Such a Time as This

“Courage and optimism are your best traits,” reads a fortune from a Chinese restaurant years ago. I’ve kept it so long because it speaks to my best self. Even so, on my dark days, I despair. I know you don’t need me to list everything that sends me to the depths because I think you feel them as well as I do. They’re like tall ghouls laughing at our puny hopes and futile attempts to bring order to the chaos in the world.

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Be still. Stop. Breathe. Look out the window. Remember whose world this is, and how you came to be in it. We have been in a near constant state of war for years now, so imagining a different approach to global problems seems impossible. But that’s what God calls us to do: imagine a different way for events to unfold, for people to engage with others. What is the faith that makes this possible? Waiting and walking with God. When we wait upon God, God draws near to us.

 

Clarissa P. Estes emboldened many with her 2004 essay. She said, “We were made for these times….do not lose hope….Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul…will help immensely.”

 

While the talk of walls and hate preys on our fears, I watch a robin’s nest outside my window with three hardy babies straining to fly. The strongest one is jumping and trying to flex his wings while his siblings still sit with their mouths wide open for the parent’s next visit. Yesterday a murder of crows was flying about, gathering strength and calling for others to join forces. I went out with a broom to ward off any attack that might come to this nest tucked on the joist beneath our deck. Only one or two robbers flew over the house, but I was at the ready to wave them off.

 

This is a time for the courage to imagine different ways to engage with the world far beyond us, or right in our back yard, with our friends and allies. This is soul work. Soul work requires that we rely on God’s promises. If we wait upon the Lord, we will renew our strength, even fly like eagles. [Isaiah 40:31] How can we resist? It may be our only way to refrain from spreading the gloom.

Recovering, All Over Again

I can’t quite make myself get going. The haunting horror of the killings at the Pulse gay club in Orlando hangs over my head so that I can hardly look to the heavens to see beyond it. How do I bring light, not to mention love, to others if my own heart is dark and afraid?

Some say, “This, too, shall pass.” But it seems to belittle the tragedy. I scour the New York Times and Facebook for ideas, projects, and movements that will limit people’s access, particularly to AR-15 machine guns. What group action can I join? Could churches across denominations, or associations like Faith in Action turn their corporate power against the gun lobby? Do we have that much power?

Why do things like Orlando happen? Why are they impossible to thwart?

William Hazlitt said, “Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.” So we experience the mass shootings that mount up in our current history, wringing our hands, feeling powerless.

A character in Herbert Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game laments: “…if only it were possible to find understanding….If only there were a dogma to believe in. Everything is contradictory, everything tangential; there are no certainties anymore….Isn’t there any truth?” [1943]

Well, yes. There are truths. There are commonly held truths. People of faith—of whatever kind—find meaning in their community held truths, a chosen understanding of how darkness, some say “sin,” comes into the world. And when darkness overwhelms the light of our privileged lives here and now, we gather together, march in solidarity, hear or read uplifting, motivating speeches and homilies and prayers, and then pledge energy and money toward new, more stringent guidelines for guns and mental health in our city, state and nation.

But inevitably, disaster will come again. James Hollis says, “To experience some healing within ourselves, and to contribute healing to the world, we are summoned to wade through the muck from time to time. Where we do not go willingly, sooner or later we will be dragged.” I find that each such dark experience teaches me something. And so does scripture.

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Mt. of Olives; Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

In the farewell talks in John, Jesus says, “Do you really believe? An hour is coming—in fact, it has already come—when you will all be scattered and go your own ways, leaving me alone; yet I can never be alone, for Abba God is with me. I have told you all this that in me you may find peace. You will suffer in the world. But take courage! I have overcome the world.” [Jn 16.31-33] We will suffer in the world. But we are not alone.

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

Like shooting fish in a barrel. Music so loud dancers couldn’t distinguish gunshots from base notes. No one could be heard if they tried to speak. So dark splashes of blood seemed at first like roses or swirls of color on white shirts or bare backs. Slowly, knowing and horror dawned together in the dark pre-dawn hours. Then the blast of the beat lessened, shouts must have been heard, people rushed to aid those who had fallen, and still the ghastly scene ran on for two or three more hours until the law was able to overpower the shooter.

Who would do such a thing? Intentional, well armed and well timed. Alone—without friends. Others so different from him, he believed they were wrong and he was right. They did not befriend him, so he rejected them. His religion empowered him. Strangers ought to be more like he was. But he wasn’t recruiting. This scenario blossomed in his brain. It would be like shooting fish in a barrel. So cool. So chilling.

What is it that causes a person to hate so intensely he or she builds anger into fervor. Hatred so pure nothing modifies or lessens it. It has to explode. The perpetrator sees nothing but death for those so free they’re dancing mindlessly and drinking and enjoying themselves, something he doesn’t allow himself. Or she has buried her own attraction to just this thing so deeply she hates those who can freely choose it. Hates to the point of murder.

In the aftermath, stunned, we eagerly need to know who the perp was. We know now he declared he had pledged to ISIS. He killed everyone he could to disrupt our ways and thus—this is the part that puzzles me—raise the flag of his religion. Really? His “religion” demands he kill? How unlike the major religions of the world, at whose heart is a law of love—especially for the stranger in our midst. How vulnerable we are to such ghoulish motives. How can laws ever protect us? We see ourselves in school rooms, theaters, dance halls, and malls, even churches, now vulnerable, now fearful.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy. This is a human problem—the work of an angry man, a bully to his former wife. Any political or cultural or race group convinced it is right may force its “faith” on everyone. Even if it is part of such a group, no one is to blame. All are to blame for fomenting hate over love. For not welcoming the stranger, as all ancient faiths believed. It is a desert commitment.

In this world there are many reasons to hate and many reasons to love. It’s a choice. We who don’t shoot—even if we hate—have made choices. All of us share normal feelings that range from love to rage, wrath to laughter. Emotions move through us every moment as we interact with others and share our lives. Feelings move through us. And we recognize, evaluate, and express them as we can in safe places, or seek out safe people to share them with. We need to try to understand them, and to understand ourselves.

Pick up a stone to throw at an enemy. Or resolve to wait, to withdraw to think about why you’ve made an enemy. St. Paul writes, Every marvelous thing you may do with your life, if you do it without love, you’ve gained nothing. [1st Corinthians 13.]

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, doesn’t have a swelled head, doesn’t force itself on others, isn’t always ‘me first,’ doesn’t fly off the handle, doesn’t keep scores of the sins of others, doesn’t revel when others grovel, takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, puts up with anything, trusts God always, always looks for the best, never looks back, but keeps going to the end. [The Message 1 Cor. 13]

The Orlando shooter knew nothing of love, knew nothing of a death that is not the last word, but an opening of the gates to greater love. In fact I believe that a movement—not of death—but of love and solidarity can rise out of Orlando, out of Florida, out of states as well as cities, and out of rich and poor, young and old, GLBTQ, religious or spiritual and everything in between. We who love need to be smart, strong, and vigilant. The world is too wonderful for us to shrink to being so afraid we build walls instead of bridges. To work toward the sister and brotherhood we all crave, to do Tikkun olam (repair the world), we need to trust steadily in the Holy One, hope without ceasing, and love extravagantly. The greatest of these, is love.   [1 Cor. 13.13]

 

 

 

 

Legacy

I was just 12 when my beloved piano teacher Bernice died of brain cancer. Since the fifties were years when children were kept from the traumas of life, I felt shut off from telling her I loved her, even saying goodbye. I remember one rainy Sunday afternoon waiting in our parked car in Seattle at Virginia Mason while my parents left my brothers and me to visit Bernice. When they returned sober-faced, we stopped at St. James Cathedral to pray—unusual practice for us American Baptists. Awed by the space, the silence, the candles, I was drawn to prayer. I missed Bernice at our lessons and was frightened for her. And when she did lose her life, my parents would not take me to her memorial.

In a family much given to seriousness and not a little fear of doing the wrong thing, Bernice brought me laughter and joy, not to mention piano technique. Her vivaciousness prompted smiles even in my dad. When she and her husband Jim visited our home, making an uproarious entrance, it was usually Saturday night. We shared our pancakes. Mom scrounged for the coffee pot (my parents drank only tea) so that the fragrance of coffee accompanied the boisterous laughter in our kitchen—a wondrous visitation.

One of the four great truths is that there is suffering in life. And since most of us at my age are dealing with this reality every day, we need to help one another cope with the losses that come, rather than feeling singled out or badly treated, or that God is looking the other way. Quaker Parker Palmer comments, “The good news is that suffering can be transformed into something that brings life, not death.” Jesus said, “I come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” Jn 10.10

 For years after I had become a competent pianist and organist, each time I began to play I dedicated my music to Bernice, not so much to my mother, a soloist whom I spent hours accompanying as she sang at memorials and teas and worship services. I had not heard all of Bernice’s music. Her song was cut off. I felt more bonded with her who championed my growing musicianship and my inner need for appreciation. Of course my talents were to be offered to God through others. But my parents saw to it that the gifts were given without having acknowledged the musician.

Whenever I remember Bernice, she is perched at my right hand on a small chair with one hand on the page of my music. I was eight then, warmed by her joy and inspired by her faith to live with hope in spite of the losses to come. In place of the darkness of her absence, she brought me delight that lasts to this day.

 

 

Here’s the Deal

My cat Sugar’s presence often invites petting—because I need a hug. She’s a 10-year-old tuxedo with elaborate white whiskers and silky thick black fur. Sometimes she tries to ignore me. Sometimes she accepts me with stillness, then purring, other times a tail warning that she is not available just now. Often, in the evening she comes near eyeing my lap, testing my tolerance. It is a balance. We are respectful of each other’s being, listening inwardly both to ourselves, and then to each other. When Sugar comes seeking togetherness, she is pure gift, the soul of our home.

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Here’s the deal. The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard and companioned exactly as it is. When we make that kind of deep bow to the soul of a suffering person, our respect reinforces the soul’s healing resources, the only resources that can help the sufferer make it through.

 This belief of Parker Palmer’s is the wisest advice to those wanting to help others. We have many, many other skills, such as attentive listening, and reflecting the emotions we detect behind the words, but the basic gift to be offered to the sacred being of another is our attention. I experienced the touchy-feely 70s and the needy 80s, encounter groups, trust exercises, and probably too late for some, boundary lessons. We experimented with hugging everyone, then giving others distance, then asking permission to hug, which today, comes fairly naturally to most. I learn when I meet someone what her preferred distance is.

I learned to pay attention at home. I paid attention to my dad who ruled the roost. I paid attention to my mom because she had a lot to share and considered me her best friend. That first obligation, to listen without any limits, led me into a world of unbalanced relationships. When would I have the time to be heard? How would I know?

I hadn’t learned to listen to myself.

God asks us to love the Holy One with our whole heart, mind and strength, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. It is this last clause that we too often overlook. We reach out to those who suffer without asking basic questions: how am I doing right now? Do I have what I need for myself, or am I reaching out reflexively from an old habit of doing for others what I, myself, need—a certain route to self-denial.

To be honest, we all do a little of both. But as long as we’re aware of our balance point, and not exceeding what we know we can afford to give, to sacrifice, even, for our neighbors, then the joy of giving, of listening to a friend who needs to share with us, will replenish the energy of our giving.

 

An Afternoon of Writing

I was ready to write when I came home from lunch last week. I had a great opening line and confidence that more would follow; my mind was alive with images. Not something a writer ignores. On the way to the house I wondered if aphids were still after the perennial hellebores. I’ve been spraying them with dish soap and water, but I saw aphids still ruled. I’d also forgotten to clean out last year’s old leaves lying dyspeptically on the ground underneath the new, moldy with rot and now covered with the insects. I was dressed casually enough that I didn’t need to change clothes, so I dropped my purse inside the study, grabbed the spray from the garage, and headed out front.

Writing could wait a few minutes. This exercise would be good—as well as a fresh break from staying indoors too long with good books.

I sprayed, noticing the various developmental stages of the tiny white nits, light green eggs (maggots?) and winged predators. Some of the darker leaves were so sticky with aphid poop I had to wash them by hand. That took longer than I thought, but there were essentially only three plants to focus on, so I kept at it. These hellebores and two newer hosta spent so much time in the shade of the coral bark maple and dogwood, not to mention the neighbor’s huge camellia, that surely other shade-loving plants were not as infested as these. Blended chartreuse, lime and celery-green leaves nestled along the stone walk that wound its way to the front door. They were fine.

Who knew a hellebore could grow so large! I had to hunt for an old bamboo stake and pound it in with the back of a hatchet to prop up a mature, tall branch. Some of the wilted bottom leaves refused to be pulled out and crumpled by hand, so I went back to the garage for a pair of clippers, the kind with gears that protect my joints—not that these juicy stems needed that much strength. As an afterthought, I grabbed the white 5-gallon bucket I use for yard waste to stow what I pulled out from under and within the plants.

I had a line or two in mind for the article I planned, but for a moment I let it drift. It would come back to me. Scoping out the larger area where I was working revealed that the pebbled slab where the birdbath stands was three-quarters covered with dirt. I would need the rake and then a whisk broom to spiff it up. While I was at it, it would help if I raked over the mulch after everything else was done.

Back to the garage for the rake and whisk broom and then, pleased by the fragrance of freshly-turned earth, I surveyed this half of the front yard, pulling out several more dying leaves, shaking off the wilted blossoms of the crabapple tree that had fallen on the plants below. As I had suspected, more sun kept those hellebores freer of aphids.

Finally I stood up, straightening my tired back. Following the sounds of calling crows, I looked up to see a murder of them harrying a young eagle who led them on a chase around the east side of the adjacent cemetery behind fir and cedar, his white tail gleaming against the azure sky.

What time was it? I had started this project before sitting down to write. It was not yet two. Now it was four. Satisfied, I had still to finish the overall raking, toss my clippers, gloves, spray bottle and whisk broom into the bucket with the detritus of hellebore and hosta, bundle up the rake and a stake I had not used, and head for the garage.

Now, what was that line I had in mind?

The Little Things

            Being human cannot be borne alone. We need other presences. We need soft night noises—a mother speaking downstairs, a grandfather rumbling in response, cars swishing past on Philadelphia Avenue and their headlights  wheeling about the room. We need the little clicks and sighs of a sustaining otherness.

 

John Updike describes the comforting “clicks and sighs” of the presence of others in our lives, our awareness of parents talking quietly downstairs, or brothers murmuring in the next room, traffic on Colby cruising to a stoplight.

 

Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection are that kind of presence. Not only does he speak peace to his friends, he appears unannounced as if the dead regularly materialize in our living rooms, urging calm and trust.

 

My favorite story is of the disciples coasting close to shore where Jesus has prepared a small fire on the beach. He is grilling a few fish and some bread. (Jn 21) He calls to them to come closer, tells them where they’ll find more fish, and once they’ve beached their boat, to bring more fish to the fire. They don’t even recognize him at first. And then they’re astonished. You can imagine the smoke blown into the hills behind him, the welcome warmth in the chill salty air, and the fatigue—not only from a night of fishing, but another whole net full of fish pulled in as they arrive.

 

So schooled was I to expect Jesus’ return at any hour of any day, one Sunday night before evening church I thought I saw him standing near a staircase in a brilliant white robe, light shining round about him. I thought Jesus had returned! A second later I realized it was just the pastor in his white baptismal robe standing under a 100-watt light bulb.

 

So much for peace and presence. I was taught that the Lord might return just this way, all of a sudden, in the middle of a football game or church picnic, and especially in spectacular sunsets over Hat Island. Anticipation overran my imagination.

 

I grew up with a “Jesus-and-me” complex, a relationship so tight that I always felt him at my side, walking in the fields together. Years later when this assurance had faded, I began to realize the limitations of my naïve familiarity and the millennia that already distanced believers from its magic. At the same time, there was an other-worldliness to the ways I discovered we can still expect the Mysteries of God in our lives. The soft night voices of those we love, the reflection of the back porch light, phrases of music suddenly distinct when the furnace shuts down, the gifts of clean sheets and hopes for tomorrow.

 

It may not be grilled fish on a rocky beach, but the fragrance of coffee and toast in the kitchen. These little clicks and sighs of a sustaining otherness still speak to us of the love that will never let us go.

 

 

Rev. Cathy Fransson blogs at SpiritStones.net, and sees individuals for spiritual direction

Other Dimensions

 

I began my day with a 30-minute swim. A time when I lose sense of time and even space, except for the tiled lines of my lane. The gym complex is near, although its nearness doesn’t make getting there much easier. Now that I am retired inertia can prevent me from lots of obligations, including Sunday worship.

Faithfulness was a prized church behavior in the “old” days. Remember the gold pin we won for perfect attendance? I had several of those. Because of this obligation in our home, Dad turned up the temperature on the hot water heater every Saturday night so that all five of us could take a bath. (Baths, only once a week!) We’d polish our Sunday shoes, help to wash and vacuum the family car, then all drive together, sometimes picking up Mrs. Duchine on our way. Not all women then had learned to drive. As near as we lived to the center of town where the church was, we could easily walk. And Mom and I often walked to town to shop.

When I was ordained a Baptist pastor in 2000, Rev. C. Elroy Shikles, the minister who baptized me at eight, commented, “My, how many sermons you’ve heard!” I still remember some. I remember when he used my Howdy-Doody marionette to illustrate to us children that God does not operate us with strings from heaven. And he’s the one who taught me with a collection of various-sized sieves how to screen what I say to others: only what is true, kind, and necessary. I learned early that I made my own choices and was responsible for them.

Today twice-weekly swims keep me flexible. And the rhythmic strokes and breathing are calming. Weekly worship engenders less tangible results. But its very familiarity and repetition are like rest to a hummingbird. It isn’t my brain that worships. It’s my heart. When I keep my attention focused, I transcend time and space into another dimension. My breathing slows; my heart fills.

In the midst of song and silence something in me lets go. I remember I am not alone. I rejoice in the reminders of God’s faithfulness even in the midst of trial and loss. I lean into the everlasting arms and relax, rememberP1010168ing the examples of the many disciples I have known who have traveled ahead of me.

I miss those gifts when I skip church for the NY Times, which does not nurture me anywhere near the love that will never let me go. But the silence of the pool during my swim gives me similar time to reach and stroke, aware from shoulder to toe, moving in ways I cannot accomplish in gravity. I let myself down into the water trusting its buoyance in much the same way I let go into the silence of prayer.

Even though I have to make myself get out of the house, I am glad I have done it. I feel rested, refreshed, in the center of my real reality. The news that strikes fear in my heart during the week has somehow found a context. Less harried, less worried, I breathe deeper, and feel confidence I can’t always create for myself. It’s a dimension just a breath away.

The Flame That Lights Our Way

As you saw from my last post, I believe the tragedies of violence, war and loss must be mourned and honored. But there is more. We must work to step out of those shadows lest we be submerged under the weight of grief. I look to sisters and brothers to remind myself of the strength of a faith that hopes for things unseen–the abundant consolations of the Spirit. We need to look to the unquenchable flame that lights our way out of the darkness.

One of the most profound images of the scriptures is that light that shines in darkness.  In the Christian scriptures John writes that “In [Jesus] was life, and life was the light of humankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.” [Jn 1.5] Science and faith tell us the origin of LIGHT is the Big Bang. The infinite cosmos reflects it. The Light is no less than the Mind of God that infuses everything that we are as well as our world of boundless beauty that beckons us toward God.

The Buddhist God Indra spreads a vast net that stretches infinitely in all directions. In each “eye” of her net is a single brilliant, perfect jewel that also reflects every other jewel, infinite in number, and each of the reflected images of the jewels bears the image of all the other jewels infinity to infinity. Whatever affects one jewel affects them all, light, dark, a moving panoply of color. We look for that light wherever we can find it. Sometimes it is simply the warmth of a smiling barista who hands over a double-tall latte at a low point of the morning. Or a viewpoint across Puget Sound that highlights the sunset over the Olympic Mountains, and the clouds that back-light the colors that flare out of the west.

IMG_0787 Last week I watched the sun set softly into a haze over the island of Lanai across the bay from Lahaina. The sun beamed rays toward Lanai and the sea as the earth continued to turn to the east.

Life is difficult. We reach to one another for strength and hope. But politically it appears we are being goaded into collective fear that has empowered several presidential candidates to offer us everything we think we ever needed while the details, how to “become great again,” for instance, remain cloudy and undefined. Each person who wonders if the promises are true, who questions whether any one politician can grant our every wish, needs only a fragment of mirror to reflect that question to others. And then, instead of huddling in fear with those who expect disaster, or want rescue, we can stop, recover perspective, and see the light shining for the common good. The light that sees all persons regardless of origin, faith, culture, or resources equal to the others from around the globe. It is the sign of a healthy nation that the least among us also thrive, not simply those with wealth.

Quaker Parker Palmer reminds us how easily we fall under the thrall of a “strong man” who promises to make us “great” again. He quotes from Abraham Lincoln who in 1863 advised how unlikely it is that the U.S. will fall under the attack of another world power. We will, in fact, fall because we become so fearful of each other, of the economic, cultural, and security threats we believe to be posed by “the Other”…that, ultimately, we will die by suicide.       http://www.onbeing.org/blog/parker-palmer

One voice is a powerful thing—if we invest it with our full humanity. A question, a doubt, the risk of telling the truth, may stop one other person from falling in thrall to total power or, at least, from closing her mind to doubt. We must simply light one candle against the darkness, refuse to fall prey to demagoguery, and bear our flame in the face of our fear. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put it out. We are merely its bearers.

 

 

 

Carrying the World’s Grief

I have to wonder about “unintentional contemplation.” Parker Palmer, the great Quaker writer and leader of contemplative life suggested that even a busy life “provides moments of unintentional contemplation….in feelings of disillusionment, pain, dislocation, and unbidden solitude.”

I was surprised with the idea that the discomforts of our lives also give rise to contemplation. I’m rather a romantic. I like to think of green pastures and still waters enhancing my spiritual thinking, my prayer. I often imagine meadows on Mt. Rainier or the steady waves lapping at a rocky beach in Puget Sound to find the depth I seek. But I guess it’s also true that sudden, unexpected silence startles before it comforts. And when I am in pain, I am not fit to be with until I recognize, name, and do something about it. In this sense pain drives me inward which, I must admit, is a contemplative state. If I am thrust into a moment of reverie or loss, I certainly stop what I’m doing to breathe deeply, to plumb the image that prompts the memory, and to give thanks. When projects go well, relationships are rich and opportunities beckon us forward, we feel able to take on the world. But when progress falters, when we’re felled by a virus (worse: cancer) or a sprained ankle (while running for our health), when we are cut off from comfort, and when we feel abandoned, who among us welcomes the “contemplation?” Aren’t such moments, simply, ones we’d rather suppress? How likely is it we’ll accept the call to peaceful prayer?

I believe right now all of us are trying to cope with feelings too painful either to express or to withhold in this nation’s political rancor, the all-too-real videos of refugees streaming out of war, hunger and loss in the Middle East, the delicacy of diplomacy among our neighbor nations.  I try to “fast” from the news but am fascinated by it, looking for a break in the fighting, for fragile and tentative interventions, for champions to rescue thousands of innocents caught in political infighting, flight, suffering and death.

Anne Lamott promises, “Grace…eventually.”  Still I ask, when?!

I wrestle with darkness more and more. I cannot understand (or perhaps I mean accept) the hatred, hunger, displacement, and slaughter that assault far too many peoples of the world. Pernicious racism, the hoarding of money, exclusion and elimination of the have-nots, the flagrant displays of the haves. Is this simply the current state of development of humankind?

I have been reading the WW II diaries of Etty Hillesum. She reveals a curious and unexpected desire to welcome–I don’t know a better word for it–the horror moving closer and closer to her friends and family in Amsterdam and then their evacuation to a German “transit” camp near the German border.

The latest news is that all Jews will be transported out of Holland….the English radio has reported that 700,000 Jews perished last year alone….And even if we stay alive, we shall carry the wounds with us throughout our lives. And yet I don’t think life is meaningless. And God is not accountable to us for the senseless harm we cause one another. We are accountable to Him!  [Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life 1996]

Hillesum, called a “Western Mystic,” writes that every situation, good or bad, can enrich us with new insights; what matters is “not whether we preserve our lives at any cost, but how we preserve them….If we have nothing to offer a desolate postwar world…if we fail to draw new meaning from the deep wells of our distress and despair, then it will not be enough.” Thus, pain and fear elicit her compassion and grief rather than anger and more hate.

I know that those who hate have good reason to do so. But why should we always have to choose the cheapest and easiest way? It has  been brought home forcibly to me here how every atom of hatred added to the world makes it an even more inhospitable place. And I also believe, childishly perhaps but stubbornly, that the earth will become more habitable again only through the love that the Jew Paul described to the citizens of Corinth in the thirteenth chapter of his first letter.

One person, one meeting, one step at a time. We cannot bring peace without embracing it ourselves. And so I breathe in war, pain and loss, and breathe out peace, love, joy and laughter. Joy and laughter…eventually.

Rev. Cathy Fransson keeps regular spiritual direction appointments.