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Lenten “Silent Saturday” in the Time of COVID-19

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I’ve never quite known what to do with the “Silent Saturday” in between Good Friday and Easter. The day between the darkness of unspeakable evil and the dawn of a new life and hope for humanity. In the time of Jesus, his friends and family gathered together in grief, fear, uncertainty, and confusion. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end. Jesus was supposed to lead a revolution against the oppressive power of the Roman Empire, he was supposed to usher in an era of justice and peace for all. And instead, he was dead and here they were, huddled together, hiding out from the authorities and praying desperately for — what? They didn’t even know.

The followers of Jesus didn’t know what was to come, and it wasn’t looking good.

Not Looking Good

This whole COVID-19 period feels like a long, drawn-out Silent Saturday. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. We can’t trust our government, and it even seems to be working against us. We can’t trust their numbers, their plans, or their motives. We huddle together on Zoom, uncertain and powerless, some of us grieving, some of us afraid. Some of us pray; some of us simply hope because we can’t believe in prayer. We know this is an in-between time, but we don’t know what’s next.

During Silent Saturday, we wait.

In the Christian tradition, after that desperate Saturday came redemption and resurrection on Easter Sunday. I have faith that now as then, the love of God is too great to allow darkness and death to prevail, that love will win. I don’t think that the means or the timeline are always God’s will — I won’t get into theology — but I do believe that love is stronger than all the excrement the world can throw at it.

It is true that a whole lot of people are going to die, especially if the president is stupid enough to “open up America” in the middle of this pandemic and send his true-believers out into the streets to spread infection.

But how’s this for a resurrection story? Most sensible people will continue to stay home. Competent governors and health officials will work with civic-minded businesses to pull together a reality-based plan and non-mythical resources that gradually turn around the infection and death rates.

Then there’s an election in November. The majority of Americans were not fooled by the misinformation in trump’s daily “press conference” rallies and hold him responsible for the testing/resources fiasco. He loses, bigly.

With the economy and our health care system in shambles, President Joe Biden and Vice President Michelle Obama (I know, I know, but just imagine!) have a clean slate. Together with younger progressive leaders, they end voter suppression so this never happens again, and we build a more just, equitable America from the ground up. A Green New Deal creates a massive jobs program, and we become a world leader in climate solutions.

Happy Easter, a day early!

Light in the Darkness

Grocery Shopping in the Time of COVID-19

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Who would ever have imagined that grocery shopping could be such a stressful experience? Or that there would be a dozen articles published with conflicting advice about how to do it?

Go now, quick, before there are more cases!

Wait as long as you possibly can.

Wear a mask, don’t wear a mask.

Run in, grab a few things, make a dash for the exit. Stock up with enough to last you for an age.

Disinfect your groceries, don’t disinfect your groceries.

Just making my list this morning was harrowing. Putting it all in order so that I can make a direct run down every aisle, not retracing my steps, not pondering brands or quantity, avoiding other humans at all costs. How fast can I select a mango? Will there even be mangos? If there aren’t mangos, should I go for pineapple or oranges? Will there even be pineapples or oranges?

And marshmallows. Where do they keep the marshmallows? I never buy marshmallows. Do I really need them? My neighbor and I had a fire pit the other night, and we roasted the rock-hard ones she found in the back of her pantry. Actually, we had two separate fire pits, eight feet apart so neither one of us would be the cause of the other’s death.

Strange Times, Indeed

The last time I went grocery shopping, I stood in front of the honey jars and cried. I couldn’t decide which kind to buy, and I was scared. I was taking too long. Every other shopper looked like a landmine. A safe and familiar place had become a dangerous battleground.

Today I’m especially nervous because I hadn’t planned to go, so I’m not mentally prepared. Though some of my neighbors are shopping every few days, it’s been two-plus weeks for me, and I could easily make it another week. But my prescription has run out, so I’ve got to enter the combat zone anyway. May as well suck it up and do this thing.

I’m going to wear a mask, even though it’ll make me feel silly. Plus they seem to have become controversial, as has everything since the ascension of the Divider in Chief. I don’t want to get into the politics of masks here, I’ll just note that it’s criminally obscene that our government cannot equip our hospitals — at least not if a particular governor isn’t bowing down to the man who fancies himself King of America.

Right now, I cannot even think about that man’s incompetence and purposeful viciousness. I need all my energy to confront the produce aisle.

What To Do On A Rainy Monday In The Time of COVID-19

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A rainy Monday in the time of COVID-19. The perfect day for some quiet reflection. I’m finding a lot of comfort in nature and try to get outside a bit every day. Being under the open sky and listening to bird song reminds me that life goes on, that God’s other creatures are carrying on, and that this current crisis will pass. Please, if you’re hunkering down and think you can’t step outside the house, think again. It just might save your mental health. Simply stay six feet from other people.

I’ve been sharing nature-based contemplative practices with some of my church friends, and today’s is an inside activity because it’s raining where we are. I’ve adapted it so it’s more accessible to people who don’t connect with God.

Today I’m considering fire, one of the most attention-grabbing creations. Even if you’re not spiritually inclined, it’s not hard to see the powerful and divine nature of fire: If you’ve ever lost track of time staring into a fire, you know how compelling it can be — and if you’ve ever been around an out-of-control fire, you know how frightening it can be. A famous Bible story says that when God seriously needed Moses to listen up, he set a bush on fire!

At some point today, set aside time to reflect on fire. Grab your journal or some writing paper, and light a candle. You may want to take off your shoes, signifying that you are coming as you are and that you’re willing to be honest with yourself.

Sit quietly, take a few deep breaths, slowly breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you breathe, watch the flame of your candle, and consider:

Fire is essential to the natural world. It kills diseases and insects that damage trees, clears away undergrowth, and provides nutrients to enrich soil. Fire purifies the landscape and makes way for new growth and diversity. Reflect and journal about what needs to be cleared out of your mind and heart, what needs purifying. What needs to be stripped away to allow for new growth and diversity? Write about this as long as you like.

Now consider the pine cone. There are certain pine cones (like the lodgepole pine) that literally cannot reproduce without fire. You’ve probably seen them — the kind that are closed up tight, almost glued together. Such cones can hang in a tree for fifty years, just waiting for a passing fire to melt the resin that glues them shut and release their seeds. Journal some more, considering what parts of you are “glued shut.” What beliefs or fears keep you closed up tight to the world, never releasing your energy to new ways of being?

After you’ve finished journaling, if you are the hearty type, why not grab a raincoat and umbrella and go out for short walk in the rain? Don’t forget to blow out your candle! Maybe you can find a pine cone to bring home to remind you to keep your heart and mind open to the flame of purification and new growth.

Be safe, be well, be open.

The Wearing of the Green During COVID-19

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Happy Saint Patty’s Day!! It feels wrong to use the word “happy” or “!!” marks during these stressful and uncertain times. The COVID 19 virus seems to have zapped our happiness and enthusiasm. It surely has mine. I’m working on another post about that, but I’m going to share this in the meantime because it’s ready to go.

I wrote this reflection for a church group that’s been meeting outside during Lent to connect with God through nature. Since “social distancing” dictates that we can’t meet together anymore, we are doing daily outdoor practices like this instead. Because social distancing doesn’t mean you have to stay inside!

As we keep away from other people, it’s also good time to come closer to a Higher Power, “whom some of us choose to call God,” as they say in the Twelve Step program.

Natural Spirits

Sometimes when we think of the “natural world,” we leave ourselves out of it, as if we are somehow separate from the rest of nature. Yet our bodies are made of the same stardust as the rest of creation, and we need air and water to live just as the other creatures do. Likewise, we may think of our bodies and spirits as separate from each other. Yet our bodies are the vessels in which we carry our little sparks of the divine, and they are instruments of service to the world.

The Celtic Christians of Saint Patrick’s time understood these connections and made them an important part of their worship. Today’s spiritual practice is inspired by the Celtic “breastplate prayer” of St. Patrick, but I’ve changed the word “Christ” to “Love,” in order to make it more accessible and inclusive. After all, the Bible tells us that God is Love. Feel free to adapt it any way you like.

This body prayer is meant to be done outside where you can stretch out and breathe deeply. Don’t worry, your neighbors will just think you’re doing yoga 🙂

Welcoming Love

Take your time, stretching your arms up over your head, to the sides, bending over, tip-toeing — however seems fitting for each phrase. Say the words out loud. Afterwards, go for a nice walk, remembering that Love is all around you and in you, just waiting to be recognized and welcomed. Make your whole walk a prayer and end it with a hearty, “Amen!”

Love be with me – (open your hands)

Love within me – (hands on heart)

Love behind me

Love before me

Love beside me

Love beneath me

Love above me

Love in my mind

Love in my mouth

Love in my hands

Love in my heart                

Amen and amen!

 

Can Democrats Agree to Disagree? Apparently Not.

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My incredibly adorable two-year-old neighbor just stopped by with her mom and presented me with a baggie of walnut mini-muffins. Her mother eyed me warily, knowing of my obsession with politics (like anyone who has known me for five minutes), and said, “How are you feeling today, happy or sad?”

I was stumped, surprised to realize that I did not know! I am certainly feeling a lot of feelings, but I’m not sure I can label them. Could be lack of sleep, sitting in bed with my laptop and watching Super Tuesday returns till the wee hours.

“Mixed,” I finally said. “Mostly sad, I guess, because I don’t think we can beat trump without unity, and I don’t see how either of these candidates in this climate can get us there.”

“Enjoy your day,” piped the incredibly adorable two year old.

In Search of Unity

I was told this morning when I posted an article on Facebook about the need for Democratic unity and the importance of reaching out and building coalitions that I was spreading “Republican talking points.” OK, then. I myself haven’t heard anyone in the GOP talking about the need for Democrats to unite and broaden their coalition, but whatever.

I fear that Democrats just aren’t in the mood to unify. We’ve all caught the trump disease: it seems that respect for others is a thing of the past.

Bernie & Biden: Never the Twain Shall Meet

I don’t see Bernie bringing the left-of-center and center together because many of his zealous supporters can’t help insulting and sometimes vilifying baby-boomers, moderates, people desperately seeking post-trump stability, and basically anyone who does not agree with them. Bernie comes across as a divisive person, he just does. He has to stop wagging his finger.

Here’s what one Facebook friend says: “Watching CSPAN over the years, both Sanders and Warren ‘show up’ as confrontational, acerbic, and aggressive. They both remind me often in their finger -pointing techniques of my overly pious Catholic school teachers. I honestly cannot stand that type of public oratory, self-righteous to say the least.” 

Meanwhile, many of Biden’s supporters aren’t excited about him, they just think he has the best chance of beating trump and that he promises a quiet place where we can heal for a few years. He talks about unity and normalcy and decency. That’s awfully appealing to a lot of people right now, but it doesn’t necessarily get anyone out knocking on doors and trying to persuade their neighbors to vote. And the word “normalcy” is a bad word to some, meaning corporate domination, racism, sexism, etc. 

Biden clearly represents the past, and many of us are done with the past. Still, to many voters, Obama/Biden days seem a hell of a lot better than the present situation, and a good starting point to move to the future. You may call this fear or you may call it pragmatism, but please don’t call it evil. 

Everybody Get Together

The argument that young people and other disaffected Bernie voters wouldn’t ever vote for Biden may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy in the echo chambers of social media. So far, younger voters aren’t turning out in the primary the way we had hoped, but they are surely needed in the general!

And now, their anger and frustration at the way the primary process works — carefully timed endorsements from influential people, coupled with second-tier candidates dropping out and coalescing around a popular candidate who most closely reflects their views — leads to cries of #RiggedElection!, which will further suppress the Democratic vote in November. That’s why trump is bloviating about the process being “rigged against Bernie,” and it’s why Russian bots try to undermine faith in our electoral process. 

Our process is most definitely flawed. It’s hard to deny that voter suppression efforts are aimed at people of color and lower income neighborhoods. And money runs our politics, plain and simple (though three cheers for Billionaire Bloomberg being unable to outright buy the nomination).

Both of our top candidates are definitely flawed, as well. And am I mad as a hornet that our choice is between two very old white guys? You bet I am. But friends, neither Bernie nor Biden comes close to being as flawed as the atrocity that sits in the Oval today. Let’s get it together, folks, literally.

Enjoy your day.

Two very old white guys

“Come on people now, smile on your brother

Everybody get together, try to love one another

Right now.”

The Youngbloods, 1967

*** Disclaimer: all opinions my own. No Republican talking points included ***

Questioning Christianity

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I continually struggle with the term “Christian,” as I know many of us do these days. For a religion that has framed itself as having all the answers, it surely has some questions to answer.

 

These days, of course, the main question I hear from Christians and non-Christians alike is how on God’s green earth could millions of Christians *still* be supporting trump? Heck of a good question, one that this particular Christ-follower struggles with and prays about daily.

A closely related but more important question for me is this: how, how, HOW did a religion that began with (and is ostensibly still aligned with) a leader who preached love, compassion, and radical inclusion end up preaching wrath, judgment, and exclusion?

Perfect Love Drives Out Fear

How did fear of a place called “hell” become the driving force in the effort to recruit followers to a religion whose God is Love, according to their holy book? Here’s a news flash: To most humans, a wrathful God who will banish you to a fiery place of eternal conscious torment if you dare question “Him” doesn’t sound like good news. At all.

Will the “Christian Church” as a body ever grow out of their fear-fueled need for answers, certainty, & control, and open their collective minds and hearts to the deepest truths in their sacred book? Can they overcome their fear of not having all the answers and instead allow God’s mysterious love and endless grace to have the last word?

“The opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty.” — Anne Lamott

New Year’s Reflections of an Extremely Eclectic Blogger

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Happy new year, friends! I especially want to greet all you readers who’ve just recently wandered into my little patch of the virtual world, which I call Writing With Spirit. My guess is that you newbies followed WWS because of my travel/photo entries from New Zealand, my weight loss posts, or my musings in the Twitter #WritingCommunity.

I’d love to give you an introduction or overview of some sort, but like any semi-spiritual endeavor, Writing With Spirit is not linear and it’s not easy to characterize. Let’s just call it eclectic.

Psychology, Politics, and the Planet

It won’t take you long to discern that focus is not my forte. I originally intended to write about the spiritual & psychological aspects of de-cluttering, but since I’ve done very little decluttering in the eight years since I started blogging, that kind of fell by the wayside. Plus, it was an election year, and I quickly fell into politics, which I’m addicted to, for better or worse. Mostly worse, since the traumatic events of November 2016.

Those traumatic events also transformed my peaceful poems about mother nature into rants about environmental policy and the evils of greed and corporate power. OK, I probably ranted about those before trump, but now it’s, it’s . . . I mean, what can I say? Everything I worked for in my thirty years as a Sierra Club lobbyist in D.C. is being decimated. Who knew how fast all that progress could be reversed? Oh, and incidentally, the survival of humankind and countless other species is now under serious question.

This is what climate change looks like; Australia 2020

Addiction, Grief, and Pretty Pictures

But let’s talk about something more pleasant, like addiction and mental health. My Dad was an alcoholic, and some of my friends struggle as well. I used to have quite a taste for cocaine, myself. I spent eight years in therapy, and even more in twelve-step groups for people who love people with addictions. So sometimes I write about addiction or recovery or mental and emotional health.

Then there’s death. I lost my Mom, my brother, and several good friends in recent years, so there’s a lot of grief processing in this blog (though praise God, less than there used to be). As far as edification and practicality go, I think those blog posts are some of my best. You might want to use the search function to explore my musings on grief if you are in a dark place.

On a lighter note, I’m a writer and I love words, so sometimes I’ll do an entire post about one word that captures my attention. I’m currently wrestling with my memoir, so I write about writing (or not writing). I also lost forty pounds in 2019 by using the Noom weight-loss plan, and I’ve started to share about that experience. I love traveling and taking pictures, so my followers journey along with me. Last year we went to Seattle, British Columbia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and New Zealand.

Shell Shadow on Himatangi Beach, New Zealand

 

Tree Art near Seattle, Washington

 

Rose, Hamilton Gardens New Zealand

 

Cat Greets the Dawn in Albuquerque, New Mexico

Let Us Not Talk Falsely Now

At my core, I’m a God-seeker and a Jesus follower, hence the name Writing With Spirit. That is my center, because like the French philoshper-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, I believe “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

I suppose you would call me a progressive Christian, though I don’t care for the tag Christian, since it’s generally come to mean judgmental, mean-spirited, exclusionary, and not particularly thoughtful. My faith moves me to care deeply about social justice and the poor and especially dismantling racism. So I write about that stuff, too.

Because all that I hold dear is under attack, I often take jabs at the current president. I can’t help it. I try to be nice, but let’s be real.

“Let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late.”

–Bob Dylan

So there you have it. An introduction and overview. Sort of. It’s not what I meant to write when I sat down. That was just supposed to be the first sentence or two. Anyway, various posts may or may not appeal to you, but I hope you’ll stick with me on this journey. And if you have any friends who might want to accompany us, please invite them. Cause check it out! I’m only two followers away from 5,000, and even though it’s only a number, and recognition and affirmation and all that rot isn’t important (and we’ve seen what happens when it reaches pathological levels), still — it’s kinda cool.

Thanks for your support for my ramblings in 2019!

Oh, have I mentioned I have Attention Deficit Disorder? Do I need to at this point? Sometimes I write about that, too.

Happy 2020!!

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