Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Here we are again

Here we are again. A stunned nation, mourning innocent lost, unnecessarily wounded, the stripping of our freedom to gather and safely go about our business. The images have become sadly familiar and this fact, too, offends deeply.

So many thoughts have been going through my mind since hearing the news from Boston yesterday. I am a little familiar with the running community, not because I run but because my brother does. Paul has done several marathons. One of the things he loves about them is the running community. As he says, “runners are just good people.” An assessment from someone who would know.

People run for all sorts of reasons. Some run for their health. Others to raise funds for research. Or because someone they love runs. Or simply because they find joy in running. Another because they are good at it. For every one of those 23,000 runners making their way along the course yesterday, there is an engaging story.

But beyond the runners is the community of support around them. Family and friends turn out to cheer their runner, to replenish water, to feed them “goo.”

The atmosphere is festive, celebratory. People run around in tutus, rabbit costumes, as Elvis. I’ve seen multiple Dolly Partons run down the road during the annual marathon in Nashville. It isn’t easy to run 26 miles with balloons for breasts.

Nashville’s Country Music Marathon is in ten days. I can only imagine what the organizers are going through right now. The city turns out to line the streets; it is one big festival with countless opportunities for someone with an evil intent to act out. Fear looms.

And that is the point, isn’t it? The thing about acts of “terror” is that they have a vast ripple effect. “It could happen here,” we think as we look at our children. We close in, we look with suspicion, we pass unwieldy, expensive, and ineffective laws. We become smaller.

I long to see us collectively defy fear-driven behavior with love-driven choices. Celebrate community. Participate with joy. Choose kindness toward neighbor. This is the response to acts of such senseless violence which defy everything these acts are meant to provoke. Choose senseless kindness. Choose senseless joy. Acts such as these lead to real freedom and a nurturing of the kind of community worthy of the Boston marathon.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Time for receiving

I stood on the lawn with friends as the woman approached. She was tall, thin, and wearing a colorful scarf to cover her baldness. Undergoing cancer treatment, she remained energetic and dynamic. I’d spoken with her a few times over the weekend but standing there then, with the spring sunshine pouring over us, was the first we’d really engaged.

We were attending a retreat in Sewanee, up on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. We had just come from a healing circle. Standing, connected by our hands, the group of fifty or so formed a circle. As we sang an ancient Hebrew prayer for healing, a person would step into the middle with the circle closing around them. Encircled, the person was bathed in the song of healing.

As I stepped into the circle, I felt my own heart full of love. Instead of quietly receiving, I raised my hands, “beaming” the love from my heart over those circling me. I paused on those that I knew to be struggling physically, emotionally, or spiritually. This was quite powerful for me. I felt myself open and receiving divine love and I sent it on to others around me.

Afterward, when we were outside, the woman quietly approached me. She told me she’d been so moved and that she had felt loved in that moment. I spoke quietly to her, “you have no idea how profoundly loved and cherished you are. It is time for you to open your heart and receive it.” As a tear crawled gently down her cheek she said, “ but I thought we are supposed to love, not seek love.”

What I understood in that moment, and tried to convey to her, is that when we open ourselves to the enormity of God’s love for us, when we bathe in it and truly soak it in, then all we need do is show up. This love will pour out of us, radiate from us, naturally. We spend so much energy trying to figure out what we are to be doing, grasping at living up to some expectation of who we are supposed to be, we often don’t stop long enough to take in who we are. And that is this: a precious, deeply loved child of God. We don’t have to DO anything. Take it in and show up to give it back. Receive and be, in radical acceptance. The rest will flow from there.