Grief: The Wedding Crasher

Grief appears the day of the wedding,

but usually she’s dressed to the nines and sipping cocktails.

If you’re not careful, you won’t catch her.

It’s not that she’s a wallflower.

You can spot her in the reflection of the tears.

She rubs elbows with the parents’ of the couple.

She glides across the ballroom floor.

If you listen carefully, you can hear her deep sighs.

She sighs for the years gone by to quickly–

for the thoughts not said

For the feelings not expressed.

She sighs for myriad of little hurts and headaches–

never addressed

never attended to

never quite healed.

She sighs for the bittersweet taste of marriage–

looking back at the legacy of love

pondering the complexity of love

worrying that so much hope is hung on one day and in one person.

 

 

Marriage On the Margins

In mainline protestant white liberal churchy world there’s a lot of talk about ministry on the margins.  Mostly this means ministry with people living in the margins of our society. Think refugees, LGBT folks, people of color.  These are very real and necessary conversations.  For people of faith in the United Church of Christ–the denomination that proclaims extravagant welcome and hospitality–these conversations are not only important they are vital to the mission and ministry of the church.

At the same time, I can’t help but wonder if there is not another group also on the margins.  In this case, I’m referring to predominantly middle class couples of various faith and ethnic backgrounds who proclaim to be spiritual but not religious and at the same time seek a spiritual ceremony for their wedding.  Where is a questioning, curious,  interfaith, or interethnic couple to turn for this rite of passage?

In churchy circles, the spiritual but not religious folks are often given a -tsk, -tsk and a wagging finger.  They are not committed enough.  They haven’t moved far enough in their spiritual journey.  They are just part of the consumerist generation–where it’s all about me.  In all of this theying, I think we have lost sight of a bigger picture.

Within our cultural landscape, these are couples who might just be starting to wrestle with what it means to marry someone of a different faith background.  What does it means to be family with someone whose faith traditions challenge our own?  These are not surface questions.  These are not questions to be answered over night.  These are questions that today’s couples with live with and into over the course of married life.

As someone who has the privelege of walking with couples wrestling with these questions as they prepare to marry, I can say most of them simply choose to disengage from organized religion altogether.  I don’t know that it’s so much that they oppose religion as they haven’t seen or experienced a model that mirrors who they are.  Or that permits them to ask the big questions.  Or that for a couple  it’s too hard to show up and explain why and how they are different than what a faith community expected.

Now before you go getting upset that you are the kind of faith leader that is open to this kind of question, I want you to pause.  To take a deep breath.  And think about.  Really think about how not you–but your faith community –is prepared not only to welcome these couples but walk with them through this new religious landscape.  Because that’s where I believe we are.  We are in a new landscape, and today’s couples are asking and living in and with new questions.

We are in a new landscape where, according to the PEW Research Center, there is a significant increase in interfaith and interethnic marriages.  Combine this reality with the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the predominance of stepfamilies, and you can see that Ward and June Cleaver are no longer the average couple seeking to wed.  Perhaps these couples are also on the margins.  And perhaps we in the church need to think about how to listen to their questions.

Say No to Yoga Shaming

 

A couple of months ago, I discovered kundalini yoga.  Rather than focusing on strength of flexibility, this yoga focuses on breath and being.  Or as yogajournal.com describes

Kundalini Yoga incorporates movement, dynamic breathing techniques, meditation, and the chanting of mantras… The goal is to build physical vitality and increase consciousness.

There’s something about this integration of body, breath, and emotional and spiritual being that stirs me to the core.  Stirs the core and invites old friends to visit…my old friends have their own version of yoga chanting:

You’re too flawed to do this.  You’re not good enough to try that.  Try harder.  Work harder.  

I’ve known this for years, spent countless hours and dollars trying to silence, stilfle, or simply ignore these old friends.  But try as I might, these friends and their chanting recur–especially in times of stress, change, and loss.  In the last couple of years, I’ve spent a lot less time trying to squelch or sequester these friends and a  lot more time trying to listen to them in a different way.  Beneath the inner critics’ chanting is a deep yearning and desire to protect.   What I’ve discovered in Kundalini is a practice that invites just that.  A space to listen to and release that voice, those beliefs, and the deep feelings beneath them.

This Sunday our focus was on releasing our inner anger and getting in touch with our spiritual warrior.  Friends, let me just say, that the poses, breathing, and chants released something profound and deep in me.   In the middle of one pose, my head started to chant F*** You.  F*** U.  (can you say a little pent up anger)…I don’t know how long this went on.  Somewhere in the midst of this, the mantra changed to Sat Nam (meaning truth is my identity).  This is the chant we meditate on in class.  As my inner chanting changed, something released.  My movement became more fluid.  Tears streaked my cheeks.

The experience was so profound that I found it difficult to describe after class.    As I worked to put words to the release I experienced, one woman started to shake her head and say “oh no.”  Since I felt a wonderful release and emptiness from this experience, I’m sure my can’t hide anything face gave a questioning look.

She went on to explain, “I just thought you were passed all of that.  I used to have all of that too when I was  younger…and then…”  She went on for a little and to be honest what she said doesn’t matter.

It felt like yoga shaming.  Self-help shaming.  Healing shaming.

Ouch!  I’ve done that to myself before.  I assumed there was something wrong with me for having x or y experience.  For re-opening x or y wound.  For falling down again.  Or falling in the same hole again.  For having this feeling.  For re-having this feeling.  I tell you–I have done that to me, and I have conveyed this in subtle and not so subtle ways to others.  Like if we try hard enough, work long enough, grasp high enough, we will transcend.

Sometimes we do.  Sometimes we don’t.  Sometimes we get the yoga breath down and glide into serenity.  Other times we chant F*** U.  Most of the time it’s somewhere in between.

 

 

 

 

Too Busy for Poetry

In another round of graduate education

I found myself too busy for poetry.

Too much to do.

Too many important tomes to read

concepts to master

skills to acquire

thoughts to think

ways of being to analyze.

Oh the list is long–

The reading pile a mountain

with each text more serious

and important than the last.

So easily the black and white binary

of academics seduce me

into the old ways of

right answers

right thoughts

righteousness…self-righteousness.

Yet the script written in these prose

no longer fits.

No.

The piles of papers and tomes can wait.

Tonight

I gorged on poetry.

I shall not get so hungry again.

 

Not Ready for the Resurrection

I wonder if she felt this way–

not ready for the resurrection.

So much tumult

in such a short time.

So much pain

so little space to process.

 

I wonder if she felt this way–

not ready for the resurrection.

So easy to sing

Sometimes people leave you

Halfway through the wood…

But no one is alone

Believe me

Easy words to sing

until you are left halfway through the wood.

And there she was

halfway through the wood.

 

I wonder if she felt this way–

not ready for the resurrection.

So choked on tears

So heavy from holding

Is it any wonder she didn’t recognize him?

And then–only a moment–before she needed to let go

to see what this new life would mean.

 

I wonder if she felt this way

not ready for the resurrection

 

*lyrics from”No One is Alone” in  Into the Woods

Just Any Other Wednesday

What you must think of us, Holy One.

Here it is our Holy Week–

the week we vow to re-member:

our own culpability

our own tendency toward shame and blame

our own denial

this week of all weeks

we open ourselves to repentence

we invite you in to help us find

the courage and wisdom to break the pattern

To prepare our hearts and minds for redemption.

 

And yet–here we are.

Using terror for political gain

pointing a hand full of fingers at anyone but ourselves

Crying crocodile tears for yet another mass killiing

while gorging ourselves on the kernels of a bottomless bowl of media.

Forgive us, Holy One.

Forgive us our trespasses.

I Pray for Abortion to End, Too

On my way to church yesterday, I drove passed a group of protestors.

The majority of the signs implored, “Pray to end abortion.”

One lone sign declared,

“Save Planned Parenthood.”

All it took was the juxtaposition of those messages, and the tumult I’d felt for two weeks ceased. To me these messages are not dichotomies or polarities.  Certainly, this issue is bigger, deeper, and more complex than politics.  That is my prayer.  That we may stop believing these messages are 100% contradictory.

That we create a world where women’s bodies are viewed as more than objects

That women not feel shamed to share their questions and curiousities about their bodies

That information about women’s reproductive health be available and able to be discussed on a deeper level than biology and a clinical approach

That women and men begin to share the vulnerability and shame that surround unplanned pregnancy

That we seek to ensure children are welcomed, loved, and cared for.

“Yes–both of these.  May abortions end and may Planned Parenthood be saved.”