Jan 182011
 


There was a couple who’d been married for twelve years. The first two years were good, happy even . . . but then the kids came and work got hard and money got tight and the shine wore off of each of them. She used to see strong and silent but now she saw cold and distant. He used to see passionate and loving, but now he saw dramatic and meddling. They allowed themselves to become annoyed with each other. And so they stopped being careful. They stopped taking care of each other because they each decided they needed to look out for themselves.

And the distances between them grew longer and deeper until it felt impossible to touch even when they were in the same room. And one day she said to her girlfriend. . . I just don’t love him anymore. And it felt terrifying and exciting to say. And he said to his buddy . . . I don’t know if I ever loved her. And their friends said what about counseling but it all seemed tangled up too tight to try to unwind.

She got home from work one evening and fed the kids and put them to bed and she was tired to the bone. And he was late again. Late again. And even though he was late and the house was a mess, she knew that he would walk in the door, pour his glass of wine, and sit down at the kitchen table and relax. He’d sit and relax. She couldn’t even remember what relaxing felt like. She was always either going like hell or sleeping. Somebody had to keep the family running.

She stared at his bottle of wine on the counter. Then her eyes wandered over to their wedding photo on the wall. Clueless, she thought. We were clueless. But happy. Look at us. We were happy. We were hopeful.

God, please help us, she said silently.

Then she walked over to the counter and poured a glass of wine for him. She put it next to his book on the kitchen table, the place he loved to sit and relax, and she went upstairs to sleep.

He tiptoed into the house fifteen minutes later. He knew he’d missed the kids’ bedtime again, he knew his wife would be angry again, and he prepared himself for her steely silence. He hung up his coat and walked into the kitchen. He saw his glass of wine, and his book, and his chair pulled out for him. He stood and stared for a moment, trying to understand.

It felt like she was speaking directly to him for the first time in a long, long while.

He sat down and drank his wine. But instead of reading, he thought about her. He thought about how hard she worked, how early she woke to get the kids to school and herself to the office. He felt grateful. He finished his wine and then walked over to the coffee maker. He filled it up and set the automatic timer. 5:30 am. It would be ready when she came downstairs. He placed her favorite mug on the counter. And then he walked upstairs and quietly slipped into bed next to her.

The next morning she woke up and stumbled downstairs, exhausted, to the kitchen. She stopped when she heard the coffee maker brewing and stared at it for a few moments, trying to understand.

It felt like he was speaking directly to her for the first time in a very, very long while.

She felt grateful.

That evening, she stayed up until he got home. And she allowed her arm to brush his as they prepared dinner together. And after the kids went to bed and they assumed their TV viewing positions on the couch . . . he reached out for her hand. It was hard, but he did it.

And things started to unwind. A little teeny bit.


Look. I know it’s hard. It’s all so damn hard and confusing and complicated and things get wound up so tight you can’t even find the ends sometimes.


All I’m saying is that somebody’s got to pour that first glass of wine.


Because love is not something for which to search or wait or hope or dream. It’s simply something to do.




Jan 182011
 


There was a couple who’d been married for twelve years. The first two years were good, happy even . . . but then the kids came and work got hard and money got tight and the shine wore off of each of them. She used to see strong and silent but now she saw cold and distant. He used to see passionate and loving, but now he saw dramatic and meddling. They allowed themselves to become annoyed with each other. And so they stopped being careful. They stopped taking care of each other because they each decided they needed to look out for themselves.

And the distances between them grew longer and deeper until it felt impossible to touch even when they were in the same room. And one day she said to her girlfriend. . . I just don’t love him anymore. And it felt terrifying and exciting to say. And he said to his buddy . . . I don’t know if I ever loved her. And their friends said what about counseling but it all seemed tangled up too tight to try to unwind.

She got home from work one evening and fed the kids and put them to bed and she was tired to the bone. And he was late again. Late again. And even though he was late and the house was a mess, she knew that he would walk in the door, pour his glass of wine, and sit down at the kitchen table and relax. He’d sit and relax. She couldn’t even remember what relaxing felt like. She was always either going like hell or sleeping. Somebody had to keep the family running.

She stared at his bottle of wine on the counter. Then her eyes wandered over to their wedding photo on the wall. Clueless, she thought. We were clueless. But happy. Look at us. We were happy. We were hopeful.

God, please help us, she said silently.

Then she walked over to the counter and poured a glass of wine for him. She put it next to his book on the kitchen table, the place he loved to sit and relax, and she went upstairs to sleep.

He tiptoed into the house fifteen minutes later. He knew he’d missed the kids’ bedtime again, he knew his wife would be angry again, and he prepared himself for her steely silence. He hung up his coat and walked into the kitchen. He saw his glass of wine, and his book, and his chair pulled out for him. He stood and stared for a moment, trying to understand.

It felt like she was speaking directly to him for the first time in a long, long while.

He sat down and drank his wine. But instead of reading, he thought about her. He thought about how hard she worked, how early she woke to get the kids to school and herself to the office. He felt grateful. He finished his wine and then walked over to the coffee maker. He filled it up and set the automatic timer. 5:30 am. It would be ready when she came downstairs. He placed her favorite mug on the counter. And then he walked upstairs and quietly slipped into bed next to her.

The next morning she woke up and stumbled downstairs, exhausted, to the kitchen. She stopped when she heard the coffee maker brewing and stared at it for a few moments, trying to understand.

It felt like he was speaking directly to her for the first time in a very, very long while.

She felt grateful.

That evening, she stayed up until he got home. And she allowed her arm to brush his as they prepared dinner together. And after the kids went to bed and they assumed their TV viewing positions on the couch . . . he reached out for her hand. It was hard, but he did it.

And things started to unwind. A little teeny bit.


Look. I know it’s hard. It’s all so damn hard and confusing and complicated and things get wound up so tight you can’t even find the ends sometimes.


All I’m saying is that somebody’s got to pour that first glass of wine.


Because love is not something for which to search or wait or hope or dream. It’s simply something to do.




Dec 052010
 

Dearest Izzi,

I always feel very nervous when I write about God. Seems so arrogant for a little human like me to publicly explore the mysteries of God. But soon after I started this blog, I woke up one morning and decided that the only thing that’s more arrogant than trying to get closer to understanding God is not trying. So I try here, Izzi. It’s scary though, because I don’t know anything. Nobody knows anything, really. We should probably start there.

I read somewhere that the less likely someone is to consider that she might be wrong, the more likely she is to actually BE wrong. That sounds true to me.

Some people of faith take a different approach, certainly. I know who you’re talking about, Izzi. These people tend to raise their voices and noses and talk more than listen, and they certainly seem quite certain and adamant about what God disapproves of and prefers. Their main religious concerns seem to revolve around what others are doing. I think these are the people, Izzi, about whom you are concerned. You said that all the violence, exclusiveness, bossiness and zeal of people of faith made you drop out. Made you stop believing in a God altogether. I understand. I get uncomfortable, too. Sometimes it feels like these Lovies think of themselves as crusaders and the Kingdom of God as if it’s territory to conquer or something.

But it’s not. It’s not. The kingdom of God is inside. It’s not out there. The only kingdom of God each person needs to conquer is inside her own heart. That’s where battles are fought and lost and won. Here is the map of my faith journey:


*I am totally on this God train. My enemies are anyone who thinks differently about Him than I do. I will help them change.

*My enemies aren’t people at all. My enemies are fear, apathy, and ignorance. I must help others change these horrible things plaguing them and therefore our universe.

*Oh. My only enemies are MY OWN fear, apathy, and ignorance. Ooooh. I will change. Everyday, every hour, I will change.


I think that the results of genuine faith are gentleness and courage. Both are good. But if I had to choose one, I’d choose gentleness over courage any day. People can be quite brave and hurt others along their path, in which case our world might be better off without their bravery. I always try to choose gentleness first. “And these three remain, hope, faith, and love, but the greatest of these is love.”

Anyway, when a person’s faith transforms her into a more gentle and courageous being, people around her become gentler and braver, too. One at a time. On their own, with God. That’s how the Kingdom of God is spread. It’s simple, I’ve seen in happen. It’s like heaven.

Back to the point. Yes, Izzi, many people see all the nonsense done and said in the name of God and based on this, decide that God must not exist. I have lots of thoughtful, beautiful emails from these people which I save and cherish. They call themselves humanists, and they are my peeps, these people. They like me and I like them. We respect each other and we don’t secretly believe anything awful about each other. And the thing is that the more I listen to them, the more I understand that these people, these humanists, believe in LOVE. They are just so sensitive to others’ pain that they’d rather drop out than be associated with any group that causes it. And so they say Truth and Peace and I say God and Jesus but we agree not to call the whole thing off based on semantics.

And so I tell my humanist friends that it is just fine that they don’t believe in God and we can still be great friends and get much done together here on Earth. And then I add that when I die, Jesus and I will wait for them at the gates of heaven with mega-sized hugs and smiles and sparkly TOLD YOU SO! signs.

And I can almost see them rolling their eyes and hear them banging their heads on their desks through cyber space, Izzi. But they’re smiling, too.

And since they’re still smiling, I feel safe explaining that to me, responding to the religious obnoxiousness by giving up on the idea of God would be like watching Chase and Tish pummel and tease each other about who daddy loves more and in response, deciding once and for all that Craig doesn’t exist. Just because my children behave like raging fools doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t come from a loving daddy.

To be clear, I think that there are plenty of reasons to doubt God’s existence. Poverty, genocide and natural disasters come to mind. I guess I just don’t think people spewing nonsense and violence in God’s name is a logical reason to give up on God. Because we all know that these Lovies are not defending God. They are defending their egos and fears. I suspect that the religious wars and arguments and rhetoric actually have less to do with God and more to do with human pride and our deep desire to “belong,” to be members of a club, to be right, to WIN, to be powerful and popular. These people want something that has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God, with Truth or Peace. We know that every religious war in history, whether it’s fought with guns or words, is really about wanting something else. Land, Money, Power, Attention, TO BELONG. It’s just done in the name of God to justify it. There’s true. And then there’s TRUE. We must watch closely and decide what people really want. We must figure out what people are really talking about.

Because sometimes I find myself listening to someone talk about “God” and it becomes clear to me that he is really talking about his own fear. And sometimes I’m listening to someone talk about art, or fishing, or children, and I realize with great joy that he is actually talking about God. I think sometimes we just don’t listen to each other hard enough. We hear, but we don’t try to understand. Sometimes the words a person chooses are the least important part of what he’s saying.

Still, Izzi. There is certainly a whole lot that is said and done in the name of God that makes me angry and sad. But I’ve decided that if I spend all my time and energy down here railing against what I hate, I’ll leave myself no time and energy to create what I love. No time to create and offer the world an alternative. No time to invite heaven, as I understand it, to Earth.

I could spend my life glaring at these people. Or I can look past them. To other people.

Because sometimes I wonder if we use the fighting, judge-y people as an excuse to give up. We are afraid to be associated with them, so we allow them to become an excuse to drop out, to stay on the couch, to quit working for Good, for Truth, for Love, for Peace…but all the while we know there are others. We know the real heroes of the light are not on TV. They’re not yelling. They’re not in meetings deciding who’s in and out. They’re out there. They’re in Haiti helping with the cholera outbreak. They’re in New Orleans rebuilding. They’re in classrooms reaching kids that the world calls unreachable. They’re in Rwanda hunting down child rapists. They’re in long lines at the post office trying desperately not to be jerks. They’re in inner city prisons helping incarcerated mamas raise their babies. They’re on a neighbor’s doorstep holding a casserole. They’re out there, and we know it. It’s just that they don’t have the time or desire to stop their work and offer a sound bite. They deal in a different type of currency. They don’t give a rat’s ass about publicity or money or power. They don’t care about our kingdom, they care about Lovingkindness, about God’s kingdom. Where joy comes from service. Where peace is chosen over pride. Where there is no time to concern oneself with imaginary boundaries because people are bleeding, damnit.

And so I really do believe that for now, it’s our responsibility to pat the judge-y yelling people on the heads, wish them good luck with that, and carry on with our work. Who cares? We people fighting for love, we people of the light….we are like EMTs to a hurting world and we don’t have time (or even the right) to stop our ambulance and gawk at the traveling sideshow. We are too busy. We have important things to do, people to love, and life to celebrate.

And you know what? I write to people of all faiths because I have a hunch that God would prefer that we put our differences aside and serve the world together, rather than render ourselves useless waiting to agree. Waiting to figure it all out. We ain’t gonna figure it all out, Izzi. And so instead of becoming paralyzed by our differences, we must find common ground and work together to make our world more beautiful.

My minister once sent me this quote…The problem with the faith pool these days is that all the noise is coming from the shallow end. I waded into the deep end, and that has made all the difference.

I love this metaphor, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since you wrote.

You know. . . the shallow end of faith is easier to spend time in. It’s not a real commitment. You can just hop in, stand around in tight circles and people watch. You can examine your nails and catch up on all the gossip. You can talk and talk and talk and come to a great many conclusions and decisions and still maintain your hairstyle and even avoid mussing your makeup. This is important because you never know when someone will pull out a camera. You can spend an entire comfortable life there, really, and just stand around and be heard. You never even have to learn to swim in the shallow end. Good times.

I think the reason we don’t hear from the people in the deep end as often is because they’re actually swimming. In the deep end, you have to keep moving. It’s hard to look cool. It’s tiring and scary even, since it’s just you and your head and your heart in the silence of the depths. There’s not a lot of chatting or safety in numbers in the deep end – you have to spend most of your time there alone. And it’s impossible to get any solid footing. You just have to trust that the water will hold you and you have no other choice but to flail about and gasp for air and get soaking wet, head to toe.

I guess what I’m trying to say, Izzi, is that I don’t know anything. I just have a few hunches upon which I’ve decided to bet my life. I’ve got a hunch that there’s a God. And that He and She loves and forgives us. And that even though I will never understand Her, really, that there is a way to align my life and my brain and my heart in such a way that it synchs with Hers. And the heart I try to synch my heart with is the Heart of Jesus. And that makes me feel like I’m floating with the current instead of against it. And this synching, this floating, seems to make me a more gentle and courageous being each and every day. Which is why I’m convinced that I’m on to something with this Jesus thing.

That’s all I got.


Oh – and one more thing, Izzi. If we die, and we find out that there is a heaven, and we arrive at the gates and discover that they’re not letting Timbuktu babies in, then I think you and I will have no other choice but to refuse entry and hold babies and sing until they open the gates wide enough for everybody. It’ll be good. We’ll have plenty of time to catch up.

Peace,

G