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Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

Ramadan, and the wounding of blessings

via wikicommons

via wikicommons

I love the idea of Ramadan, as I’ve written before. I like the idea of doing without (although I am nooo good at it!), to remind us of our many blessings. I use that term w/ some trepidation, as most Americans associate the word ‘blessing’ with a divine gift. I’m using it more in the original sense — infused with bloody marks to escape wrath and bad luck.

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Blessing derives from the same root as the French verb blesser — to wound. So that a blessing is a kind of wound, a gift that brings with it pain. For me, it’s the pain of knowing my  luck (and often it’s that alone: privilege conferred by birth, really) isn’t universal. A kind of offshoot of survivor guilt, in an oddly sympathetic way.

Ramadan reminds not to dismiss that unease, because it connects me to the real world. Each year I hope to participate, in my  Buddhist journey. Islam has become so vilified in the West that the many wonderful charities and actions of the faith are lost to most Americans. Ramadan — so much like our Lent, and far far more onerous — is only one. Muslims will be observing this holy fast for another week and a half, until the Eid al-Fitr breaks on the 16th of July.

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via flickr

via flickr

Right now, as I write, Muslims across the world are attempting to fast in hellish conditions: long days of sunlight (fasting is from dawn to dusk, more than 16 hours in some places) and temperatures consistently above 100° F (one day it hit 112.64°; another 108°). Despite the Prophet Mohammed’s insistence that to fast during travel, illness, or extreme circumstances is as disobedient as not to fast when life is normal, many devout Muslims — like many devout followers of other faiths — seek to follow their will, not religious text.

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This breaks my heart, but also inspires a kind of head-shaking awe. I can’t comfortably go a day w/out food for my physical! To go a month, w/ only small meals after sunset? Wow. And even young pre-teens attempt this. When was the last time you heard of tweens in the US getting down for Lent?

So here is a heartfelt shout-out to my friends keeping Ramadan, and I have several. It’s an observance of faith that inspires me, and I’m grateful for that. To stop for a moment, and consider the many many in the world so very less fortunate? What a blessing. Wound though it is, as well.

 

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celebrating what’s right

via google

via google

For some reason, if you’re not unconditionally in love with America, you’re not considered patriotic. In fact, I’ve been accused (more than once) of being anti-American.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth. In the same way that those who love you know your foibles best, I am all too well aware of America’s imperfections. The news is full of them on a daily basis.

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But I’m also proud of her many many accomplishments, which are amazing. Most of us can vote. All of us can go to school, free! We have roads to faraway places that used to take months to travel to — I remember hearing my grandmother talking about coming from Texas to Oklahoma in a wagon. Wow.

We have the most beautiful country in the world: the Pacific Northwest’s green & silver rivers, the grasslands of Oklahoma beneath its endless sky, the blue mountain ridges of Appalachia. The deltas and islands that float on water. The birds that flicker like their own small fireworks through trees. Deer and bison and fox and wolf. Bear and mountain lion. Raptor & songbird.

And everywhere, the still-living dream of success, however you define that: a higher education, a dream job, a home. Yes, there are flaws in all these scenarios, for many Americans. But it remains a good place to live, and a good place to work to make better.

This Fourth of July, take a moment to list what you love about America. Even if you’re often exasperated with her, I guarantee you the good things will far outnumber the not-so-good!

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grumpy days

via commons.wikimedia

via commons.wikimedia

In case you’re wondering? I have no magic cure for grouchy days. Those days when every chore you have to do looms like Everest, and even the things that normally bring you pleasure seem a pain in the neck.

You just muddle through. You do the things you’d planned — even if they aren’t particularly gladdening — and continue moving. You also take a moment now & then to check in: huh… still grouchy & blue…wonder what that’s about.

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Whatever you do, you don’t take it out on others. You try to remember that their own lives are often less-than-perfect, as well. That it’s a hot summer day, and even watermelon won’t completely fix it. (But word to self: it helps!)

You watch birds. You put the top down, if you’re lucky enough to have a convertible or sunroof. You turn the grocery trip you can’t stand into a foray into things you miiiiight like eating. Later, when you’re not hot & cranky.

So nope: I have no magic fixes. All I can offer is watermelon, birds on a hot summer day, and coloured pencils. Wind in your hair. Good music. They won’t fix things, but they do make time pass a bit less…darkly. Oh! And don’t forget ~ breathe.

Good luck.

 

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secrets, closets, and religious judgment

closet door2I have a dear friend who is, almost certainly, gay. We never discuss this — sexual behaviour isn’t a normal topic of conversation in most friendships! I worry that my friend has no partner, that my friend’s church and community are adamantly judgmental — in the most negative of ways — of gays.

To come out of the closet, for my friend, would mean losing most of the many communities to which my friend belongs. It breaks my heart.

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I grew up in a traditional Methodist household. We attended church on Sundays, Sunday school before, and youth group on Wednesday nights. I was christened as an infant, and baptised as a young teen. It’s what the children of my social group did — as did many many other American children.

But somewhere along the line, the four of us sisters refused the KoolAid that tied religion to hatred. When my youth group director said we couldn’t invite ‘those kids’ — the poorer kids from our school, the brown kids — I dropped out. My reading of the Bible didn’t include her narrow-mindedness. When my ostensibly Christian peer group shunned a girl because of rumours a boy spread about her — rumours that could not be true, as I’d been with her when he alleged ‘things happened’ — I stopped being friends with them. And wasn’t in the least saddened to do so: their talk was only that.

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the author's childhood Bible

the author’s childhood Bible

I’ve never understood how so many Christians justify their cherry-picking of Scripture. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover, and am starting over w/ a scholar’s version — heavily annotated w/ historical context and translation. It’s the text of our culture, despite what spiritual tradition I may choose to follow instead. So I’m familiar w/ Leviticus, the main source of homosexual-targeted hatred. And let me tell you: if you’re not keeping ALL of Leviticus? You’re cherry-picking. It’s pretty evident if you are: if you’re a man, and don’t have a long beard? Cherry-picking. Woman w/ short hair? Cherry-picking. Divorced? Cherry-picking. Eating shrimp or pork? Cherry-picking.

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In other words: whatever drives your fear/ hatred of gays, it isn’t Biblical scripture, or you’d be keeping kosher and stoning people.

My friend will almost certainly never ‘come out’ of the closet an ostensibly religious community has locked devout Christian gays in. To do so would be to ‘divorce’ the religion my friend is passionately committed to. It would mean ‘disappointing’ — a mild term, I’m sure — an entire network of devout Christian family.  All for… what? The possibility of a life-long partner? Face certain ostracism — this is not an issue evangelicals are kind about, too often — for ‘possibility’? I can’t see my friend gambling an entire life of family, community, & religion for a ‘possible.’

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via google

via google

So in this rainbow-hued week of supposed triumph, I am grieving. Because while laws will, eventually, change the beliefs of many, those changes will be too late for my dear friend. And that seems so very counter to the New Testament Jesus I loved as a child. I still remember judge not lest you bejudged. And let he who is without sin cast the first stone. And the Beatitudes, and the whole idea that Jesus was the new beginning. We were supposed to listen to JESUS, not the horrible Elijah, or the other prophets who still seem so full of anger & hate. Anger — in the New Testament, at least — was reserved for the money-lenders (bankers, anyone?). The Pharisees (the legal system). NOT average folks trying to muddle through their lives, loving as science shows they were born.

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Perhaps you don’t know and love any gay men or women. Perhaps no one in your family has had the courage to let you in on his or her private life. So perhaps ‘gays’ remain a term w/ no face for you. Let me offer my own face, made deeply sad by the plight of my dear friend. Who may well never know the love of two deeply committed human beings, bound by choice through life. Because of hate masquerading as a religion of love.

Previous Posts

Ramadan, and the wounding of blessings
I love the idea of Ramadan, as I've written before. I like the idea of doing without (although I am nooo good at it!), to remind us of our many blessings. ...

posted 4:15:11pm Jul. 05, 2015 | read full post »

celebrating what's right
For some reason, if you're not unconditionally in love with America, you're not considered patriotic. In fact, I've been accused (more than once) of being ...

posted 5:37:10pm Jul. 04, 2015 | read full post »

grumpy days
In case you're wondering? I have no magic cure for grouchy days. Those days when every chore you have to do looms like Everest, and even the things ...

posted 2:51:19pm Jul. 03, 2015 | read full post »

secrets, closets, and religious judgment
I have a dear friend who is, almost certainly, gay. We never discuss this -- sexual behaviour isn't a normal topic of conversation in most friendships! I worry that my friend has no partner, that my friend's church and community are adamantly ...

posted 2:02:52pm Jul. 01, 2015 | read full post »

a surefire cure for the blues
Carrots?? Carrots cure the blues?? Welllll, not exactly... But a trip to the Farmer's Market, a cast iron skillet, and an hour+ of prep time will. For sure. ...

posted 5:29:43pm Jun. 27, 2015 | read full post »

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