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Republican Apocalypse

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REPUBLICAN APOCALYPSE

I had some trouble sleeping last night. My subconscious was taken over by an angry alien with violence in his eyes and what looked like orange cotton candy sprouting from his head. He was on a tirade, waving his arms and yelling, “We’re going to make them pay! Everybody’s gonna pay!”

Then this sweaty little person with humongous ears started imitating the alien, jumping up and down and waving his arms and yelling, “You’re repeating yourself, you’re repeating yourself!”

The alien shrieked, “I do not repeat myself! I do not repeat myself! I do not repeat myself!”

“Win, win, win!” he repeated.

His skin was getting redder and I was afraid he might explode and get that orange stuff all over me.

“We’re gonna grab and grab and grab and bring in so much money and so much everything. We’re gonna make everybody pay. Except Israel. I love Israel.”

Ah, an Israel reference. Perhaps I was just having a run-of-mill apocalypse nightmare, and the orange guy was the Anti-christ.

“Everybody’s gonna pay. Everybody.”

Yup, sounds about right.

Some grandfatherly guy started talking about how they should all get along, and maybe everyone should go into a room somewhere in Ohio and lock the door until they calmed down.

The orange Anti-christ and the guy with the flapping ears ignored him until he tried to speak again, and then Orange said “I’d like to punch him in the face. In the old days, that guy would be carried out on a stretcher.”

A crowd started jeering and cheering.

I got worried about the grandfatherly guy and felt panic setting in. People could get hurt. I could sense the beginning of the end of the world, and there was nothing I could do about it. The only weapons I had were Facebook and Twitter.

Then an African-American guy who had been tangled up in the curtains finally freed himself and bounded into the chaos. I suspect he may also have been an alien because he didn’t seem to have full command of the language and he appeared to be listening to voices in his head. He extended ten super-long appendages that might have been fingers and said we should all hold hands and celebrate “the fruit salad of our lives.”

Well, why not? Makes about as much sense as anything else in the dream.

End Times

End Times

Please note: if you have not been watching the Republican debates, this will make no sense whatsoever. Just like the debates, actually.

Who Said Anything About Sex?

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WHO SAID ANYTHING ABOUT SEX?

As it turns out, generating three hundred words a day isn’t as easy as it sounds. I may rue the day I agreed to join this writing challenge with my fellow Hopkins grad school alumni.

I started work on a “spiritual memoir” that’s been gestating for more than a year: 871 words the first day, 467 the second, and 436 the third day. Then I took a two-day break, brought on by the total absence of anything to say.

My spiritual memoir had taken a decidedly sordid turn and become all about my awakening sexuality, something I had no intention of writing about. Within the first three days, I’d played spin-the-bottle and kissed the neighborhood pastor’s son, a gangly gay boy who later died of AIDS; had my first “real” kiss in a church basement while a psychedelic sock-hop raged upstairs (if you don’t know what a sock-hop is, consider yourself fortunate); and fallen hard for a missionary’s son who touched my thirteen-year-old breasts and left me reeking of Jade East cologne.

So you tell me – wouldn’t you run from that? God only knows where the next three hundred words might take me.

Runaway Narrative

I have no apparent control over the narrative of my own story. I start off musing about how I came to know God and end up being felt-up by a missionary’s son. And I know what happens once I hit the later teen-aged years. It’s not pretty and it probably wouldn’t be shelved in spiritual memoir.

Worse yet, I have journals from all those years, and this whole enterprise may lead me into a long-delayed exploration of those yellowed pages. The last time I read back through my journals was in 1980. Really.

So I’m tempted to drop the whole memoir idea and go back to doing profiles and interviews, which I enjoy and which are clearly safer than allowing my pen to roam where it likes. It seems easier to find meaning in other people’s lives than in my own.

Truth Happens

But no. I’ve been here before: I know that when a story has a will of its own, it probably has good reasons for wanting to emerge. A story I wrote about Willa Cather turned out to be about my relationship with my alcoholic father. A story about our family house turned out to be about finding strength in the suffering of women ancestors. A story about an endangered tortoise turned out to be about my search for the sacred.

Writing is a spiritual act for me, an act of co-creating with God. I need to surrender to the process and trust that there are transformational truths hidden in strange and unexpected places.

I’ll go back to the memoir when I’m ready. In the meantime, blogging counts towards my daily word goal, so here are my 475 words.

 

Melanie 14

Reeking of Jade East cologne

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.”

ashes

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)

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