Tuesday, November 22, 2016

She Who Brings Light into the Darkness

“Teach me the power of the dark” – came to me in a dream. The dark is where we live until the light comes. In the dark our hearts are breaking. Our soul is wounded; a black hole in the heart, a dark spell is cast; it holds fast, and we slide into the dark night of the soul. This is the power of the dark.

In the beginning, we are told, humans became the fire bearers; in every home in the world is a place where the fire is kept: a hearth, the heart of the home. For every hearth there is a hearth keeper; in most cultures it is the women who tend the fire, who are the hearth keepers. Tending the fire, is a constant worry and a constant work. If the fire goes out, it must be restarted, or food will not be ready for the table. If the fire dies down children may freeze in their beds, If the fire wood runs out the family is in peril. We gather around the fire to warm ourselves, to share food and drink, to share stories and gain wisdom. Beyond the fire, lies the dark.

Advent is the time when the fire has gone out, and before it is relit. For many of us, this Advent is more than a time to remember the power of the dark, this year we are living it. We women of great heart, are taking up the challenge. We are making friends, sharing stories; cooperating in our natural way.  We are creating alliances with those we see every day. We heal wounds, we comfort those men and women who come before us. We make common cause in our daily lives and learn from each other. We are all sisters and brothers in an immense learning community of women.

Each morning, we meet. We greet, face to face, on the street as we walk our infants in strollers, at the market, or the well.  And now through the miracle of webs and clouds, we cross the miles, the oceans; the vast spaces evaporate like the dew in the morning sun. We are heart to heart, playing and working side by side, I in my village in the north; you in your village in the south, or west, or east. We carry in our hands our magic boxes linking our knowing in ways we might never have imagined.

I have always known you were there but you seemed so far away. I imagined that you knew not that I cared whether you had clean water, or a chicken to lay eggs, or gruel for your children. But I do care; I never imagined that I could let you know.

We are 3 hundred million strong and we are mending our nets, we are mending the fabric of soil beneath our feet. Can we share as women have always shared, a cup of sugar, an extra blanket, a prayer, a song across the miles? Can we, like the pulses of energy coursing through our bodies heal each other as we heal our families?  As we live in these dark days, like our world, we refresh ourselves, resting, replenishing our essential life force, by Grace. It is a time for healing, for remembering who we are and what we are called to be. The light creeps in slowly and the world awakens slowly quietly gently. Solstice is the beginning of the time of gentle awakening. Christmas is the season in which we celebrate the woman who brought Light into the darkness. Let us lean into the fire and into each other with compassion, remembering the women who are the hearth keepers and their ways of caring.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Beloved Community: Dreaming the Impossible Dream

Somewhere in every heart is a longing for home. We’ve all felt that deep ache. I first felt it when I was 7 sent off to summer camp while my family moved to a new home. The ache was so deep; the resident Collie feeling a small child’s pain lay down with me each day while I wept. Home is where we feel we belong.

At the end of the Wiz, Dorothy sings “When I think of home I think of a place with love overflowing”. To belong should mean to feel loved. I was loved; we were loved not only by my family but by a brilliant and compassionate community of women. The Immaculate Heart of Mary Community was my first clan, my first Beloved Community. They were our mentors and our role models; we were raised to be as they were - to offer love to others. Hospitality and welcome to all persons were their core value and ours. Women of Great Heart is the motto of the high school I attended. We were aspiring to be women of Great Heart. I was home there.

For the past week we have been celebrating and exploring what it means to be a community this year and beyond. Speakers have explored God’s Dream for Community, through readings from the Old and New Testament. This article is the first of six exploring aspects of the Beloved Community. Here we introduce the Beloved Community and visit an example of a Beloved Community in Seattle.

I first learned of the Beloved Community in Greensboro, North Carolina. The Rev. Nelson Johnson, founded the community after he was stabbed by a klansman and arrested during an anti-klan rally in 1979 which he helped organize. The Beloved Community was the vision of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in which all people can share in the wealth of the earth.” “The core value of Dr. King’s Beloved Community was agape love which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative. ”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” King said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both. Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.” It seemed clear to me that this was an unattainable goal. So, I wondered, “what does this have to do with me, with us, when we live in a world that is being torn apart by violence and hatred?
How can Beloved Community, King’s commitment to love all, enemy or friend,  empower me and my community to survive and thrive?

Philosopher, Josiah Royce, first explained the Beloved Community in the late 1800s. For Royce, Beloved Community is central to transforming the heart of humanity. It is how we will make it through the chaotic times in which we are living.  An overwhelming love, Royce tells us is exactly what we need to be human. For Royce, in order to have a meaningful life, we must find a cause, a life purpose, that is born in our life experience and is inspired from within to seek truth and kindness. For a cause to be good, it must be greater than anyone or any community can attain and it must be good for everyone not just a few. Royce called this a lost cause because we are aspiring to an ideal we can never attain. We are all Don Quixote chasing the impossible dream. Sister Simone told us, “you’ll know you’ve found your cause when it breaks your heart open”. Royce believed that causes are found in the social landscapes in which we live; we find a home in communities where we share their cause. The Civil Rights movement of Dr. King, and the Beloved Community of Reverend Johnson were communities with a shared cause.

Every good fight fought in this world has started with a heart broken open. Malala’s dream is education for girls everywhere. Mother Teresa’s was a good death for everyone. For Jimmy Carter it is homes for all. Impossible dreams are found in communities of dreamers and while we can’t reach the ultimate dream, our search moves us to accomplish amazing things.

For a number of years, Hillary Clinton has reached out with heart, hand, and treasure to Children, families, youth in prison,  dreamers, immigrants, refugees, women and girls worldwide. Having known the ache of being far from home, I was more than delighted to learn of this place where the longing for home is made whole for women and girls like me. If you are looking to be inspired you won’t want to rest until your heart breaks open.  Our prayer is that by exploring Beloved Community we will the renew our commitment to Agape, hold our Beloved Community together, and renew our commitment to the Impossible Dream, inspiring the amazing work we do. May it be so.