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When the whole world is a lie,
where do you go for truth?
Look inside yourself.
Find the one thing you would die for.
Extract it like a sliver.
Hold it up as high as you can.
(Don’t worry. Some
will not see, even if what you hold
is mountainous, epic, blinding.)
Your arm will wobble. Your chest
will heave with tears. Let them come.
God will see what you are holding:
If it is not worthy, you will know.
You can hide in the bowels of the earth;
still God will find you. If you are holding paper,
you will wither like a leaf in winter. If you hold
yourself, you will become a shadow. Only love
will shield you, so make yours vast, lavish,
even impractical. Stand in the light of one true thing,
and God will stand with you.


The weather is mocking me: After three days of rain, only the most tentative flicker of sunshine. It’s enough to make a person lose hope. And I have lost it, especially of late. I’ve lost hope in the Sisterhood (you know, that wild idea that women might work together for our own good), in men, in the Church, and in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I’ve lost hope that somehow we’re going to pull it together before the effects of global warming smack us in the face with a cataclysmic shout of “too late!”

But it’s okay. Because at the bottom of my Pandora’s box remains one thing — faith in God. And because of this, I can’t lose hope entirely. I have to still believe in the Sisterhood, in men, in the Church, in the bright, shiny promise of Democracy. I even have to believe that maybe we’ll save the planet before it’s too late. But only because I believe in God.

I don’t have to believe that human beings are capable of being fair or loving or vigilant, because God demonstrates over and over that God can work a miracle through the unlikeliest of people. Most saints are saints despite themselves. They are saints because God worked through them. And God can work through any of us.

So while I might be experiencing a dark night of the soul, there’s still some sunlight left in my inventory. And that is the idea of God’s infinite possibility. If you can believe in that, you can never lose hope. Good thing, too, because a life without hope is no life at all.

With all the divisions in the world – in politics, between countries, even in families – it shouldn’t be surprising that there are those who believe we should eliminate the population of certain species to save other ones.

There’s author Jonathan Franzen, who believes that cats should be killed, since they kill birds. Then there are the scientists who have created a robot designed to kill the starfish that kill coral reef, so that the coral reef can provide food for other species (which, I assume, would also end up killing coral reef.) Others say that the starfish are a symptom and the real problem is port activity and pollution caused by humans. I don’t think any of us would vote for eliminating humans to save the coral reef!

On a more sinister note, there are those who truly believe whole groups are inferior to their own people. The Rohingya in Myanmar have been the focus of a genocide carried out by the country’s military. Leader Aung San Suu Kyi (a former Nobel Peace Prize laureate, yet) said recently that “the situation could have been handled better” but that “we have to be fair to all sides.” Hmm. Where have we heard that before?

We’re so used to looking through our own lens that we might not even really see each other anymore. Just a reflection filtered through our own worldview.

I can’t believe it even needs to be said, but what do you say we take “extermination of entire populations” off the table, across the board? Of cats, of starfish. Certainly of people. Of others who espouse a different political ideology or religion. Let’s all agree to this basic idea, and with any luck, eventually, we’ll work our way back to the Golden Rule.

So I bought a frozen pizza that was on sale for less than a dollar. Turned on the oven and put the pizza in to cook. Once it was done, I tried to pull it out of the oven, but it got stuck on the rack. After a struggle  to get it out of the oven, I was really hungry and took a bite. Instantly, I regretted it, as it was still too hot and it burned the roof of my mouth. To boot, it was flavorless, as if I was eating the box it came in. All that work and it tasted like cardboard.

And I thought, how many life experiences are like that?

You twist yourself into contortions for someone else (insert situation here: a peer group, a romantic interest, a potential employer, etc.) and end up looking back on it with regret. They didn’t like you anyway, even after you changed yourself to make them like you. And you didn’t like yourself in that context either. That wasn’t you.

When the past comes at you with all the weapons in its arsenal – shame, guilt, and regret – whip out the shield to fend off all efforts to get under your skin and into your soul: faith. Faith that every day is a clean slate and a chance to start again – on your own terms. Faith that the choices you made in the past were your best efforts at the time, and helped you build an acumen for action going forward. Faith in the fact that life is good and you deserve every good thing it has to offer.

And as for that negative narrator in your head, reminding you of times you’d just as soon forget? Put on your boots, kick it to the curb, and keep moving.

I can make myself believe
that voting still matters
that good will win out
that women will be heard
and people of color respected

I can make myself believe
that redemption is possible
that no one (even me) is useless
that justice is a-comin’
and blue waves can save

I can make myself believe
all manner of fairy tales:
Father knows best
blind obedience is my duty
and we can pray away the pedophiles

But I cannot believe in America
(not really)
or in my Church
(not absolutely)
until men believe in change.

“I don’t know. Let’s look that up.”

It was one of the most common phrases around here when my son was growing up.  Actually, now that I think about it, it is still really common, but there are three adults in the house to look things up.  Thank God for Google.

Yesterday in adult Sunday school, someone told us about a church she had visited as a teen.  The pastor told her that they didn’t believe in the Trinity because “we don’t understand it.”  Whoa! What?

How can you not believe in things you don’t understand?  If that was the case, I’d cease to believe in a good chunk of humanity, calculus, and a whole lot of other things.

I can’t say that I always love not knowing something or not understanding.  One of the men, a retired engineer, is way too good at putting me on the spot.  But I think he enjoys it.  “You always looks so surprised!”

But how can we learn and grow if we thing we know everything?  Isn’t that an attempt to put ourselves on the same level as God?

I’m okay admitting that I don’t fully understand the Trinity.  I’m enjoying studying about it but that study would probably be a lot less interesting if I already knew it all.

What are some of the things about faith that you find “un-knowable”?


We name them prettily,
these storms, placate them
with soft sounds: Sandy,
Katrina, Maria, Florence.
On they come, regardless,
knocking down houses with fists
of wind, sweeping the skies
with furious rain. Let us pray
for gentle weather, for gusty
diversions that lure a storm
back out to sea. And when
prayers cannot keep chaos
at bay, let us pray for one another.
Let us be gentle weather to
our neighbor, blowing balmy breezes
that cauterize wounds, taking up,
with many hands, the work of
starting over.

Even though we live in different parts of the country and have varying spiritual beliefs, Lori, SueBE and I tend to agree more often than not. I was nodding in agreement and Amen!-ing as I read  Lori’s timely post on the recent clergy sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

Hmm. Didn’t I just see an article about the Pope that I wanted to read later? Yes. It had the words “outrage” and “action” in it. As it turns out, it wasn’t about the abuse scandals, but plastics in the ocean.  So I searched online to see what his response was to the abuse scandals, and what he’s pledged to do to change the culture that allowed it to happen.

“It is my hope that the gravity of the abuse scandals, which have cast a light on the failings of many, will serve to emphasize the importance of the protection of minors and vulnerable adults on the part of society as a whole,” he said, according to a transcript published by the Irish Times.

The failings of many. Nowhere did I see him say, The buck stops with me. I’m the head of this church, and it’s up to me to atone for the past and find a way to make it right. Heads are gonna roll!

Contrast that with what he said about the the environment:

“In a message focusing on the ‘precious element’ of water, Pope Francis has called for urgent action to combat the “emergency” of plastics littering seas and oceans.

“At last year’s climate talks in Bonn, Francis rebuked those who denied the science behind climate change, and urged negotiators not to fall prey to such ‘perverse attitudes’”.

What is wrong with this picture?

Although I don’t belong to the Catholic Church, I do belong to the human race. With all due respect to the pontiff, if our children aren’t protected in houses of worship, where can they ever be safe?  

Much has been written about the Catholic Church’s most recent scandal — the report out of Pennsylvania outlining years of sexual abuse by the clergy and the effort that was made to cover it up. Does more need to be said? Maybe not, but as a Catholic, I AM the church, and so I will endeavor to navigate these tricky waters as best I can.

The problem is not Catholicism. It is not a matter of faith. It is also not merely a problem of sinful men doing sinful things. The problem lies in the structure and hierarchy of the Church — the men who perpetuated the abuse by actively striving to protect the perpetrators. They didn’t just do nothing. They worked tirelessly against the abused and for the abusers.

This problem is so endemic, so deeply rooted in the Church, as to extend to every level of it. It manifests in the local priest who becomes the new pastor of a parish and unilaterally changes everything about parish life to suit his own likes and needs. The people are the Church. A pastor should serve his flock, not the other way around.

I’ve struggled since youth against a culture that declares, “priests are better than you. They know more. You must do what they say.” And that’s at the most basic level. The adulation given to bishops and cardinals increases exponentially. I’m not saying these men don’t deserve respect. Most are hardworking shepherds who genuinely wish to tirelessly serve the people. They are men of God. But they are not God. The Church would do well to remember the humility of its founder.

Any institution that protects its own against its own deserves scrutiny. The Catholic Church deserves every bit of the anger and inquiry being directed at it in the press and around the world. As my husband (a new-ish Catholic) remarked: “People sin and people can be forgiven. Institutions cannot.” It is true. Institutions can only be torn down and rebuilt. It has happened to the Church before, and the Church survived. I believe they can do it again.

On the other hand, this: Men have proven they can screw up every major institution on this planet — from churches to governments. Isn’t it time they move aside and let women give things a try? Just sayin’.

The other day, a friend asked me a question, which I answered using the phrase “our neck of the woods.” But I didn’t mean Kansas. I was referring to my childhood home in California. I’d reverted from Midwesterner to a more primitive self — the self who still thinks of herself as a So Cal girl.

And yet Southern California is no more my true home than Kansas. The Orange County I remember is long gone. The orange groves became high schools and office buildings. The ranchos were leveled for homes. Even the Disneyland of my youth bears little resemblance to its current incarnation. (Does anyone else remember when the parking lot was lettered by Disney character? “Hey Dad! We’re parked in Thumper!”)

Maybe our longing for home is really a longing for something else — a sense of belonging, of being understood. We can try to recreate it, but we’ll never really find it here.

I like to think that we’re born with a dim memory of heaven, and we spend our lives trying to get back there, to that place we really knew as home. It would make death a sweet return…assuming, of course, that we have lived a life that grants us passage to heaven.

All our reminiscing, all our auld lang syne, is nothing more than a deeper craving for our true home with God. In which case Thomas Wolfe is completely wrong: You can go home again.

It just won’t be Kansas. Or California. Or anywhere, really, you can find on a map.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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