Dec 192013

If you are still wondering if broken-hearted is an okay way to be, to live- please read the comments after yesterday’s post. It is. Grief and broken-heartedness are holy callings. Don’t skip them, or pretend to. They are crucial parts of our life long quest to defrost. Grief hurts because it’s supposed to. Sometimes life has to hurt to get our attention.

For the last few days I’ve been floating a little bit – like a satellite – ungrounded, unattached. I get like that sometimes. When called out of my head and back to the physical world by a pressing immediate matter (usually a little person who can’t find her socks) I keep thinking about What Mindy Would Do.

I woke up this morning early and sat outside with my Bible in the Quiet- because my Bible and the Quiet both seem like appropriate Mindy meeting places. This morning I was reading John 2 and it made me think of a recurring theme I’ve noticed in my email inbox.

Since I never offer advice, people ask me for it constantly. During the past few weeks- I keep getting versions of this: “I want to _____ (write, dance, teach, rest, pray, whatehaveyou). I just feel like I’m not ready to start because ______ (I don’t have time, I’m not good enough, the stars are not aligned, others are doing it better, whatehaveyou).”

The Bible story I read this morning was about the moment Jesus started his miracle ministry on Earth. Jesus was a man who some of us believe was actually God. I love Him. To be honest – I, like, WORSHIP the guy. I do not think you need to, though, and that gets me into some trouble now and again. It’s okay. Anyway, at the start of this story- Jesus had been preparing to Do His Thing for a little over thirty years, but He’d never performed any sort of public miracle yet. So this one night he was with his buddies and his mom, Mary at a killer wedding (wine flowing, three days and nights, epic party) and the hosts of the wedding ran out of wine. As every Monkee knows – there are problems, and then there are problems – and running out of wine is a problem.

So they are all sitting around saying- “Jesus, this sucks. We’re out of wine, what are we gonna DO?” Because there wasn’t say, a local Brew Threw to hit up on a beer run. But then Mary remembered- “WAIT A MINUTE! I TOTALLY FORGOT! MY KID IS GOD!”

And so she ran and found Jesus and said something like- “HEY KID! WE’RE OUT OF WINE. DO YOUR MIRACLE THING. QUICK!” And Jesus did a funny thing. He looked at her and said, “Woman! No! It is not my time!”

Now, we don’t know what Mary said to Jesus next. All we know is that all of a sudden, Jesus goes around changing all the water at the wedding to wine stat. So my guess is that Mary stopped in her tracks and gave Jesus a pointed look that clearly conveyed the following message: “I am unsure of what your lack of readiness has to do with the fact that I NEED MORE WINE. Additionally, if you call me “woman” again, I will smack you upside the head with one of those holy sandals.”

From this we can learn two things:

  1. No matter who you are, when your mom asks for wine, MAKE IT HAPPEN, since you are likely the reason she needs it in the first place.
  2. Forget it, just Number One.

Mary was totally one of us. LOVE THAT LADY.

Anyway, this is all to say that if you don’t feel ready- if you are waiting to Get Started Doing Your Thing- you are in good company. Even Jesus felt unprepared to begin. But look- I want you to picture me looking directly at you trying to convey this message: “I am unsure of what your lack of readiness has to do with the fact that the world needs the little miracle that only YOU can perform. The world needs you to use your gift – ready or not.”

And yes- I’m looking at YOU, SISTER. And you and you and YES, YOU, there in the kitchen covered with baby spit up. Especially you. Actually never mind- you’re off the hook. Nobody with kids under the age of five has to use any of her damn gifts ever. You forget all of this. Just SURVIVE, you. Reread in many years.

Anyway, here’s the secret. Not a damn one of us knows what we’re doing. You cannot wait till you know what you’re doing to get started. I NEVER know I’m doing. So I just do the Next Right Thing, one thing at a time. Like this morning, I woke up and got the kids off to school and then I didn’t know what to do because I am still very sad and hazy. So I asked myself what’s the Next Right Thing? And then I sat in the quiet with my Bible and Mindy because that seemed right. And then the Quiet and my Bible and Mindy told me to write this essay. So now I’m here. After I’m done, I’ll decide what the Next Right Thing is again, and then I’ll do it. I’m hoping my Next Right Thing involves cinnamon raisin bagels covered in sugar because I just remembered, in the middle of writing this sentence, that I hid one of those on top on the refrigerator this past weekend. YES. That’s it. It’ll be a little stale, but I’m certain the bagel is the Next Right Thing for me. See, like that. Just the Next Right Thing, the whole way home.

This is a picture of my kid on the diving board. I took this one because it’s the ultimate Life Moment.

dive one

Will she jump?

Or will she turn around and climb back down the stairs?

Jump, honey. Do it.

Sometimes you’ll belly flop and it’ll sting and everyone will laugh and sometimes you’ll do a perfect screwdriver and everyone will clap. But after a while you will learn that you don’t jump for everyone. Everyone doesn’t even matter. You jump because at the end of the day- when your head hits the pillow- you want to Be One Who Jumps.

That’s all. That’s everything.

Don’t wait till you’re ready. Nobody’s ever ready. Just jump now.

Love, G

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Dec 182013

You just need to hang out at the post office or Twitter for a little while to learn that folks only feel comfortable speaking out when they’re happy or angry. In our culture, anger and happiness are considered strong emotions- solid fortresses from which to come out swinging. Sadness, confusion, and loneliness are seen as weak – houses made of straw – things others might feel uncomfortable witnessing and thus might feel the need to blow down. To fix. And none of us – not one last one of us- wants to be fixed. We just want to be heard. So we hide. We stay quiet about our “weaker” feelings until we’re happy or angry again – at which point we feel safe coming out. This is a shame because the world ends up feeling like it’s made up of nothing but manically angry and happy folks, since they’re the only ones talking.  Since we only share “strong” emotions, the world becomes but a stage – made up of folks offering their most solid, bullet-proof, black and white sound bites instead of real grey people, trudging through- figuring things out slowly. That world gets lonely for a real live grey trudgy person.

Thank God I live in upside down Momastery/Jesus land where weak is strong and strong is weak. Thank God.

Mindy died.

I’m so sad right now. I’m very, very sad about our Mindy. I think I might be grieving. I’ve never grieved quite like this before. This is new to me. It feels horrific and holy. It feels awful and so precious that if anyone tried to fix it or take it or explain it away or make it better I might attack her and then never speak to her again.

I just wrote four more paragraphs and then deleted them all. I think I just wanted to tell you that I am very, very sad. And that this sadness, like joy –  is a necessary, beautiful part of our human journey. Sadness, like death- is not failure. We can stop avoiding it, covering it up, stuffing it down. We should talk about it more. We should not snatch it from each other. We should just sit with sadness together.

We talk about happiness and anger because those two are like shields. Sadness is tender so we hide it. But the tender places are the learning places and the holy places. And so I am honored to feel this sad and lonely here on this Earth without Mindy on it. I think when your heart hurts this much it means you opened it wide once- and that is something to be proud of.

I love you and I am honored to be sad with you.


Dec 142013

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Sometimes it feels to me like our national tradition in the face of tragedy is to sit around and watch people be interviewed and feel sad and helpless. We are not helpless, and sitting and feeling is not compassion. Compassion is not your pain in my heart- that’s pity. Compassion is your pain in my heart and back out through my hands. Let us – today- turn off the TV and use our pain to make some real living breathing peace in our own hearts, and then in our families and then in our communities. We should honor those lost by working. If we want Love Wins to be true, we must do the hard, holy work of making it so.

An essay about holy work- adapted for today.


I’ve been trying to add more ritual to my life, just to remind myself that an ordinary day is something quite holy.

That certainly isn’t hard to remember today, though.

Last night, I set my alarm for 5:45 am. When my phone chirped, I stumbled out of bed and towards my life-giving coffee maker. Then I sat down on my tile floor, placed three pillar candles in front of me, and lit them one at a time.

The smallest candle is for the past. Please, God comfort all of those who have been victims or perpetrators of violence. So, comfort all of us. Help us forgive ourselves for hurting others and help us forgive others who have hurt us. Heal all of our broken, hard hearts.

The medium one is for the present.  God, please snap us out of our apathy, busyness, and fear and show us how to ease the suffering of our brothers and sisters Now, Today.

The tall one is for the future. Help us begin to do things differently, God. Instead of sitting around and talking about war and peace- help those in charge do their job to make peace and help us go into our worlds and MAKE the peace we long for. Help us forgive ourselves and then our families and then our friends and then our neighbors and then, finally, our enemies. Help us reach out to someone in need today. Help us remember that everyone is in need, so we don’t need to waste too much time trying to find the right person. Help us remember to add: Make Peace to our daily to-do lists. Remind us to write Make Peace at the very top. Help us be gentle with ourselves and each other. When we mess up, when we aren’t gentle, help us forgive ourselves, say we’re sorry, and try again. Help us BE the change we want to see in the world.  Help us BE that change privately and publicly. Help us be brave enough to talk about Peace Making with our children, so that over time, they will learn that What We Are Doing Down here is not climbing the corporate ladder, or collecting money and things we’ll just have to leave behind, or having important opinions and then spending a lifetime defending them.  No- what we are Doing Down Here is Making Peace. That’s our work. That is everybody’s work. Help us teach the next generation that if they want to achieve greatness, they should do that in the arena of peacemaking. Help us make it on Earth as it is in heaven- Blessed are the peacemakers.


I keep thinking about how we call these school shooters “monsters.” But the scarier thing to consider is that the Newtown shooter was a person. A person shot those children. A person like you and me, born as a bitty baby. When we don’t dismiss him as a monster and instead acknowledge that a real human being with a brain and heart and soul like ours was capable of that kind of evil – when we claim the perpetrators of violence as our own kind as readily as we claim the victims as our own kind -then it becomes trickier to look in the mirror.

Maya Angelou recently said, “I am human, so nothing human can be alien to me.”  As I sat in front of my candles this morning, I thought about that.  It’s a little too easy to consider those who succumb to great evil as alien to us. They’re not.  Like us, that shooter was born as a clay pot full of fresh, fertile soil. Then a seed of fear and hate took root inside of him and grew and grew until huge trees of fear and hate crowded out all the potential for love and mercy. And his vision became completely obstructed. The trees of hate and fear were so big that he couldn’t see past the few feet in front of them. That’s how someone becomes a “monster” I think. Something is planted and then watered and the art of pruning is never taught.

It is terrifying to wonder if, circumstances being different, the same thing could have happened to me. We are all born as clay pots full of fertile soil. Ready to accept whatever is planted. That is the beauty and terror of being a child. Children are so vulnerable. They just have to watch as their family, friends, religions and culture plant whatever junky, poisonous seeds they want to plant. But when we become adults, things are different. We are still clay pots, still filled to the brim with fresh soil, thank God, but we have a heightened awareness now – we know now, that we are the pot –  not the seeds  – so we can monitor carefully what’s being planted inside of us by media and religion and our peers and our own health conditions and wild minds. With that heightened awareness comes heightened responsibility. We can, and must – scan ourselves daily for dangerous seeds taking root. We can, and must –  yank them out, so they never grow too big. We must surround ourselves with people who are aware enough to notice dangerous seeds taking root inside of us and brave enough to point them out with love. We must choose friends who water the right seeds inside of us. And we must develop a daily practice of taking inventory of ourselves. We must learn to examine ourselves objectively- to see ourselves as not much more and not much less than clay pots. This is what I do during my quiet time. I search myself for seeds. And if I find a seed of fear or anger or hate or jealousy, I don’t judge myself for it – I just notice it. And then I pray to Whomever Is Listening to yank it the hell out.  Even if it hurts, just yank it the hell out. Get it out.

If we don’t do this actively -  if instead we are passive, and we allow the seeds of hate that are inside every single one of us to be watered and grow- then we cannot be too proud that at least we are not shooting people. We must be humble enough to consider that given enough time and water and space, we just might. I think this is why Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you that anyone who nurses anger against his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matt 5:21-22) Hm. Nurses. Like a nursery- where things grow. Inside. Because every war and every outward violent atrocity started very, very small. It started inside someone with a seed that was never yanked, and then became a tree that was never pruned. Everything inside manifests itself outside eventually. So if we have a tree of fear or hate inside of us, we have to start hacking at the branches. And if it’s still just a bush –  than we have to start pruning. And if it’s still a little tiny seed then we have to yank it out, and plant something else, something life-giving, something that serves us and others, like love or compassion or forgiveness or patience or humor.   This is why meditation and prayer and yoga and therapy are a lot like an emptying. Because these are sacred times when we look hard at the garden inside of ourselves and allow everything  that is not worthy of occupying space in our sacred, precious, fertile human heart to be torn out at the roots. This is what Let There Be Peace on Earth and LET IT BEGIN WITH ME means, I think.

In honor of the precious lives lost last year– let us commit ourselves to taking a daily inventory. Let us refuse to water seeds of hate and fear inside of us. Let us ask Whomever Is Listening (and Someone Is, I am Sure Of It) to yank them out at the roots and replant something beautiful.

Let there be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin With Me. And You. And them.

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