28 Jul 2019

Tears are Holy Water

            Some years ago at a time of grief, a friend told me "tears are holy water." Aside from being an expression of deep emotion, tears are salt water that come from a blessed vessel. He was providing comfort at a difficult time, and giving me the gift of a safe space to cry.
            Those tears were a gift, and not just in the release of emotion that I had been holding in. Those tears were holy because they were liquid love; they were also a shared pain. My friend, in stating that he would witness my tears, was granting a safe and holy space of companionship and . He gave room for my emotions, a comfort of being in a safe space with a person who not consider me weak for crying, nor use those tears to mock me. The tears were holy as they fell in the midst of relationship, as the burden of grief was shared.
            In the past few weeks as my lovely old dog Guinness headed closer to his end, the tears have flowed easily, and abundantly. It has been a holy time; love has leaked out freely. I have been profoundly supported in this journey: friends have offered kind words and encouraging embraces. From sitting on a fur-covered floor with me ("there's something grand about crying on the floor with someone you love") to offers to accompany us when the time came, the time has been holy and the loving connections have meant the world to me. I have been ocularly emoting a lot of holy water.
            For me, crying with someone does not mean that I am wounded beyond composure; it means that I am able to be so vulnerable as to let my heart-broken reality come through. It means that I trust and appreciate our relationship that should the tears need to flow, I feel safe to lean on you for support - because our relationship is holy.
            When Guinness died, he had a belly full of cheese and treats (a typical lab!); he was embraced with love and prayer; and he was anointed with holy water as it flowed from my eyes.

20 Jul 2019

It's (not) Okay!

            While a phrase of many contexts, one use of "it's okay" really bothers me. This is when someone has been asked to respect a boundary, and uses it as a justification of their (perceived) entitlement to disrespect said boundary.
            An example from this week, a tourist approaching my dogs to pet them despite my asking her not to (the boys had been clear in their communication that they wanted to be left alone). But the tourist repeated "It's okay!" as she continued approaching. It took 3 times of my telling her it was NOT okay before she rejoined her tour group (with some uncomplimentary comments about myself).
            She had felt entitled to pet my dogs because she wanted to; and felt that her desire justified rejecting my refusal.
            Now, I understand the desire: my dogs are beautiful, and petting them is amazing; we get several requests each week. And I have been the person while traveling who has asked others if I might pet their dog.
            However: respect in the appropriate place needs to be understood and respected. Saying "it's okay" does not override the articulated boundary. The boundaries are there for a reason; comfort levels, safety issues, agency, etc.
            In the case of my dogs, this woman didn't know if they were healthy, trained, friendly; she just felt entitled to pet a cute (old) puppy. But she did not have the right to; and I did not need to explain to her my rationale - "it's okay" was in fact not okay. In reality, what it conveyed was that this woman not only disrespected my decision, she disrespected me. Her immediate wish was more important than my experience and discernment. Her preference was, in her opinion, more significant than anything I had to offer. Her arrogant assessment of "it's okay" suggested that she was to maintain all authority and power - over me, my dogs, the situation, and anything else she wanted.
            This slippery slope can, is we're not attentive, transcend into all areas of our lives, our communities, our churches. Yet we have the ability to be intentional about choosing to engage in healthy relationships where respect is paramount. It means not always getting our way, but trusting that the best or right thing is happening. It gives us the chance to respond to others with dignity and appreciation. We should ask and not presume; and if we don't understand why we've been denied something we may begin a conversation and dialogue about that thing, not disrespect the other with a dismissive "it's okay."
            It's okay to ask questions, and to ask permissions. It's okay to be granted or denied those permissions. What's not okay is to overstep boundaries, disrespect our brothers and sisters in Christ, and presume that we are entitled to whatever it is we want. And it's okay, when we are being asked, to establish boundaries that keep us feeling healthy and safe.
            It's okay to love one another, and to respect our boundaries. It's okay to keep our focus on building mutual respect and relationship from the practice of hearing, listening, and responding appropriately.

13 Jul 2019

Prayer for the Broken-Hearted

"Broken Heart" CC BY 2.0 by David Goehring (Flickr)

     We crumble, O Lord, at the denial of justice, and the rejection of rights. We are crushed by the burden of apathy and inequality. From our darkness, Lord, we pray.
     We pray in words, spoken from our lips and whispered in our hearts: in our crying for justice, our pleading for unity, and our keening for love.
     We pray in quietness: in our stunned silence, our audible anguish, and our noiseless numbness.
     Intercede for us, Holy Spirit, with your sighs too deep for words: for we live in a world where words are weapons, cutting through the love-lines that connect our bodies and souls.
     Sit with us, holy comforter, as we acknowledge the fullness of devastation of our broken heart. Keep us aware of your presence when we feel that fear has triumphed over hope.
Show us your perfect peace, stronger than anything that this world can give; more powerful than any hurt this world can inflict.

     And then help us, dear Christ, to stand again. Direct us, in our grief, to avoid blaming and shaming, to refuse to giving up. Help us to stand, and commence the journey from bleakness to light and life.
     Remind us of this pain when we encounter others, that we may be gracious to their suffering.
     Help us to use the strength of our sorrow to inspire us in service.
     Show us, individually and together, how to release our disappointment and anger; that we may begin to piece back together our shattered hearts and shaken faiths.
     Encourage us to strive for the dignity of all human beings, to seek and serve You in every way, to forgive, and to journey as Your beloved.
     For you are our God; we praise you, we need you, we trust in you, we come to you. Heal us, make us whole, show us how to love again. 

6 Jul 2019

Radical Hospitality


            I've just passed the 6-month mark in my new home. I've been reflecting on the radical hospitality that was extended during my welcome... especially as this has not ended. I arrived to people making an effort to make sure I felt comfortable and that I belonged here.  The intentionality of welcome has been delightfully overwhelming!
            We're now in the height of the summer season - and for this tourist community, that means welcoming a plethora of newcomers. Some are in town for a day, others for a month; some come to the church for worship throughout their duration, others just to catch a  glimpse of an admirable edifice.
            One of the things we in the church are intentional about is extending a radical hospitality, regardless of how long someone will be with us. It's not just a gift for a new cleric; we want everyone to feel special when they join us. Our church has pamphlets and tour guides, children's activity sheets and an abundance of smiles.
            In order to be as welcoming as we can, we tried to see the building and the service with first-time eyes: it's amazing how much we can take for granted, and how much we are trying to improve. It doesn't take much: announcing that the hymns are in the blue book, or putting a discreet sign on the washroom door (it otherwise looks like a classic confessional); providing basic information about our windows for younger explorers to understand the stained glass, or having fellowship outside the church rather than away in the hall. We keep our doors open, and tourists entering mid-worship are invited to join us (wherever we are in the service).
            What makes the difference is not the concrete things that have been done, but the willingness to do them. Choosing to be open to new ideas can be challenging (we know how Anglicans love change...), but such willingness is making sure that we are letting everyone who comes to us know that they are welcome, that they belong.
            The radical hospitality that we are trying to extend to our visitors and guests is also allowing us to consider how we interact with one another - and to seek out ways to improve our parish family relations in the process. 
            The gospel invites us to extend radical hospitality. It's a never-ending invitation; and the reality is that we won't always get it right. But with an open mind and a willing heart, we can be the church that Jesus has called us to be.