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I Vote With My Brain, Not My Breasts

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I VOTE WITH MY BRAIN, NOT MY BREASTS:

I haven’t written about the Democratic presidential primary because I have friends standing on both sides of the growing Hillary-Bernie divide, and I respect them all. But as a woman who supports Bernie, I’m getting just a little tired of Hillary’s supporters trashing me.

I don’t trash them. I’m sure they’ve thought it through and decided that Hillary best represents their priority interests. Don’t I deserve the same right? If abortion rights or women’s pay or healthcare are among your priorities, go for Hillary, by all means.

My priorities happen to be protecting our planet and instilling some corporate responsibility in America, so I’m supporting Bernie. It seems a clear choice. Hillary sometimes follows along on these issues, but they are obviously Bernie’s priorities. She didn’t even say the word “climate” in her New Hampshire concession speech. Wow, just wow. No wonder young people aren’t toeing the line for her.

Young women who support Bernie were bearing the brunt of these condescending attacks, until Madeleine Albright reminded Sanders voters the other day that it’s broader than that: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” Now she defends her remarks by saying that women, in general, “are very judgmental of each other.” Who is being judgmental here, Madeleine?

Photo: Bloomberg News

It’s really not that funny

At least Gloria Steinhem apologized for saying that young women only like Bernie because they’ll meet more guys on his campaign. Whether she “misspoke” or was “misinterpreted” (she said both), we KNOW she didn’t really mean that: how un-feminist would that be??

Anyway, it’s not just young women now, it’s all female Bernie supporters who are on the highway to hell.

The marching orders are clear: if you are a woman, you must vote for Hillary Clinton. I can’t imagine anything more insulting or sexist. It doesn’t make sense either. Do they think they are going to change my mind with that kind of vitriol? It didn’t work for Hillary in 2008, and it’s not working now. I just hope the young women being insulted don’t get so turned off to Hillary that they end up not voting in the general election if she’s the nominee.

It’s funny, it wasn’t Albright’s vicious rhetoric that caused me to write this blog (and to put a Bernie sticker on my car). photo (39)

I write because I fear that this nastiness is contagious. The other night, a young woman whom I’ve known since she was a toddler wrote on Facebook that she was “very disappointed” in me. She’s generally a kind, respectful, thoughtful person. So the fact that she thinks it OK to judge and criticize a friend for supporting someone other than her own choice . . . well, that’s just not OK, ladies.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Hillary personally — she’s too moderate and beholden to the political status quo for my taste. But I haven’t written about that because I don’t think we need anymore negativity out there. She would be a fine president, perhaps on a par with Obama. And certainly preferable to any of the yahoos the Republicans are running. But still, she represents the political status quo. No foundational changes to a dramatically broken system.

Bernie’s cry that “Enough is enough!” captures my sentiments exactly. It goes for the country, and it goes for the Hillary camp’s insulting attacks on women, too.

This particular middle-aged, white, female voter does not engage in “group think.” I vote with my brain, not my breasts.

Photo attribution: Bloomberg News

 

 

 

 

 

Hope Rising From the Ashes

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Hope Rising From the Ashes

It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season in the western church. Tonight I’ll receive a cross of ashes on my forehead, along with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

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Some friends told me the other night that they aren’t coming to Ash Wednesday service because it’s too depressing and sad.

“What?? What are you talking about ?!?!?” I responded gently. (I still have a few things to learn as a pastor.) “Good Friday, yeah, that’s supposed to be somber, but Ash Wednesday is all about hope.”

This did not seem to persuade my friends.

Pressing the Re-set Button

For me, Lent is a time of hope – it’s a forty-day period where we intentionally contemplate our distance from God: What separates us, how would we like to change in order to live more joyfully and become who we are meant to be?

Lent is a great “do-over” time. Press the reset button and try again. Where am I missing the mark?

“Missing the mark” is my favorite translation of the word “sin” in the Bible, from the Greek word hamartia; other translations mean “to go astray” or “to transgress.” (The word “sin” has gone out of fashion in many circles, thank God — it has been used for centuries to shame and frighten people, instead of to encourage and hearten them.)

Lent reminds us that God can get us back on track. God transforms us, and gives us the power to change the parts of ourselves we would otherwise be powerless over, including our thoughts, our motivations, and our attitudes. This is good news, not a reason to be sad! Of course, we can push the re-set button any time we pray, but I love the concept of millions of Jesus-people opening themselves to serious transformation at the same time.

Turning Around

Lent mirrors the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert being tempted by the devil. (Google Luke 4: 1-13 if you’re not familiar with the story.) Ego, power, control, greed, security, esteem — all the temptations common to humanity were thrown at him, but he resisted and instead chose to be the beautiful person that he was created to be. He hit the mark.

So when I adopt challenging spiritual practices for Lent (more on that in a future post), I’m purposely tempting myself, building my spiritual muscle. I am practicing new habits that will help me live life to the full, as Jesus promised, rather than be burdened by parts of myself I don’t like.

Lent is about focus (on my shortcomings and on God’s graciousness and power) and intent (to accept God’s power to change my shortcomings) and repentance (another scary Bibley word which simply means “being willing to change” or “to turn around.”)

Being Remade

So OK, yeah, the ashes thing, the death reminder. I see how that could be depressing. But look at it this way: It’s just a reality check. Life is short. Live it to the full. Drop your crap and choose to be free of it!

I also welcome the ashes as a healthy dose of humility, a tap on the shoulder — “Hey, there was a lot going on before you got here, and there will be a lot going on when you are gone. You are not in charge.” That’s kind of a relief. My job is not to change the world or to change anyone else. My job is to work on myself, co-creating with God the very best Melanie I can be. I’m of no help to the world when I’m operating out of brokenness.

Pastor, heal thyself.

humility star

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”  — Mahatma Gandhi

What’s in a Name?

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WHAT’S IN A NAME?

My parents set me up for confusion when they named me: Mom wanted an unusual name that would mark me as unique; Daddy wanted a common name that wouldn’t draw attention. They both loved the character “Melanie” in Gone With the Wind, a kind and forgiving soul with a powerful inner strength.

Mom grew up in England and had never known a Melanie. Daddy grew up in Texas where Melanies were as common as tumbleweeds. Hence, I am who I am.

My middle name is Lynn, my parent’s gift to my six-year-old brother who wanted to honor his kindergarten crush.

I’ve always liked those two names together, I think they sound musical. That’s probably because my mother used to sing them to me over and over: Melanie Lynn, Melanie Lynn, Melanie Melanie Melanie Lynn.

My last name is another story. I never cared for Griffin; I thought it sounded too masculine. And my best friend called me Griff all the time we were growing up, an awful moniker for a big, clumsy girl who wanted so much to emulate her long, lanky, gorgeous big sister.

I used to imagine I would get married and change my last name, but hold on to the family heritage by naming a son Griffin.

Dragons and Ancestors

Right after I graduated from college, I traveled to Wales, home of my father’s ancestors, where Welsh dragons adorn everything from street lights to war memorials to pub napkins. 

Welsh Dragon

Welsh Dragon

The creatures are obviously related to mythical Griffins, which have the hindquarters of a lion and the head, wings, and breast of an eagle. They portray intelligence, strength, and leadership. When I was a child, I saw these as masculine attributes, but after communing with Griffin ancestors and red dragons in Wales, I began to embrace my full name. I now see Griffins as graceful but strong, lovely but bold.

Griffin

Griffin

When I returned from Wales, I received my college diploma in the mail, a moment six years in the making because I’d had to work full-time to cover tuition and rent. I remember stroking the embossed words Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies (an interdisciplinary degree I’d designed with the intention of becoming an environmental lobbyist, and which I’d had to defend against strong objections from the conservative Dean of Biology) and saying “Melanie Lynn Griffin, Melanie Lynn Griffin.” It still sounded musical, but now I could hear the booming base notes of Beethoven beneath the lilting sonatas of Hayden.

* * *

Thanks to WordPress for today’s writing prompt: “Write about your first name: Are you named after someone or something? Are there any stories or associations attached to it? If you had the choice, would you rename yourself?” To answer their question: No, I would absolutely not rename myself.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/say-your-name/

 

Vibrant!

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This week’s photo challenge from WordPress is most welcome. They ask for something vibrant — the perfect antidote to a dreary February day! Never one to hold back from my friends in the blogosphere, I’ve selected a whole montage of cheerful and vivid memories from Maryland, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Italy. Enjoy!

Write. Every Day.

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If you have voices in your head, does it mean you’re crazy? Not necessarily. It might mean you are a writer. Or, you could be a crazy writer. Either way, the voices are raging in my head today.

The voices are upset about the commitment I’ve made with some fellow Hopkins creative writing grads to write every single day, at least 300 words a day. It’s not the word count that’s daunting, it’s the “every day” part.

We begin today. I don’t believe we named an end-date, but I intend to pursue it at least through Lent, which ends on March 26. I’m making a number of other changes for Lent in pursuit of “discipline” (more to come on that), so this is a good lead-in to my Lenten practices.

Anyone who has ever tried to write seriously will recognize my inner voices: they are of the “what do you have to say anyway, who do you think you are, nobody wants to read your crappy writing, why are you wasting your time?” variety. And that’s on a good day.

This February 1st challenge is especially scary to my inner critics because I am poised to begin work on the spiritual memoir that’s been brewing in my head and heart for a year or two. I am finally ready. All I need to do is write. Every day. Hence, the craziness in my head: resistance, monkey mind, inner critic, writer’s block — call it what you will.

“There is no cure for resistance except to write,” says Elizabath J. Andrew in her book, Writing the Sacred Journey. “Write about your resistance; enter into conversation with it, ask it what it wants to say, find out its origin and history . . . The point is not to fight your inner critic as you are writing, wasting precious time and energy. If you allow the critic to speak fully, you can thank it for its input and move on.”

That’s why I’m writing this post, giving my resistance its due.

Andrew also says that “When resistance nudges you, usually it’s a sign that you’re on to something good. The stronger your resistance, the greater potential there is for discovery.” If that’s the case, this could be one hell of a spiritual memoir. 

Right now, though, the “product” doesn’t matter. What matters is writing through the resistance.

Danish author Isak Dinesen said to “Write a little every day, without hope and without despair.” 

I don’t have to fear mortification or fret over my inadequacies, and I don’t have to hope for high art or a best seller. All I have to do is write. Every day.

That’s the plan.

photo (36)

A Funeral

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I haven’t had much to say lately, so lucky for you I haven’t been blogging. I thought I might do a glimpse into my journal — those are always popular with the voyeuristic among you. But as I flipped through the pages, I found a lot of body aches and pains, house de-cluttering, financial musings, and angst about my writing pursuits. So I’ll spare you that.

Still, woven throughout the January dross I discovered a golden thread. (It may be just tarnished brass, but it’s all I’ve got, guys.) I wrote about a funeral, the first I’ve ever officiated in my new role as pastor. I hope you can relate to something.

January 8, 2016

I am not sleeping well. It’s not so much the cough now, it’s stress dreams about a funeral I’m doing in a week. My first. Strangers contacted our church: they want “spiritual but not religious.” Our senior pastor said, “You would be perfect for this.” But it turns out I don’t really know what spiritual but not religious is. Can I say God? Can I pray? I wonder if the family even knows what they mean. Wonder why they came to a Christian church for an officiant?

I’ve dreamt about this several nights. Don’t know why it’s so much in my subconscious. I hope I gain more confidence because I’m going to be doing graveside services regularly for {xx} cemetery. Now I’ve got myself all agitated right before bed, researching eulogies, chaplaincy certificates, and hospice programs. It’s midnight.

And a moment of silence for Elvis’s birthday, Jan 8.

Elvis_Presley_Jailhouse_Rock3

January 9

Went to sleep with tears on my cheeks last night for the first time in months. I somehow ended up back in that hospital room with Biff (my deceased brother). Still very near the surface. Why? Is it preparing for the funeral? I guess. So many connections beyond our ken.

This funeral will be good practice at emotional boundaries. Caring for and serving this family without entering their pain. This is not my loss, it’s theirs. Is it just human nature to want to connect? Deep calls to deep, as the Bible says? Or is it my dysfunction & codependency?

I need to trust God with all my pain and loss if I’m going to help them. I want peace and serenity and confidence that “all is well and all shall be well,” and I want it to be real, not just the appearance of peace. I feel I have so far to go. I know I over-think, over-fret, but I also do *not* want to be caught off-guard, ambushed by emotions I can’t control.

January 13

I met with the family. Wow. Just wow. {Here for privacy’s sake, I will leave out the incredible struggles this family has been through.} I really am in the right place. Trying to watch my boundaries. I’m feeling privileged to help with the service. What an honor. God, make me an instrument of your peace.

This funeral is a challenge on so many levels. I want to be needed. I want to “do well.” Surprisingly, those unhealthy motivations are way less clamorous than they sometimes are, but I’m afraid they could creep in and knock me off-center.

And there’s this fear that I’ll identify too closely with the family and lose my composure at the service. Yesterday, I felt the opposite, afraid I’d be one of those distant, uninvolved, uncaring pastors: “I didn’t know the dead guy, but I wish I had.” I hate when they say that. So I looked into the son’s eyes and thought, “He just lost his father, I know that place.” But then I realized I do not need to take myself there, to pursue empathy. I err on the side of over-involved; there’s no danger of my being distant.

January 17

Surprised by tears again, bereft. I miss Biff so badly, even after two years. Did the funeral yesterday; today lunch with a new friend who didn’t know Biff’s story and asked a lot of questions that took me back there; Sunday grocery shopping *still* gets me — it’s when I used to shop for him and visit.

Then I was listening to music tonight and had to turn it off. Classical, sitar, and chants seem to be the only music I can safely listen to. And — Christmas, New Year’s, the two-year anniversary. I was braced for all that and felt I’d survived, so I guess my defenses came down. Mom’s birthday yesterday, same day as the funeral. Perfect storm.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I miss him. I fear I may be entering a time where the reality of the huge hole in me is becoming more clear. I’ll never love anyone that much again, and no one will ever love me like that again. A big chunk of my heart has been ripped out.

Heart wound

Heart wound

January 19

Better today. Maybe those waves of grief just need to happen. Life is not an easy thing.

I’m glad the funeral is over.

Today I read a quote from a guy saying that Martin Luther King was a saint because he was drawn to suffering; King said he was glad to be alive when things were such “a mess.” Well, maybe a saint. Or maybe codependent, like me. Needing to be needed, like me. Maybe a personality-type thing. Maybe all of the above.

January 20

Watched a great movie last night, one of Biff’s videos. “The Way” with Martin Sheen. It’s theme resonated, as he walked “the way” to Saint James’s traditional tomb in Spain to finish a pilgrimage started by his deceased son. Beautifully done. You can feel him walking towards closure and forgiveness for himself and his son.

I would like to out-walk my grief, “get beyond it.” I keep wanting to be free of some burden, some weight. But now it’s more like a shadow, and it will always accompany me, walk alongside. And I suppose from time to time it will overtake me or overshadow me — the rest of me. But I hope that in time the shadow will get lighter, fade somewhat. Or maybe it will integrate into me. My metaphors are confusing me. :-)

DSCN4764

♥♥♥

A related post: this powerful post from my blogging pastor-friend John Coleman starts out, “I’m used to burying strangers.” It gave me inspiration in the days leading up to officiating my first funeral.

I Have a Dream

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I Have a Dream.

Only words, a collection of letters, random markings made divine when early humans first scratched symbols in the dirt, trying to communicate with each other. Trying to connect. The animals are here. The water is here. This is the way. This is what I know.

Only words, but words are all we have, and so we keep scratching.

I picture Martin Luther King, Junior, scratching away, crossing out, circling words, drawing arrows from one paragraph to another, shaking his head, crumpling up his paper, and starting again. Forgetting to pray, getting frustrated, praying, and starting again. And again.

He had a dream, and he needed words. And eventually, God answered his prayers and gave him the words that have been such an unspeakable gift to the world. I have a dream . . .

Today some folks from my church are getting together to watch Dr. King’s historic speech. Afterwards, we’ll talk about racial justice, white privilege, and reconciliation. It will probably be hard to find the right words. We’ll be afraid of using the wrong words. It might be hard to hear some of the words that are spoken; I mean really hear them.

We’ll forget to pray, get frustrated, pray, and start again.

“This is my experience. This is what I know.”

Words of Love

Words are a gift from God. Of course, they can be misused, even turned into weapons. Just tune in to a presidential debate, FOX News, or a so-called “Christian” broadcasting channel and you’ll see how words can be used to drive wedges and stoke the fires of hate and fear.

But love is stronger than hate or fear. Dr. King knew this. Words of love and hope have more power than words of hate and fear could ever dream of having. His words reach across the decades, bridging the great differences that divide us and diving deep into the common spirit that unites every one of us, throughout all time and beyond time.

This week’s photo challenge from WordPress is to share a photo that reflects the word: alphabet. This MLK Day post was inspired by these two photos taken outside a community center in rural New Mexico:

DSCN4759

DSCN4760

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