I do not know, I know


DSC_0020My brain and heart are being stretched as I listen to conversations around me. Social media, dinner table, coffee shops, gatherings, it appears we are attempting to land something, to nail it down, agree on revised societal ground rules for a new way forward that rights all the wrongs of the past.

Disclosures are bringing dark to light, gutsy public unearthing of stories hidden for years. Courage is on the upswing. A groundswell of activists for social justice is rising, challenging, demanding change. Finally there will be a balancing of the scales, equality for everyone, banishment of archaic ways of thinking and engaging in the world. Everyone will find their place. Happiness will come to all of us. Suicide rates will drop. Inclusivity and peace will rein.

I wonder…

In this desire to right the wrongs are we growing closer together or further apart? Are we trading one brand of exclusivity for another? Are we attempting to erase our own history and all that it represents? What if all questions cannot be answered, and all needs cannot be met, and agreement is impossible?

Because what I’m wondering is, as one group rises up, does another fall, and not to a position of equity, but an overcompensating tilt downward? As one voice speaks, is the other silenced? I am not saying we shouldn’t ask, even demand, certain things at certain times. I’m not saying the way things are are good enough, and we should accept status quo. No. But how do we approach these issues of justice and equality in a world as complex as ours?

I’ve witnessed online interactions within animal rights forums where passion and love for voiceless beings morphs into murderous hate toward any perpetrator of ill will or action towards animals. I’m equally horrified by the crimes and the suggested punishments. Trolling? Maybe? What we do with our anger matters, doesn’t it?

So I’m wondering if rich white maleness is identified as a pervasive evil, what happens to them, what will we do with them? If all corporations are bad, greedy, and run by RWM, who will supply our beloved stuff? If all media lies, who will be the purveyor of truth? If all developers are tree butchers, land grabbers, with no social conscience, where will we all live? If money is evil, how much shall we each be allowed to have and remain righteous? If academic institutions preclude certain world views and topics, what of freedom of speech, and where will higher thinking take place?

I am concerned as I do not see gracious mutuality within complexity, but hints of new ways to qualify, label and ultimately destroy that which does not conform. Doing bad things to an identified oppressor and calling it good, does not make it so. Does it? These are incredibly complex issues, aren’t they?

I also find a wide gulf between the hurt feelings of today’s students on N. American university campuses, and, for example, the students who protested in 1989 in Tiananmen Square. Don’t think me insensitive, rather I’m truly asking what are we becoming? Was I being honest or wise with my kids when I told them how extraordinary they were at art, music, sports, everything! Were they truly? What about “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?” Have we lost our perspective as we gain emotional intelligence? Is it actually possible to keep all the difficult, dark and hurtful things at bay if we legislate it to be so?

Remember Finding Nemo, the scene with the seagulls crying mine mine mine? I have to wonder if personhood and my right to feel safe, heard, understood, accepted, desired, intelligent, capable, right, could be a taste of me me me? While a healthy self image is a good thing, where it tends to go off the rails is when I discount anyone who thinks differently, anyone who has the audacity to hurt my feelings or reject what I have to offer. Where did I ever get the idea that I can customize my world like a playlist on Spotify?

I know I’m not the only one asking. Still I’m asking. I do not know the answers, and the questions continue to rise up.

Academics and intellectuals are providing healthy discourse for consideration at great cost to them (see articles below), while I simply try to articulate my sense that there are mysteries that may not have answers. Fr. Richard Rohr describes a non-dual world view, both/and rather than right/wrong. Rohr holds out that the way to peace is through acceptance, love, and non-dualistic ways of engaging in life. Rohr says unless you come to terms with dualism, you will just process any new ideas with your old operating system:

“The dualistic mind is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, smart/stupid, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. Dualistic thinking works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or the immense subtlety of actual personal experience. Most of us settle for quick and easy answers instead of any deep perception, which we leave to poets, philosophers, and prophets.”
Richard Rohr, The Dualistic Mind

More and more I’m seeing the both/and woven into my life, but it is not easy to understand, and not easy to not know the one right answer. I push back against updating my old operating system. It is not easy to not strive for rightness. But I think it may be more true.

“Then how can I know which is the right one?” Aye, there’s the rub. We can’t. But one thing I’m learning is that I do not always have to be right. Or maybe we can look at two different interpretations of a story and understand that they are both right.”
Madeleine L’Engle, The Rock that is Higher

And so I have to wonder if the core desire to deconstruct old ways with hopes of establishing a new order is an old, binary, dualistic approach? Might we again be at risk of recreating the issues of prejudice and exclusivity, only with new people groups? Is there actually, really, only one way? I wonder if there is a new way that is truly new?

Consider what I see may be the both/and in;

freedom of speech and the offence culture

scientific fact and mysticism

perfection and grace

art/beauty created by monsters

art/beauty created out of atrocity

public safety and personal freedom

true love and speaking the truth in love

the common good and the evil that is common

reconciliation and forgiveness

the power of silence

Articles I’ve had the privilege to read of late, and for your consideration;

https://www.the-american-interest.com/2017/12/06/the-warlock-hunt/

http://nationalpost.com/opinion/lindsay-shepherd-wlus-interrogation-revealed-how-university-has-lost-sight-of-its-key-purpose

https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2017/11/20/art-monstrous-men/

How I Learned to be Afraid of Men

https://www.ravenfoundation.org/montessori-remedy-plague-sexual-harassment/

Videos and articles by https://jordanbpeterson.com

And another really, really great article which I cannot find at the moment…

 

 

Truth be, I do not know much. Yet I know something. I’m paying attention to the niggling feeling I have that we are not resolving complex issues in a way that will ultimately lead us to a better place, because the old operating system does not work. And I’m attempting to put my feelings into words as I watch and listen and ask and wonder.

For what it’s worth, these thoughts, and a poem,

Lesley-Anne

How Did We Get Here

When it becomes intolerable to hold a differing opinion and have the audacity to speak of it, if nothing other than a satiating of me-ness feeds my hunger. When I see your you-ness with the phantom of hate lurking in every word, when your tongue is tied and your pen is cramped in your atrophied hand. When your love conforms to a theology of diction, then we will no longer be safe, my friend. Safety is not sameness. I cannot promise to be a safe place, I can promise you I will need your grace at some point in this relationship, because I will not be safe. Save me from me. I don’t understand what you require of me?

Shall we trade in our luminousity, abandon the teeming sea of wild thought for the tepid waters of only that which we agree on? Is that safety? I do not believe compromise of either one of us is a foundation for true love. Love does not win here. We will be less than more. We will be less than our identity of beauty and uniqueness that we celebrate, can we celebrate instead of legislate to be? What will we talk about when we agree on everything? No need for speech seasoned with salty kindness, or wisdom that offers itself through experience of terror and of grace. No need for forgiveness, or patience, when we weigh every word count as watershed and cannot speak for fear of what will be misinterpreted.

How shall we speak? What shall we say of value or of truth and how will I know you and you know me if we only say what makes the other happy? With the dull roar of truth in our ears we will bite our tongues or swallow them while gagging on our inauthenticity, our lack of integrity, or please just brainwash me, so I no longer have to struggle with this issue of only saying what is acceptable or thinking a certain way, to fit in, to conform, to be uniform… borg… I will be assimilated… No!

No, I do not believe that will be my destiny, the end of my individuality! Just as the big bang is still heard in deep space, just as the universe continues to be formed, so too our thoughts, our words must rise up and escape our mouths, no matter the cost. What say you? What say me?

Lesley-Anne Evans, 2017

A slight shift… just a little one…


DSC_0789Hi. Long time no write. Much has taken place and continues to find its place in my life. I am well at times. How are you?

I am grateful for the way God allows me time and space to come to my own inconclusive conclusions, mess through my own muck (self created and a product of my upbringing, culture, experience) and opportunity to humble myself and see things ever vaguely and/or becoming clearer in what they are.

I’ve been away. In Northern Ireland. In New York City. Away from “church” and searching for where I belong, what I need, what I can stand for and with, and who are my people and community and what is it that God would have me do. And more. I’ve become a bit of a nomad, but feeling the repeated pull of home. I believe I’m getting closer to the truth and the reason I’ve needed to wander. It’s as much a result of heart wrenching, certainty tossing, conviction lostness, as it is a result of conversations with wise ones whom I trust enough to open up my pandora’s box of troubled questions and invite them in.

I invite you in…

Here’s what I’m just beginning to discover, what is being unearthed in me;

1. I’m me, and God doesn’t make any mistakes. I’ve been wrestling with God and me, not loving who I am, but loving myself too much in other ways. There is paradox in the journey of faith and self-knowledge, like everything else. The struggles I’m having are because I’m me, and the way to shelter and peace will be specific to who I am and how God wired me. It takes time for me to sort these things out.

2. I’m prideful. I’ve just recognized I’ve been asking “Did God Really say?” (yes, same question the serpent threw in Adam and Eve’s face on the garden’s slippery slope) And whatever particular version of that I’ve entertained has been my somewhat slanted/deluded reason for separation from various people groups out of a sense of needing to protect other people groups. Proud Mary…that’s me. So…

Forgive me, Lord, for I have sinned against you and against your people. Bring me back to what matters to you, something I can build my life on. Help me see the difference between the bricks and mortar that build a house, and the decorative elements that are lovely yet not necessary. Bring me back to basic design, Lord. Don’t grow weary of me.

3. I am super sensitive and easily influenced. When I open myself up to new opinions and I attempt to understand various points of view, sometimes those views meld with my own and I can no longer clearly see what I believe is true. There is paradox in this too, because I am a learner with a healthy dose of curiosity, yet I must create boundaries that are healthy for me. Just like I choose to not watch the 10 PM news before going off to bed, or click on the link to stories about animal abuse, I know in my core that I cannot carry certain information well and I must therefore put it aside for a time, or for always. This does not make me an ostrich, I know information is available to me should I require it in the future.

4. I will never find a place where I truly, entirely, belong outside of maybe my immediate family. Not my extended family, not my circle of friends, not my writing circles, not my church, not my neighbourhood, not my academic institution, not even my fav coffee shop. Unconditional love and acceptance does not exist here, on earth, and I will not argue the unconditional love of Father God for me, just to say I’ve heard he does and I am trying to learn how to believe that. My sense of community may instead come in the bits of experiences I have with a wide range of people over time. I must somehow carry my belonging in me. And yes, that ultimate belonging to God.

5. Life is hard. Life is lonely. Life is beautiful. Life is holy. All of these truths coexist. Life is paradox. God is a mystery. My inability to understand or explain or argue does not make it less so. Truth can be absolute. And one can live in the mystery of not having an answer and survive. What I thought I was looking for was a common language to speak, a inclusive way of living that is non toxic and  flourishing.

What I was maybe looking for was a place to be OK with myself and all the unanswered questions and doubts that I carry with me wherever I go. No place is going to tell me I’m OK all the time. No place is capable of answering all my questions. There will be trouble. The waters will be stirred up. There will be things said that I cannot abide. And that is OK, I think.

6. I am beginning to be OK with being adrift, but also feeling the need to look at what I know for sure, sure enough to trust. I sense the big chunk of fear is shrinking a tiny bit, the angst I’ve carried every single Sunday I wake up wanting/not wanting to go to church and then don’t/can’t go… I think it may begin to dissipate. I’m working through it. I just asked myself today, “What’s the very worst thing that can happen to me if I return to church?” No answer yet, still thinking.

7. I am not alone in my experiences. This is the human condition, to walk in faith and out of faith like Mother Theresa, C.S. Lewis and me. Faith and doubt coexist. To say otherwise is a lie.

8. There will be more shifting. As I continue to unpack and attempt to understand where I am and where I am going and what God has in mind in all of this messy loveliness, I will probably write it here. We shall see.

May all that we experience and all that we learn and all that we are, feed our lives like small morsels of bread cast onto uneven ground. May we learn to see God as the one who breaks off those little bits to help us find our way, and to sustain us.

Lesley-Anne

Sorrow


English: Weeping Angel part of mausoleum of ca...

English: Weeping Angel part of mausoleum of cannon Guilain Lucas (d1628) by Nicolas Blasset. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorrow

 

I am sorry

that your little girl won’t run into her father’s arms

that you won’t meet him at the door, feel his warmth

that he did not come back like he said he would

that it ends like this

the prayers unanswered

the horror

the questions

the everything before and after defining moment

that will carry you from now on

and the only hope that still remains

some day may it be enough.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A surrendered life


Seems I’m a master of melancholy and melodrama and start ups, but not necessarily finishes. At least that’s what the voice in my head says as I sit at my laptop and consider putting into words what may or may not be 100% true for me, 100% of the time.

I’m often tormented in my thought life around how I live vs how I should live. While I hunger for real relationships and depth and breadth of conversations,  I withdraw from my close friends and let the phone ring and texts go unanswered. I hide. Sometimes I don’t check my phone at all. For hours, for days.

Oh, I want to do good. I want to be good. I’m just not very good at being good. I want to love. And I don’t know how to do that in a sustained way. Sometimes I am absolutely unloving. I shared some thoughts on this place of living in the tension of wanting one thing and doing another HERE. But there is more…

Thankfully, this Sunday’s talk (at the church with walls and a roof at Springfield and Spall) is about a way of finding release from living in torment/angst/tension/legalism and living in the freedom of non-performance and  without condemnation (you know, those voices in your head saying awful things about you).

Romans 8 is all about living in the gracious, wide open spaces of spirit focus, spirit life, where I can stop should-ing and could-ing on myself, stop questioning my every move and every pause, and simply walk ahead into whatever God has for me. Believing God will go before me. Believing there is a way to walk somewhat blindly into something you know nothing of, yet do because… it’s intriguing, drawing, compelling, offering more than what simply is the mundane superficiality of life, most days.

This way involves SURRENDER, and I don’t entirely understand what that means in a practical, rubber hits the road, type of way. I want to know. I want to live a SURRENDERED life.

On Sunday morning, after the talk part, we are each given a piece of red paper (blood red, valentine red), and invited to write down something we feel we might leave, deal with, acknowledge before God, something standing between us and the simple and profound way of spirit surrendered living.  And I know what it is, right away. I scribble down not good enough, and take my red paper up to the communion table, to the shredder provided, and push that paper in, and listen while the machine pulls apart the words I’ve been living. I surrender these words to the shredder… and at that moment, surrender to God…

Not good enoughnot good enough… not good enough.

And then I gently take a small piece of bread and a tiny cup of wine in my hand, and go back to my seat, and silently pray to, in the words of John Terpstra, “the one who won us over,” who says with his last breath, I am enough. His life for my freedom. His life for my spirit surrendered life. Jesus, who turns it all upside down and asks me to stop keeping score for myself and everyone else. Jesus who wants me to empty myself of me so he can fill me with something better. I say these words without knowing what they truly mean. What this really looks like in my real life.

Boy with cross

Boy with cross (Photo credit: Eileen Delhi)

I will be thinking on this for a while. I want to live this simple yet profound truth. Not to be great. Not even to be good. But to take the focus off me entirely, and put it back on the one who won me over. I wonder if I can really do it? Can anyone really do it?

Can I capture the wonder of a simple crumb of bread and wash of wine, surrender what hinders, carry significance into Lent, find sustenance enough for a new way of living?

Are you with me… is it possible?

SDG, Lesley-Anne

Do not lose hope…


Crying - گریه

Crying – گریه (Photo credit: HAMED MASOUMI)

to all who mourn the loss of beautiful and innocent life, I weep with you…

In the face of the tragedy and evil of this past week, I’m choosing to shout out for HOPE, for LOVE. I’m shouting out to a GOD who deeply loves in spite of all the vile and devastating messes we, his creations, leave in our wake. In spite of who I am, imperfect one, least of all of these, one capable of horrible things, I am SHOUTING OUT to God for all my Buddy Breathing buddies ~ because I’m thinking you, like me, might be feeling a little jaded, burnt out, alone, overwhelmed, sad, helpless, angry, and may be in desperate need of a breath of life? And I know I am surrounded by millions of souls who ask the same questions with a profound sense of helplessness. Others, like my friend and fellow blogger Rob Rife are writing, asking, shouting, crying out…

God, please help us.

Who of us doesn’t feel the oxygen sucked deep from within as news reporters tell of another kindergartener placed to rest? When we hear details of unspeakable cruelty, when we put ourselves in their place, when we shake our heads in disbelief… who of us doesn’t clench our fists and scream inside… WHY!?!? WHY!?!? And what I can offer may not be enough for you, but it’s ALL I’ve got.

God, please rescue us.

You see, I don’t believe there is any hope, any gift, any point, outside of God and his love. After all the pain and suffering is over, after the devastation, after all of it, in the end GOD’S LOVE WINS. I cannot fully explain the why. I believe what we see is the result of a force of evil at work in our world, but even more than that I believe in a God who wins out in the end. GOD is STRONGER than any evil.

God, please overcome our pain, our questions, our loss.

The message of Christmas is that Christ came for us. Jesus became a vulnerable little baby, so that 33 years later he would choose to die a horrific death for us, to sacrifice himself and make a way for us to right ourselves with Father God. (the Easter Story is the rest of the Christmas Story).

Emmanuel ~ God with us now, in our time of deepest need.

We each get to choose God, or not. We each get to decide for ourselves if we want his gift of loving friendship. We each get to gather up our big doubts and our little faith and choose to believe that God does love us and he will always love us, no matter what happens in our lives here… no matter what. God offers us a healing HOPE, JOY, PEACE and LOVE, that starts now and goes forever.

God, please touch us and heal us and restore us.

That’s all I’ve got. That and all the questions that remain around the events of this week. That and all the unresolved emotions.

God, please show your goodness to us, we are desperate for HOPE.

As this youtube video suggests, may we see evidence that there are still good people in this world. May we know in a real way that GOD IS GOOD.

Hard pressed on every side, SDG.

Lesley-Anne

Poetry Friday024


Why?

Waters edge in the coolness of morning, I imagine
that I am
You
standing there
before the three day search is called off
before Hibiscus leis are thrown into the sea, and
tearful prayers offered up to the ocean gods
all the indications of impending doom appear
clearly noted,
signposts and red flags,
and explanations of rip tides, and what to do
should you find yourself in one
three hot pink floats dot the translucent turquoise
surface in a
one point perspective, showing
where not to go, so
why
why did you dive in?
bravado?
naivete?
the lure of underwater worlds
where you swim eternal?

Or
were these warnings added later
to cover the asses of those in charge
of such things?

Your photograph is set upon a small cairn of coral
strewn with wilting Plumeria blossoms
at the edge of the beach.

This and
stories and
angry questions are only part of

What remains.

Lesley-Anne Evans
April, 2010

 

I offer up my poem, ‘Why?’, in response to the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival, hosted by Peter Pollock at his blog, PeterPollock.com. Drop by, and read all the thought provoking entries written on today’s word, Broken. Thank you, Peter, for taking us there.

A few of the upcoming words for the Carnival will be:

  • January 25 – Winter
  • February 8 – Renewal
  • February 22 – Sacrifice
  • March 8 – Future
  • March 22 – Goals

Good things


Remember Martha Stewart and her magazine, Martha Stewart Living? Before the turmoil in her life, the prison days, the fall from grace? Well, I had a subscription to the magazine for a year once, and I loved it, its graphic design, and the contents of beautiful ideas to make my life a more manageable and attractive thing, really clicked with me.

One feature was called ‘Good Things’, highlighting a series of items that had the potential to make life ‘good’. Helpful cleaning items, organizational gadgets, pretty things, unique inventions for the happy homemaker in all of us. I enjoyed that feature, encouraged by all the good things I could do to make my life better, all the good things I could buy to organize my life, all the good ways to further control it.

Well this past week has been full of many things, not many good, and most completely outside my control. Funny how things can pile up like situational clutter. As I mentioned in ‘comments’ on my last blog posting here, I was unable to access this blog or any of my writing for a few days because the hard drive on my desktop computer is ‘failing’. YIKES… not so good when you haven’t been a faithful backer-upper of your work. A new computer is on the horizon, and I’m praying that all the data on my old one is retrievable. And you already know about the dog being sick, and perhaps even about the struggles of my current stage of life if you’ve followed me here from Sometimes Suicidal Mama.

In any event, this past few days has been a struggle. And, when I followed the dog outside for the hundredth time to assess his bowel movements, I was not hopeful. As a matter of fact it seems that my mood has been directly connected to the dogs’ bowels. That sounds pretty pathetic when I read it back to myself, but it’s the truth. So, I followed Buddy outside, and much to my amazement, he pooped! Not a fire-hose diarrhea type poop like he has had since November, but a nicely formed ‘stool’. I ran inside to tell the kids. I phoned the vet’s office to tell them. And when my husband came in the door at the end of the day, I greeted him with, “Guess what? Buddy had a good poop!”

I suddenly realized that even poop can be a ‘good thing’. Certainly not something to publish in a blog magazine, but, in this case, better than the newest organizational tool or pretty thing. This good thing pointed to Buddy’s life getting better and my life getting better, and it was completely outside of my control or my influence. Sure it was a result of the latest drugs that the vet had put Buddy on, but the effect of the drugs on his body is not within my ability to control. Which is why, in part, it is wonderful. When I control things, are they really good, or blessed, or just the natural outcome of me forcing my way? When a truly good thing comes my way, I recognize that it is a gift.

Any good things in your life lately? Did they come about because of you or in spite of you altogether?

The sun just broke through the clouds… one more ‘good thing’.

Lesley-Anne