent talents. ...thou should not cease to use them. . .Do not become a salve to the world." The lure of such outward business could outwieigh the call of witness. What message can Quakers give in a landscape of fear? How do we untangle our dependence on armaments? How do we live into a culture of peace recognizing that race and class influence our decisions? Peace seems shallow, almost a jingoism. I'm looking for 5 kinds of peace, or assalam. Like shalom, it's a becoming word.

All society is held together by nonviolence, even as the earth is held
in her position by gravitation
.

M. Gandhi.