Jul 302012
 

On Thursday morning, Chase and I returned from a mommy/ son overnight date. It was really a let’s get the hell away from the girls who will never ever, ever stop fighting date. It was awesome. We  played and talked and talked and talked. We splurged on donuts for breakfast and snuggled in bed at night and woke up early for walks on the beach and dolphin sightings. I got to say yes, yes, yes instead of no, no, no all day. We dreamed up a book we’re going to write together. It was perfect. It kind of made me wish I could raise my kids one at a time.

 

Exhausted and happy, we boarded the plane for the flight home. Since I just had Chase- no girls- I was envisioning a relaxing, blissful flight.  I would not be breaking up fights or crawling around on the cabin floor trying to find tiny plastic toys the size of my fingernail that someone who really, really hates parents created. It was just Chase and me, happy and relaxed after our trip, ready to curl up with our brand new books.

But the Universe decided that I had had quite enough relaxing, thank you very much.

I wedged myself in the seat next to an older, furious, panicked man who was having trouble sending an email. He was huffing, puffing, moaning, and cursing. He was making all the noises that beg the person next to you to say, “what’s wrong?” But I didn’t say “what’s wrong?” No way, Jose. All I could do was think about how this man’s state of being was a lesson to me. Nothing that can be done over a computer is worth that much angst and stress. Unless one is trying to reach a dying friend, one should not allow a two hour loss of technology to work him up that way. Not healthy. This man’s level of stress was so high that I could FEEL it radiating off of him. Killing my vacay buzz.  I wanted none of it. I kept leaning closer and closer to Chase’s side until half of my body was in his seat. What are you doing? Chase said. I just love you, I responded. He gave me his “I’m practicing to be a teenager” eye roll.

The man finally shut his laptop. Then he started taking huge, deep breaths. Loud, angry, breaths. But his deep breaths were interrupted by deep, repetitive coughs. Smoker coughs. Loud, jarring coughs that wracked his whole body. I tried to discreetly cover my face with my Monkee sweat shirt.  By now I was basically sitting IN Chase’s lap.

We take off. I start reading.

And he starts.

He starts talking to me, in monologue form, and it is clear right away that he plans to get a few things off of his croupy chest. To me. He is grizzly. He is angry. He is, how shall we say…not my type. Something tells me to close my book and listen anyway.  I resent that Something. But I do. I close my book and look at my new teacher and listen.

This man talked for a full hour before I spoke at all. During this hour I learned that he was a small company owner on his way to DC to tell his employees that he was moving his headquarters out of the country because, according to him, the Obama administration’s new rules had made it impossible for him to stay in the US.

Then, during the next hour, He talked about the poor in sweeping generalizations. He discussed any sort of service program workers or supporters as foolish enablers. He repeated the word fools twenty times. He proclaimed all non-profits to be corrupt money grubbers who hire hookers and buy drugs with donations. He said that liberals would be the ruin of our country. He talked more about his own company, and how liberals hated him and were always trying to put him a box and make him the bad guy. He explained that he’d fight his way out of that box any way he had to. He was a fighter, he said. He spoke loudly and peppered his sentences with curse words.

As God is my witness, I am not making any of this up. Every single thing he said was something that makes my fists clench and heart want to jump out of my throat and onto my lap. Even my beloved Mitchum stopped working. But something told me to stay open. Ride this out. I kept listening.

 

Once Chase leaned over and said, “Why are you arguing?”

Our new friend said, “Son, we’re not arguing, we’re just stating very different opinions in a tense way.” (I still hadn’t said a word.)

“Isn’t that the definition of arguing?” Chase said.

I shot him my best, “I’ve got this and respect your elders even when they think differently than anyone you’ve ever met” look.

 

I took inward deep breaths and shot a twitter prayer up to the G-O-D.

Not subtle with this one, huh? What am I supposed to do with this? Politics? Politics? There are two things I avoid like the plague- politics and real ticks.

Then in the back of my head, I hear. “It has been said to love your friends. But don’t even jerks do that? I say – Love your enemies and those who think differently than you.”

Daaaaaamnnnniiiiiiiittttttt.

In the middle of describing various tax codes he looked at me and said, “Are you following me, here?”

I said, Well, I’m a writer, so I’m not familiar with a lot of this, but I think I’m with you. I’m learning as you talk.

He said, “Oh, a writer. I tried that road once. I tried to do nothing, because my doctor and wife told me I was going to die if I didn’t slow down. So I stopped working and sat on the couch all day. But how much Jerry Springer can you watch, right?”

Right. Well, maybe your doctor didn’t mean for you to go from 100 to 0. Maybe she just wanted you to cruise at 50. Also, as a writer, I don’t do nothing. But you’re right, I have found a way to live without so much stress.

Right, right, that’s not what I meant,” he said.

I know, I said. Stay open, the Something said. Stay open. Ride this out.

At one point the man took a breath, looked sideways at me and said, “You’re a liberal, aren’t you.”

I said, I try not to label myself, because I don’t want to shut down conversations. Right now I’m just a person trying to understand you.

“Oh you’re definitely a liberal,” he said.

When he started back in on non-profits and how they were all money grubbing thieves, I said, You know, I run a group like a non-profit, and we give back 100 percent of what we raise. No overhead. We all work for free.

He raised his eyebrow and didn’t respond for a minute.

He looked out the airplane window. He was remembering something. His tirade stopped. His voice changed a little.

Then he turned back and said, “I haven’t given a penny away for fifteen years. I used to. Every Christmas I used to buy ten turkeys and deliver them to the homeless shelter myself.  But I don’t do that anymore. I don’t give anything away anymore.”

What changed? I said.

He looked out the window again and I thought- HERE we go. HERE we go- here comes the real stuff. Here politics die and the person behind them introduces himself.

Scruffy angry man said, “When my daughter was little, we left a candle burning in our house and the whole house burned down. With all of our things. We had nothing. We lived in our car for seven months with our daughter and no one reached out to help us. Not our neighbors, not our families, friends. Not even our church. No one.”

God. That must have been awful.

“It was. But I eventually found work and I pulled us out of there on my own.”

That’s amazing. Still. Don’t you wish someone had reached out to you?

“Well, they didn’t.”

I know, but doesn’t a part of you really wish they had?

“No. We’re fine. I pulled us out of there and I turned out perfectly fine.”

Here is where I couldn’t help but stop the conversation and give scruffy angry man my face. I can’t describe it so here it is. I used to be able to appear much more skeptical but you know, all the Botox.

 

“What??” He said defensively. Then he laughed.  ”What?”

You’re perfectly fine? Not a teeny bit hard hearted, friend?

Scruffy man laughed again. Hard this time. Hard enough that his whole body shook again. Thank you. baby Jesus, I thought.

“Maybe a little,” he said,  “Maybe a little.”

I walked through this heavenly door of laughter and I told him that I was glad he’d told me his story. I told him that I usually did lean to the left and so I didn’t often have a chance to hear the stories of folks on the other side. I told him I understood a lot of where he was coming from, and I do. Being a small business owner, from my friend Tim’s point of view, is a very tough gig these days, and maybe always.

“I’m not a bad guy.They are always making me out to be a bad guy. I’m not.”

I know, I said. I’m one of the “theys,” most days, and I don’t think you’re a bad guy.

Then I asked if he’d do me a favor. I told him that I’d keep his story in my head and heart if he’d consider changing one teeny part of the way he spoke. The alls. The mosts. I told him the generalizations were killing me. All the poor, Most of the non-profits, all the democrats, every single liberal.  It discredits you a little, I said. Weakens your arguments.

Then I told him about the poor people who were the parents of the kids at the school where I taught. How many of them worked 24 hours straight and then came into my classroom, blurry-eyed, to hear about the children for whom they’d sacrificed everything.

Illegals? He said.

No, friend. Or maybe so. But do you understand what I’m saying? We can’t say all or most. We just can’t.

He nodded. “I hear you. I’ll stop saying all. But I might stick with most.”

Okay, I said. A compromise. I love compromises.

Then he said, “Give me the name of your non-profit. I’ll look it up.”

I squealed and clapped like a seal. He rolled his eyes and stuck his finger down his throat like he was gagging. But it was definitely an affectionate gag.

As I wrote our website on his work folder,  I told him about our Love Flash Mobs. About how we send money to hurting people to let them know we care.

He said, “Why the hell do you send them money? Why money?”

It’s not about the money. It’s about what the money represents-  love, care for a stranger, sacrifice.

More gagging. “How much you send them?”

Last time we raised 80 thousand dollars in six hours. All kinds of people gave. Conservatives, liberals. People like you. Actually, I don’t know if there are any other people like you.

Laughter and huge eyes. “80k? And you gave it all away??

 Yep. I know.

“Well, if it’s not about the money, you should just send them a card. Have all your “people” sign it and send a goddamn card. I’ll even give you $2.50 for the card. I wouldnta done that before this conversation, I’ll tell you that. I don’t get you, but the world needs people like you and your monks or whatever the hell you call them.”

I looked at him and said - I wish we were around when you were stuck in your car.

“Well you weren’t, and we were fine.”

 I know, I still wish though.

“Yeah.”

Then I went in for the love kill.

Look at us, friend. We did it. We made it through two hours. I learned a little about you, you learned a little about me. The rightiest and the leftiest. Maybe in the whole WORLD. We didn’t yell, You taught me a lot.

“You taught me a little.”

I’ll take it. Tim, can I get a picture?

“No. hell no. You’re just gonna put it on that Mama’s Tree of yours.”

True. That’s what I was going to do. Well let me at least shoot this, so I can prove this really happened. That the rightest right man and the leftyist left girl sat together on a plane and said all of our things and learned from each other. And made friends.

 

Tim said – “I’ve never made friends with a goddamn liberal before.”

I am proud to be your first goddamn liberal friend, Tim. And I want you to know that I can see how upset you are about your company, and this upcoming meeting, and the country, and I’m rooting for you.  Just treat them like people, not issues, Tim. And you must start sleeping more. And you gotta quit smoking, Tim. We’ve gotta take you down 6 million notches.

“I know. You’re right,” he said.”Good luck with your book and all of  your giving people’s hard earned money away.”

Thank you Tim, I appreciate it.

“Write down your book’s name too. I’m going to order it as soon as it comes out.”

Thank you, Tim. I hope you like it.

And then we HUGGED. We HUGGED.

 

On the cab ride home I thought: our world views usually come from the world we’ve experienced, not from the goodness of our hearts. If you’ve experienced the world as loving and generous – that is how you will live, in abundance. But if you’ve experienced the world as uncaring and cold, then it only makes sense that you will continue to live with that world view.

It’s really why we need to take care of each other. Listen to each other. Undig our heels. Surprise each other. We really do.

 

Tim- thank you for teaching me so much. You are in my prayers. For real. Not just saying that.

Love and Peace,

Glennon- the goddamn liberal from Mama’s Tree

Jul 272012
 

*first published two years ago….

I write this essay with fear and trembling, and with fervent prayers that it will be accepted as merely a description of our personal faith, and not a suggestion for anyone else.

I believe that Jesus was God and also God’s son, and that every word He said is The Truth, and that He lives and loves and breathes life into the hopeless.

I don’t believe that there is another human being on Earth who is more or less worthy of His love than I.

My commitment to Jesus and His way of life does not compel me to try to convert other people, ever. I assume that others’ spiritual experiences are every bit as real and sacred to them as mine are to me. If I seem different to someone and she asks why, I tell her all about my Jesus, without agenda. If not, I just assume I’m not being different enough to cause a stir. And I continue to stay as close to Him as possible, knowing that He is the Alchemist, and that everyday He’s making me more golden.

I love my Jesus.

My love for Jesus means that every day I open myself up to becoming more gentle, generous, truthful, and compassionate. Because I love Jesus I allow myself to be constantly used up…trying never to hoard the money, time, or energy for tomorrow that is needed today. My love for Jesus means that I try to see Him in every person I encounter…even, especially, the people I don’t like. My love for Jesus means that while I look forward to a heavenly afterlife, I concern myself mainly with inviting heaven to Earth now, by loving like Jesus loved- recklessly, without reservation, without judgment. My love for and utter trust in Jesus compels me to attempt a life without guilt, pride, or fear. He gives me the courage to live out what I profess to believe…that it is always right to turn the other cheek, to avoid gossip, to tell the truth, to side with the poor, oppressed, and outcast, to give till it hurts, and to live like the only power worth having is the power that comes from service, vulnerability, and dependence on Him.

My husband and I want to live like Jesus did more than we want anything else. Not because we are good people, but because we are thrill seekers. We want to suck every drop out of life and live lives of adventure. We don’t want to settle for small dreams, like more and bigger and better stuff. We want to live out bigger dreams… life changing, world changing dreams. We want to live on the edge, to witness miracles, to align ourselves with the energy of the universe. Judging from our past experiences, we feel most alive when we live Jesus’ way. And Jesus’ way is the reckless, senseless, revolutionary love that tends to make people uncomfortable. Jesus’ way is siding with the powerless, always. Jesus’ way is subversive and countercultural and counterintuitive. And this sort of thing suits us. We fancy ourselves rebels with a cause, if you will. So we try to keep everything liquid…our hearts, our plans, our money, our opinions, even some of our beliefs …and we listen for his guidance. We pray for the patience to stay when he says stay and the courage to jump when he says jump. We prefer jumping to staying, so we notice He makes us practice staying a whole lot. And we hear from Him all the time. We feel his peace and love like mighty arms wrapped around us and we experience his guidance like lighthouse beams through stormy skies. We know what He wants from us always. And we trust Him completely.

And when we hear Christians concerning themselves publicly about anything other than poverty and disease and hunger and oppression and violence – we turn away. Because really, who has the time?

Craig and I are also committed to knowing everything we can about other spiritual practices and religions. We read about Buddha and the Koran and the Bhagavad-Gita and we are comforted to see the same truths repeated again and again throughout every great religion. We find, like we always do when we look closer, that we are all more similar than we are different. We don’t allow extremists from any faith to scare us away from that truth. We teach yoga and meditation to our children as spiritual practices. We think there are some things that Eastern religions do better than mainstream Christianity, like helping their followers find stillness and the connection between the mind, body, and spirit. So we go to them for guidance and help in areas we find lacking in our spiritual experience. We believe that the whole world is God’s and everything in it and that there is beauty to experience everywhere. We teach our children that we respect and learn about all religions, and we explain to him why we choose to worship only Jesus. We tell them that Jesus is our religion. No denomination- just Jesus. We teach and show our children how Grace changes everything. We pray, every night, that they and Jesus find each other, but we explain that whatever path they choose, they are to respect and seek to understand those on other paths. And they are to assume that other’s spiritual experiences are likely every bit as real as theirs are. We hope that this commitment to educating our children about different faiths will result in their faith decisions being based on knowledge and freedom.

And now I’ll hit the biggies, so hold on to your little hat (or Yamaka or habit or hijab or what have you).

No, we don’t think that everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus is going to hell, and we don’t allow anyone to suggest that to our children. If you do believe that, we love you just the same.

Yes, we believe that a church should not only tolerate but embrace every person who seeks refuge there…every race, background, or sexual orientation – without trying to change them. Based on our reading and research, this is what we believe Jesus would have done. We realize that there are parts of the New Testament that suggest otherwise. We have studied these scriptures. We have read them in several translations, researched different denominations interpretations, and sought insight from wise teachers. In the end we have decided to accept that there are inconsistencies in the human translations and understanding of these passages rather than accept that there are inconsistencies in our God’s perfect love. And we have decided that Jesus’ ultimate teaching was that there is no law that supersedes the law of love.

Finally, we believe that God can speak to us on our couch in our pajamas as clearly as He can speak to a group of ministers at a convention. So we read the Bible together… we’ve read every word of the Bible. Even those really long painful lists in the Old Testament. We read the Bible every day. We don’t accept secondhand information about our friends and we won’t accept it about our God. We always go to the source. And when making decisions about what scripture means we seek counsel, and then we pray, and we listen. Then we decide for ourselves what God is saying to us through the Bible. Just me, Craig, Jesus, and His Word. No other mediator is invited. We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. And when we don’t understand a mystery of God, we say “We don’t know,” rather than accept someone else’s interpretation. I actually wish all people of faith would say “I don’t know” more.

It took us seven years and five moves to find a church that teaches the same things about Jesus’ divinity and acceptance and boundless love that we teach our children. We had to leave churches we’d settled into, people we called family, students I taught in Sunday school, families we’d grown with and cried with and loved. But when faced with teachings that didn’t match our understanding of Jesus, we had to keep moving. Because we couldn’t shake the hunch that where you worship makes a statement, to the world and to your children, about whom you worship.

We finally found our new church home, St. Anne’s Episcopal, several months ago. St. Anne’s is part of the progressive Christian Church. When I walked into the sanctuary, I saw people of all races, ages, and economic groups. There were people in African garb and Saris and Abercrombie. It seemed the only thing these people could possibly have in common was Jesus. And this realization made my heart split open immediately. Within the first five minutes of the message, the minister mentioned that he’d just returned from India where he’d been learning from the Hindus and worshipping Jesus in mosques. He spoke with love and passion and gentleness, not with the zeal and intensity that sometimes feels more like defensiveness and snobbery than love to me. He talked about things I think Jesus would have cared about, like health care for all and feeding the hungry. His eyes were so kind that they reminded me of how Jesus’ might have looked, had he been allowed to age a couple more decades.

Near the end of the service, he asked the newcomers to introduce themselves. The second I stood up I started crying and I couldn’t pull it together. I felt like I had found a path home after a long, scary walk in a very confusing forest. Everyone smiled encouragingly and compassionately, because that’s their job at church. Actually, that’s always their job. After I sat down, two women stood with their beautiful daughter and explained that they were going to make St. Anne’s their church home. Apparently they felt truly welcome and loved at St. Anne’s. I cried harder. This couple hasn’t spoken to me since that morning, understandably. I’m not concerned. I know I’ll win them over, eventually. Like Jesus and olives, I am an acquired taste.

I find that every time I keep myself open to hearing from someone else about their relationship with God, especially if it’s very different than mine, I learn something new and important. It’s almost like God designed things that way.

So anyway, that’s all…I’m a yoga loving, Koran quoting, Ghandi following, church hopping, child of Jesus.

And my sister and I are in the process of deciding which scripture to get tattooed on our wrists. We can’t decide between “Be Still” and “Here I am.” Because we like to keep our Jesusy edge.

And I vote for whichever guy or gal seems the likeliest to take the underdog in a fight. Regardless of what faith or party he or she professes.

Also I’m quite short, if you must know.

Jul 212012
 

Here I am, and I’m so excited to be here. It feels like forever since we’ve talked. When I opened the page this morning, I got the same feeling I get when I walk into a coffee shop to meet a friend I haven’t seen for too long.

Where shall we start? How about here:

 

Please meet my nephew, Robert Doyle Lynch. He is named for his gentle, forever smiling, baseball and family loving grandfather, Bob Lynch, who died two weeks ago and is now Bobby’s Official Guardian Angel. He gives and takes away, sometimes at the very same time. It has been a brutiful month.

Monkees- how do I describe watching my Sister turn into a mama and my brother turn into a daddy? The answer is I can’t, yet. I’m storing it all up inside and letting it do what it does. I imagine it will all crystallize into a million stories soon.

I can tell you now that Sister is different. She is a different Sister than she was forty eight hours ago. And right now, our relationship is different. We can’t talk much. We pass Bobby back and forth and we stare at him and utter short, shallow sentences to each other which is the opposite of how we have communicated for thirty three years. For the first twenty four hours after Bobby was born, we couldn’t even make eye contact. It was like when Moses asked God if  he could see His face and God said no- because God’s face is so bright and so full of STRAIGHT LOVE that a mere human being wouldn’t survive a full on stare. So God tells Moses He can only allow him to see where He’s just been. It’s like that right now. Bobby is where God’s just been. It’s fresh, sacred ground, and I’ve still got my shoes off.

One evening there was no Bobby and the next morning there was Bobby. And I can’t stop thinking about him so comfortable in the dark, cramped space of Sister’s womb, knowing that small spot was the whole wide world. And then –  discomfort, pain, chaos, and bright, blinding light –  then the strong arms of a Mother and a Father that Bobby could SEE and a whole new previously unimaginable world that is all Bobby’s. Full of love and light.

Let’s just say Bobby’s arrival has pushed back, a teeny bit further, my skepticism about heaven.

 

 

But we know that Bobby is not all we have to discuss today.

The shootings are in our hearts and heads. We’ve imagined ourselves in that theatre again and again. Yesterday evening at Tish’s VBS concert, I found myself imagining how I’d react, how I’d get to all three kids if someone started shooting in the sanctuary. I couldn’t help but notice the irony of listening to the children smiling and singing about how God is in control and about how He will always protect us. I wondered if the other adults were thinking what I was thinking which was . . . weeeellllllllll???

Lots of you have emailed to ask how I’m handling this with Chase and the girls and the truth is I haven’t had to handle it. We’ve kept the news off. Chase says “the news is for people who are nosy.” I mean, it’s kind of true. I know enough. I don’t want to know the shooter’s name and I don’t want to hear from his third grade teacher and his long lost aunt and all the organizations who will pounce on this tragedy to further their political agendas –  warranted or not. The older I get, the more convinced I am that our problems will not be solved by politicians or PACS  or the media or the Big Bosses. They will only be solved in our own hearts and families. Bottom to top. And so I don’t want to bear witness to the media circus. This is no time for a circus. It’s time for the opposite. It’s time for a reverent hush to fall over our country. It’s time for self-reflection and prayer and extra-ordinary kindness.

I guess this is how I reacted: Yesterday, I was in a rush and I had to stop for gas, which I HATE for some reason. Again, I can do hard things, but not easy things, like gas getting. I spent five minutes at the pump punching buttons and finally realized it didn’t work. I went into the gas station and asked what on the heck was going on. The attendant said, “Oh, that pump doesn’t work. Use a different one.” And I got pissed. Because this woman had wasted five minutes of my precious time. So I rolled my eyes and said something like: well why don’t you have a sign on the pump?? And I said it in a very sweet, patronizing, rude way. And then I drove away.

Halfway to our destination I turned the car around, and I went back to the station. I walked in and waited in line, and when I got to the front I looked the same lady in the eye and I said, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry for being such a jerk and making your day harder.”

I didn’t add anything else. Because an apology with an explanation attached is not an apology at all. Then I left.

That was my response to the Colorado shootings. I have no explanation. There is no way to make sense of it. So first, I want to do no harm.

I want to be kind to the people who cross my path, because just like that shooter changed the world- so can I.

 

When the world feels loud, we must be quiet. When the world feels violent, we must be peaceful. When the world seems evil, we must be good.

 

Love,

G and Bobby