New Song: Be Here

Hey folks! You may not know this, but I don’t just write about my feelings and fears on COVID-19… I SING ABOUT THEM!

But… if you’ve followed this blog for any length of time, you were probably expecting this.

I got up this morning fresh with fear and panic. So I decided to stop looking at COVID-19 updates for a while. I set an alarm and I’m not allowed to look at any updates until then. But I still couldn’t get my mind off of it, so I sat down at the piano and tried to sing all my feelings out.

Here’s what came out. I called it Be Here. The piano is a little loud on the recording but that’s ok. It drowns out my vocal mistakes. Love you all. Hope you like it.

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 9.10.01 AM

My Plans For The End

I keep making plans for when this will all be over. But then I remember I don’t know when that is. And what if it’s never over? And what if I have to bury someone I love? Or they have to bury me?

Then Nick will say, “You have to remember, this was always going to happen and it’s going to be ok.”

And for a moment, I feel ok.

Like many people out there, I’m a sucker for a good apocalypse movie. I feel ok and suddenly every scenario from every apocalypse movie starts replaying in my mind and I wonder if this is just the beginning of the end.

But then I think about the Spanish Flu. It lasted 2 years and infected about a quarter of the Earth’s population. Something like 50 million people died. And the world didn’t end. We made it through two World Wars and countless other catastrophes and disasters and we’re all still here.

The human species should have been killed off by now. Somehow, we keep on.

Here is a song I wrote in 2017. It’s not the greatest recording but go take a listen and read the lyrics. I’m Still Here

It’s about surviving all the things life throws at you. After my mom died of cancer in 2016, I became slightly obsessed with Cheryl Strayed’s book Wild and the movie based on it. There’s a point in the movie when Reese Witherspoon, who is playing Cheryl, realizes that she’s stayed on this difficult trek she is on longer than a more experienced backpacker who has left the trail. She says, “I’m still here.” And that line hit me like a fucking ton of bricks. It stayed with me. I watched the scene over and over. And I even wrote a song with that line.

I’m still here. We’re still here. The human race has survived the hurricane of time. Somehow. It gives me hope. I don’t know when this will end. I don’t know if I’ll have to bury a loved one. Or if I’ll be the one laid in the ground. But I do know IT WILL END.

It will end and life will continue. And humanity will survive. We’re still here. We’re still breathing. The sea came, as if to kill us but we WILL survive.

That is my hope and peace right now. We’ve been here before. We made it before. We’ll do it again. Will I still be scared? You better believe it. Will I keep ugly crying daily? I can’t imagine stopping now.

But I have a smithereen of hope. I have a capful of peace. I know we will survive. I dare not make plans for the future only because I want to keep my mind on this bit of hope and peace I’ve found. And I won’t make plans for the end because I know it isn’t coming.

Be.

I’m scared. The whole world is scared. I think I ugly cry at least once a day. I check the stats on COVID-19 before I go to sleep. And then again as soon as I wake.

My oldest child has Type 1 Diabetes which is an autoimmune disease. At her last doctor’s appointment at the beginning of March, we were told her A1C was better. It’s still much higher than the average person’s but it’s good for a teenager with T1D.

My husband works with the public every day. He owns a business fixing food service equipment. So he and all his employees spend their days in restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations, fixing the equipment the public touches minute by minute. And even though he’s wearing gloves and showering when he comes home and we have hand sanitizer right by the front door, I’m scared.

But I know I’m not alone in my fear. I know others in much more dire circumstances are just as afraid and have fewer resources.

So I took my panicky heart this morning and wrote a poem that is just as much prayer as it is poem. It’s called “Be.” And expresses what I think God is saying back to me. Maybe it’ll say something to you too.

Be.

You see me
All of my pain and fear
And though I hold it up against the world
You don’t

I don’t know how
How you take me this way
Hold me like marzipan
In your warm, wizened hands
Tell me it’s ok
To feel
All the things

Why don’t you say
Look
Be
Do

Why don’t you say
Oof
Ugh
Mmm

Why do you allow me to be this way
Why don’t you stop me
Correct me
Compare me
Reject me
Contrast me
Grade me
Score me
Rate me
Berate
Coerce
Connive
Control

WHY DON’T YOU CHANGE ME

I see all the ways I could be
Better
I see all the ways I couldn’t
Measure up

I pray like I’m in Hell
Rescue me
Save me
I’m in danger
Protect me

As I wrap myself in all the comfortable things I own
That I bought

I am not more deserving of your
Grace
And mercy
I am not your favorite
I don’t stand alone

But still I feel your
Tenderness
Your loving gaze
Your calming breath

Breathe in
Whooo
Breathe out
Whooo

What must I do?!
I cry out
To earn this gift!
I have to know

I strain my ear to listen
Quiet everything to hear

But what I hear is…

Be.
It is enough
Just to be

I knew what I was doing when I made you
I’ve always known who you are
And meant to be

You covered yourself
In the fig leaves the others were using
Plastered with clay
Thick and wet
And hidden

Now it’s all washed away
You are naked
Don’t be ashamed

You cursed the water
That left you exposed
That shifted the sand
That destroyed what you thought was your home

Don’t curse it, my love
This was not for your harm
I am the rain, Love
I am the storm

The fig leaves are gone
You’re free of the clay

Just be, my sweet love
Be.

It is enough for me.

Let’s just say it’s never been me

Waiting
Waiting for it to happen again
For them to see me
As you have seen me
Disposable

You had to choose
Someone always has to choose
But when the choice is me
Or something
Someone
Anything else
Well, let’s just say
It’s never me

You want to pretend
Pretend we’re still friends
Smile
Make small talk
And pretend to care

But you made your choice
You chose her
You chose them

You think you chose
Truth
Righteousness
Holiness
But really you chose

A line drawn in the sand
A perfect white fence
Built to keep people like me
Outside

So now I wait

Because eventually
It always happens again
I make a new friend
We walk hand in hand
But at some point we always
Make it back to the line

And then they must choose
As you had to do

And everyone makes the same choice

If the choice is between me
And something
Someone
Anything else
Well, let’s just say
It’s never been me

***

Triggered. That’s the phrase. Seeing someone from my past, triggered all sorts of thoughts and feelings and emotions.

Rejection and remembering rejection is so destabilizing. It knocks you on your ass. It activates that fight or flight instinct. I guess my instinct is flight because all I’ve wanted to do since I saw them is shrink back and hide. Because the truth is I’m just waiting for it to happen all over again. It feels inevitable.

Over the long haul of my life, it has been very rare for people to choose me when they were forced to make the choice. And it feels like the only way to be safe is to just shut everyone out.

I don’t know when I’ll feel safe again. I’ve spent most of my life feeling disposable and invisible. And just when I think I’ve met someone who won’t throw me away like the rest, it comes time for them to choose.

Well, let’s just say it’s never been me.

Order everything off the menu, unbutton your pants and watch Firefly

Image result for bill gatesBill Gates comes to you one day and says, “Hey.”

And you say, “Oh wow! One of the richest men in the whole world, Bill Gates, is talking to me! Amaze.”

And he says, “Ha ha, yes, that is me. I am Bill Gates. But, hey, I wanted to tell you, you see that restaurant over there?”

He points. You look. There is, in fact, a restaurant over there. In fact, it’s a really nice one. Michelin stars and everything. You could never afford to eat there. You’ve always wanted to but you couldn’t even afford an appetizer, let alone a whole meal. You know the maitre’ d wouldn’t even let you past the front door.

“Yes?” you say, somewhat confused.

Bill smiles as he says, “Well, I own that restaurant and I just want you to know that you can go in and eat there for free, anytime you want. Order anything you want off the menu. It’s all free.”

“Wait? Seriously?” you ask doubtfully. There’s absolutely no way this is for real. Bill Gates doesn’t even know you! What could you have possibly done to deserve this? Nothing. That’s what. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s too good to be true.

“Yes,” he says chuckling, “Whatever you want, just go in and sit down and order.”

“What’s the catch?” you say, doing the squinty eye suspicious thing you’ve seen on TV.

Bill’s eyes crinkle from smiling and laughing. He’s even wearing a Mr. Roger’s style cardi. “No catch,” he says, “You don’t have to do anything. It’s all free.”

“Why,” you say, eyes squinting so tight they’re practically shut, “What did I do to deserve this?”

“This is just something I want to do,” he says, “There’s no catch. You don’t have to earn it. I just want to do this.”

“For real?”

Bill nods, “For real. Pinky promise.”

He gets up from the picnic table at the park that I never mentioned and starts to walk toward a really cool, expensive car that is also, like, so eco-friendly. After a few steps, he turns around to say, “And tell your friends. They can come too.” He gives a very friendly and reassuring wave, gets into his car, and flies away.

What. Just. Happened. You don’t know. It’s a mystery. But yet…….. I mean, you gotta try it out right? Just to see if it’s real. I mean, you’re probably being punk’d but if not…

So you go in. The maitre’ d knows you on sight and looks really happy to see you. You’re seated immediately in a private room with your own personal army of wait staff waiting on you hand and foot.

You order. You order everything. Everything on the menu. You take at least one bite of each thing. To your absolute delight, you are having the time of your life. AND THE FOOD! It’s so good! It’s the best food you’ve ever eaten. Ever. You finally finish. You can’t eat another bite. You leave with 12 doggie bags. And as you leave, you ask the maitre’ d if you can come back again someday.

“Oui,” he says in the snooty, French accent you were already imagining, “You may come back whenever you like and as often as you like.” He smiles and does a fancy clap so that the wait staff come and follow you out to your car, carrying the 12 doggie bags.

You go home and unbutton your pants and watch Firefly and smile because you feel so good all over. What an amazing experience! What did you do to deserve this, you keep asking yourself. You don’t know. But you do know that you definitely want to do that again.

And you do. Not right away. But when you do go back, you don’t order everything on the menu this time. Don’t get me wrong, you still order wayyyy too much, only 8 doggie bags this time, you don’t want to seem too greedy.

Home, pants, Firefly.

After a few more times, you start to feel kinda weird about all this free food. I mean, WHAT DID YOU DO TO DESERVE THIS? You still don’t know. You order less food every time. Something just feels… off… about this arrangement. It can’t be real, can it? You wonder when the producers of the hidden camera show are gonna pop out and scare the crap out of you. There has to be a reason for Bill Gates to be giving you all this free food. THERE HAS TO BE A REASON.

So you switch to Windows only and Microsoft everything. It’s the only thing you can think of. Surely, this is the reason for the free food. This has to be Bill’s end game, amirite? More customers for his products, that’s the real reason for the free food, right?

Not only do you make the switch but you start telling all your friends that they need to make the switch too. “Why?” they all want to know, “Why should we make the switch?”

“Well,” you tell them, “If you switch to Windows and Microsoft, you can eat at this restaurant for free, anytime you want. You can order whatever you want off the menu and it’s all free.”

“Wait, so what you’re saying is, if I switch, I can eat at this Michelin rated restaurant for free, anytime, forever?”

“Welllllllllll,” you hem, “Not forever. You can only eat there as long as you keep using Windows and Microsoft. But as long as you never stray from the Gates Way, you can eat there forever. For FREE.”

Some of your friends make the switch and start eating at the restaurant. Some switch when they feel like eating there but they usually switch back to Apple. Some just really don’t care about eating at some fancy restaurant if it means giving up their iPhone.

Then there are those that make the switch, go to the restaurant, order to go and then SELL THE FREE FOOD THEY GOT TO HUNGRY PEOPLE. #douches

And then you’ve got those who take their doggie bags to the homeless but won’t give them the food unless they make the switch, which they can’t do because THEY DON’T OWN A COMPUTER. #nonsense

How much further do I need to take this analogy?

Surely, by now, you’re picking up what I’ve been laying down.

One thing I know, when I feel God’s presence, I feel overwhelming love and acceptance. I’m not worried about God’s end game. I’m not worrying about how I can earn the FREE love. I’m just enjoying it.

This idea that we have to change, to “make the switch”, to modify ourselves in order to be worthy of God’s free love… we came up with that idea. Whether because of guilt, shame, fear or whatever, doesn’t matter. We have to let that all go and just be confident of God’s love and acceptance.

Nothing feels better than being totally accepted from stem to stern, to feel the warmth of love washing over you and knowing, KNOWING, YOU ARE LOVED. Without a catch, without having to modify yourself or change, without complications, you’re just loved.

I started thinking about all this because I felt really shitty today. I was reminded recently of the existence of a few people who think rather ill of me or at least they think ill of my social media presence judging by their past comments. These are people who used to say nice things about me to others (at least I think they did).

But I’ve been “trying new foods on the menu”, to go along with the analogy. I’ve been finding freedom and love in God in new ways. I’ve been losing my fear and shame and allowing myself to just be myself, exactly as I was made. It’s been a wonderful journey.

But my “freedom” or whatever you may call it seems to make others upset. They don’t like my posts anymore (which let me tell you are really, very mild compared to what they could be). My behavior and dress and language and ideas bother them, anger them, frighten them and threaten them? I guess?

So they comment. And their comments hurt. And just thinking about their past comments to me (and even recent comments, as recent as Jan 1st, 2020) can make me feel less than. I doubt my journey. I doubt myself.

But when I think about the frightened bunny I once was, the one who “made the switch”, I just feel pain and loneliness and suffering. And when I think about the love I feel in God’s presence now, that drips over me and fills me and erases my fear and doubt, I know I’m headed in the right direction.

And I realized that when I can feel God all around me, I’m not thinking about an end game or my behavior or any of that. I’m just basking.

I hope, dear God do I hope, that I can carry these thoughts with me. That the next time I feel shitty because someone said something mean to me, the next time I doubt my journey and myself, I hope I can remember the free love I didn’t have to earn. I hope I can remember that “making the switch” is their baggage, not mine, and I can just go bask in the glow and order everything off the menu.

Because that’s what I want: all of God’s love. Give it all to me so I can take it all in until I’m full to bursting.

People may think ill of my journey, but God’s love is so much sweeter and stronger than their opinions. And it’s that strength and sweetness that I want, not their approval. Come and judge me and find me wanting. It’s ok. I’m taking doggie bags home.

I challenge you and I challenge myself to boldly go into the restaurant with an iPhone in your pocket, order everything off the menu, unbutton your pants and watch Firely.

A watery God of growth: some thoughts on Eden

Picture Eden in your mind.

What are some adjectives that immediately come up? Paradise, perhaps? Perfection?

What are some things we’ve been taught about Eden? That it was God’s original plan? That after his plan of perfection and paradise was ruined by Satan, with the help of Adam and Eve (emphasis on Eve if we’re to believe the rhetoric of the patriarchy), that God has been working on nothing but trying to return everything to that state of paradise and perfection?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Garden of Eden mythology this morning. And I want to deconstruct a few ideas. (These are my own thoughts, not something I learned in a college course since I’m an uneducated swine.)

(For those of you offended by the term “mythology”, please read this dictionary definition of myth: a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.)

*****

One: Perfection.

If God wanted perfection and he/she is as omnipotent as we all believe them to be, then perfection could have been achieved and sustained indefinitely from the very beginning. If perfect people were the goal, God had and has the power to create beings that never sin, never do evil, are never unhappy or sad or angry. There would be no greed, narcissism, hatred, lust, jealousy, arrogance, war, violence, hunger, need of any kind, etc.

Ah, you say, but Adam and Eve had that state of perfection until Satan, disguised as a serpent, tempted and tricked them into eating the forbidden fruit.

No, he didn’t.

You can’t tempt and trick someone into something they don’t already desire. On some level, they were already curious about the fruit and wanted to try it. Then, when presented with the idea that they could be like God in knowledge, the desire to taste that fruit became unbearable. They had to have it. Satan didn’t put desire into them. It was already there.

The idea that Adam and Eve were perfect and innocent before the serpent came along is false. They were already entertaining the idea of eating the fruit before he showed up. I mean, they were hanging out by the damned tree when he came along. He didn’t have to lead them to it or drag them over there. They were ALREADY THERE.

So, no, the Garden wasn’t perfect before Satan came into the picture. Adam and Eve weren’t naive innocents who fell prey to a flim-flam man. They didn’t give their retirement to a Nigerian prince. They weren’t scammed or tricked. What really happened? Satan gave them verbal permission to do something they already wanted to do.

I think it’s important to stop thinking of Eden as a spoilt paradise and dream of creation that God is always trying to get us back to. Because the idea that if Satan hadn’t come along and persuaded A and E to sin, we’d all be living happy, prosperous, perfect lives with no pain is completely and utterly false. Can we all just admit that it was only a matter of time before A and E effed things up on their own without outside help?

They were not perfect and Eden was not perfection.

*****

Two: Pain.

Let’s stay with this idea that perfection and paradise are God’s ultimate goals for creation and humanity for a bit.

The idea is that perfection and paradise have always been the end game for all of creation and especially humanity but back in Eden, Satan messed everything up. Ok, so where did Satan come from? If perfection and paradise are the goal, why would a good God allow a being like Satan to exist at all?

Ah, you say, but Satan was originally good and fell from heaven because he desired God’s throne.

Poppycock.

That’s just more mythology. If you’re someone who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and holds the Bible up to be more fact and history than poetry and story, then please point out to me the clear scripture verses that explain who Satan is and where he came from. I’ll save you the time and trouble, there are none. There are no verses that clearly state who and what Satan is or how and why he exists. There are some very evocative metaphors about this being that possibly point to metaphorical origins, but nothing straightforward or clear.

Who and what Satan is, remains a mystery. And one of the real mysteries to me is why this being of pure evil exists at all. Because a creature like this does not fit into the idea of perfection and paradise. A being of pure evil can only cause destruction and pain.

Why would a God who desires this state of ultimate perfection allow a being like this to exist at all? If you want perfection, just destroy the little bugger or better yet, don’t allow him to come into existence at all.

But evil does exist. Whether evil comes only from the heart of man or there is a being of evil in the world influencing us, it still exists nonetheless. And evil only begets one thing: pain.

So why would God allow this evil to come and ruin his garden paradise and thwart his plans for perfection? I think it’s because perfection and paradise were never the end goal. God wasn’t creating a paradise that was then ruined by creation’s first douche. If you ask me, Eden was simply meant to be a starting place, a loading screen, chapter one.

I don’t pretend to know why evil or pain exist but I do know that their very existence negates the idea that God is only interested in paradise and perfection. If that’s what they wanted, evil and pain would never have come into the picture.

*****

Before we move on to my third and final idea, let’s go back and retell the story of creation as quickly as possible.

  • There was nothing
  • God makes light, stars, moon, sun, water, land, plants, animals, everything
  • God makes humans
  • God puts humans in Eden
  • Humans plus Satan topple the Jenga tower

I really want to focus on that middle bullet point for my third idea: God makes humans. Because all this talking about and deconstructing the mythology of Eden has been leading me to this idea. If God wasn’t aiming for perfection and wasn’t trying to make perfect humans, what was he/she up to?

*****

Three: Humans.

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.””

Genesis‬ ‭1:26-28‬ ‭

I hope you actually took the time to read the verses above because I want you to notice the suspicious absence of the word “perfect”.

God said “let us make humans in our image” not “let us make perfect little mini-me’s”. We assume humans were meant to be perfect because that is the main attribute we ascribe to God.

Let me say that again for those in the back: WE ASSUME HUMANS WERE MEANT TO BE PERFECT BECAUSE THAT IS THE MAIN ATTRIBUTE WE ASCRIBE TO GOD.

If humans are supposed to be made in God’s image and God is perfect then, ergo, transitive property, humans are made to be perfect.

But perfection is not the only attribute of God and not even the most important one.

If Adam and Eve were meant to be the standard that we fell away from, can you please list for me all the ways they are like God? I don’t see God’s kindness, compassion or love in them. I don’t see God’s power or authority. In fact, I don’t see much of God’s likeness in them at all. God said “let us make them in our image” and we immediately believe the fullness of God’s image is born out in Adam and Eve. How?!? I don’t see it! I can’t believe when God said “in our image” that these two were the standard by which we must measure ourselves. If they were so great, why isn’t there more written about them?!? You know, the only attribute in Adam and Eve that I see as godly is that they were “unashamed”. That’s it!

*****

Made in God’s image.

God is many things. Loving, kind, gentle, compassionate, fierce, jealous, a still small voice, a whirlwind, a creator, a vine dresser, a gardener, a king, a queen, a baby in a manger, a spirit or rather THE spirit of all. And so, so much more than I could ever think of on my own.

Perfect? Yes. Holy? Yes. But with so many wonderful things to say about God, why do we stop with these two? Is it because the one attribute of God’s that A and E actually had, being “unashamed”, was lost and we inherited that shame like it’s written into our DNA. We’re ashamed of ourselves. And all we can see is how unalike God we are.

Can we address the fact that one of God’s most agreed upon attributes is “creator”? When we were made in God’s image, we were given that same attribute. We have creation and creativity in our blood. It’s an essential part of our being. Whether you create through art or cooking or building or children or whatever, you are a creative being. You can’t help but create all day long, every day. But creation of any kind is messy. It’s always messy. Creating anything of any kind causes a mess. If God was not ok with our mess, why would he/she allow us to be these magnificent creative beings going around making our messes?

For me, the “G” in God stands for “growth”. Just one look out your window is all it takes to see what a huge fan of growth God is. We weren’t meant to stay trapped by shame all our lives, punishing ourselves mentally for being imperfect and unholy.

The order of creation goes: light, water, land THEN seeds! God created all the things those seeds would need to grow before he/she even created the seeds. Everything was put in place to foster the growth of those seeds. And once the seeds were created, they were buried in dirt and darkness. They had to push their way free of that dirt and darkness in order to reach the light and air. But they didn’t do it alone. You see God created water. The water reached down into the dirt and darkness and held that seed and helped the little plant break free of its seed cocoon. The water softened the dirt for the little plant so it could push through and reach the light.

Adam and Eve were just the beginning. They weren’t the gold standard. They weren’t something God lost that they’re trying to get back to. They were the seed of humanity. And we’ve been pushing through the dirt and the darkness ever since. Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, they are the living fucking water that have reached down to help us navigate our way out of the shit! Yes, humanity is mired by dirt and darkness but we are being held by the watery God of growth and light!

*****

If there’s anything I want to leave you with today, it’s the idea that Eden was not our lost perfection. It was the start of centuries of growth. It was the endowment of creativity upon the little seedlings of God. It’s not the end goal of God’s heart. Restoration is absolutely God’s heart. But not resetting. God does not want to reset humanity back to Eden. God wants growth! Growth is always forward. A plant doesn’t grow back into a seed. A plant can certainly wither and need restoration but once it’s restored it continues to grow! That’s the restoration God is bringing us. Not shrinking back into the earth. Not starting from the beginning again.

Eden was the start. Not the end. Let’s keep growing!