Lauren’s CRAN: “Places, Please!”

I’m here!  I’m in Nebraska!  And I have that, “Places, Please!” feeling.

Parvati, newly arrived in Nebraska -- ready for assembly!

Parvati, newly arrived in Nebraska — ready for assembly!

My love for theatre began in grade school; I had the good fortune of performing a lot in Lincoln, NE.  It was my sophomore in high school when I realized that even before the Stage Manager called, “Places!” I was often already in the wings, praying.  Being in the wings is a holy ground, of sorts.  It’s that space of putting one’s trust in the rehearsals and preparation, combined with the creative tension that ceaselessly nudges for further refinement, fresh paint, the freedom to risk a little.  Praying before a performance is my way of surrendering: please remind me to use all I’ve been given.  Please grace me with the ease and spontaneity of Being Present.

My CRAN (Climate Ride Across Nebraska) is no different, but more to the point, neither is our miraculous life on this fine planet-home!   Tomorrow, my Mom and Parvati and I will drive North and West to Chadron, NE, where I will begin my ride.  And, if this were merely, “a ride,” I don’t suppose I would be feeling butterflies.  This ride is a joyful, prayer-filled pilgrimage!

Please remember the stakes:  We cannot promise our children’s children will have clean water, or land, or air.

And please remember the promise: As highly intelligent, capable and creative mammals, the Divine invites each one of us to bring our love, our ingenuity, and our Whole Self to every moment.  My CRAN is rooted in a truth worth celebrating — that we are all (humans, animals, the elements) interconnected, blessed, and worth saving.”

You’re receiving this message because I want to share this week’s events with you.  I’ve committed to do the pedaling, my friends.  You can help me with your prayers and donations.  For those who have already donated, thank you, thank you.  Just this afternoon, I reached my minimum goal of $8000…so I’m raising the bar!  The proceeds from this ride will be divided between my three, specially-selected & amazing beneficiaries: 350.org, Interfaith Power & Light, and World Bicycle Relief.  You can make a secure online donation NOW by clicking on the ‘Support Me‘ button found on my Climate Ride page. You’ll automatically receive an acknowledgment and I will be notified by email of your support. Thank you for your help!

Climate Ride, 2011

Climate Ride, 2011

The Sweet Relief of Failure

 

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” 

– Oscar Wilde

 You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing.  What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover will be yourself.

– Alan Alda

 

It was early March, 2003.  I was lying face down on the cool cement floor of the rebar-and-cinder-block room that was ours for the two-week Buddhist retreat.  Observing my discomfort, despair and self-doubt, my dear friend Dave exclaimed, “Oh, Lauren, look what’s happening!  You came all the way to India, and brought yourself!”

 

The ghats on the Ganges, Varinasi, India.  Photo courtesy: Dave Adair

The ghats on the Ganges, Varinasi, India.            Photo courtesy: Dave Adair

Good grief, he was right!  And what had I expected?  I’m sheepish to admit it, but here – in the safe, privacy of the worldwide web – I will confess that a part of me had journeyed to the sacred land of MotherIndia believing I would, through magical osmosis, become a Mother Theresa, a Dharma Teacher, an enlightened Buddha.  And that if I didn’t, I. Had. Failed.

Wow.

And what feels even MORE “wow” about that, is that I have done this repeatedly in my life.  When I arrived at Carnegie Mellon’s drama department, I was an impressionable 18 year old who believed (because I auditioned and got in), that I knew something about theatre.  My peers and that school worked me, and I misinterpreted most of it, convinced that I was supposed to become that…or them.  And that if I didn’t, I. Had. Failed.

Lil Abner, Theatre West Virginia, 1994

Lil Abner, Theatre West Virginia, 1994                 (Far left is me)

Last week, I was gifted with a very special opportunity.  I received a scholarship, given to one woman cyclist each year, to attend a training camp designed for ultra-distance cyclists.  I was excited, and a little nervous, but what the heck?  I ride 200 miles in a day sometimes, I know something about cycling.  Uh-huh…

Due to scheduling complications, I arrived late and tired, which made the first day of training ambitious.  The second day was hard.  The third day was harder still.  Endurance cyclists, I noted, were ridiculously humble, and for good reason: no matter how far one rides, another can (and will) always ride farther.  My fellow campers were insanely accomplished ultra-distance cyclists.  The familiar, wobbly feelings were back; and they were preying upon my mind as steadily as the bumpy road and relentless headwind on my tired butt and wind-burnt face, If I don’t ride a trillion-gazillion miles on my bike and cross every continent in 6 hours by the time I’m fifty, will I. Have. Failed????

Once again, I had come ALLLL the way to brand new life experience, and I had brought myself.

 

“You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?”
― Dr. Seuss

 

PAC Tour selfie, Coronado Nat'l Forest, AZ

PAC Tour selfie, Coronado Nat’l Forest, AZ

 

Sometimes, I have to REMEMBER it’s pleasant.  It’s preceded by the very UNpleasant part of forgetting.  In such moments, I am extremely grateful to those of you who firmly remind me that:

  • We already had a Buddha
  • The necessity of artistic expression extends beyond receiving a Tony award
  • It’s completely okay if I do not love the pain that is saddling a bike for 36+ hours

There is a sweet relief in failure.  In the dissolution of Being and Not Being, we see once more that “being me,” is a moment-to-moment invention.  We actually get to choose, over and over again, how we want to receive what’s being offered.

 

Last Day of Training Camp with PAC Tour hosts/cycling-stars, Lon and Susan

Last Day of Training Camp with PAC Tour hosts/cycling-stars, Lon and Susan

But don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others.  Unfold your own myth…

Start walking toward (your Love).  Your legs will get heavy and tired.

Then comes a moment of feeling the wings you’ve grown, lifting.

-Rumi

 

Leaving the Rule Book on the Floor

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.

– Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī 

In motorsports we work in the grey areas a lot.  You’re trying to find where the holes are in the rule book.

– Danica Patrick

 

My guess and my hope is that there are more Eco-chaplains out there.

– Lauren Van Ham, Renewing Ceremony (2007)

 

 When the solution is simple, God is answering.

-Albert Einstein

 

 

Last week, in session with a holistic therapist, I was challenged on a few life practices I’ve not once questioned:  I mentioned the loyalty I felt to my Ordination vows, the dedication I put into creating harmonious relationships, and the gratitude I feel for the amazing parenting efforts of my Mom.  And the therapist said,

 

“Sounds like a lot of rules….”

 

Whoa.  Lying on the table, my eyes closed, I crept my Ego over to this new point of view…and I took a look.  “What’s happening?” questioned the therapist.  Stifling a shriek and feeling my heart fight to remain in my chest, I said, “I feel like the etiquette book just fell on the floor.”

 

Has anyone seen the etiquette book, please?

Has anyone seen the etiquette book, please?

 

There is no Rule Book.  In my life I have so often wanted one, that I create them.  Continuously.  Consciously and unconsciously.  It’s ok; you can say it!  I’ve known for a long time now that I’m a late bloomer.  Nevertheless, at the ripe age of 41, my world is rocking with this ancient, duh!, love-it-or-hate-it-but-you-can’t-change-it realization.  There is no Rule Book.

 

Courtesy: Google images

Photo courtesy: Google images

At first breath, this scares the bee-jeebies out of me.  I mean, c’mon, there are a few things I can count on, right?  Well yes…sort of.  And sort of not.

So, I take a deeeeep breath.  Then I remember (because I keep forgetting and re-remembering) that I wasn’t put here with some expectation to figure it out, or hold it together, or for that matter, to live out any specific agenda at all.  Zoiks!

 

How freeing is that?  I mean, wow!  When we look around, it’s abundantly clear there are a lot of ways to live a life.  This sacred, miraculous, mammalian, fragile, resilient life of ours….

 

Flash to Danica Patrick.  Ummm, did the Eco-chaplain really include a quote from Danica Patrick in her blog intro?  She did  (no rules).  [note: it is ok if you’re learning right now that Danica Patrick is the most successful woman in the history of American open-wheel (car) racing.]  Without a rule book, Danica has made some pretty lively choices.

 

A hottie, right?!!?  Photo: Daytona Beach Speeday, courtesy Google images

A hottie, right?!!? Photo: Daytona Beach Speedway, courtesy Google images

 

And then there’s Albert Einstein.  Choices made by Albert in his rule-free life help me to see the Great Web that holds us, a web of which we’re all a part.

Photo courtesy: Google images

Photo courtesy: Google images

And in these intricately woven threads of existence are all the rules and the not-rules.  Some (me, Albert, you?) might call it God(dess).

Photo: Thanks to Rose & Clint

Photo: Thanks to Rose & Clint

 

And there’s me, Lauren, who for lack of a better name, refers to her life’s work as, Eco-chaplaincy.  Please tell me if you relate to this: when I get too tied- up (attached?) in the importance of what I’m doing, my choices begin to take the form of an agenda, a series of rules.  When I can dial that all back, though, when I remember first simply to live, then going about making choices feels more like, “Dungeons & Dragons,” a Choose Your Own Adventure.

 

 

Look at these Berkeley residents, for example, creating some night-time folly and activism outside the City Council meeting last week,   "Save our P.O" (Post Office is threatening to close)

Look at these Berkeley residents, for example, creating some night-time folly and activism outside the City Council meeting last week, “Save our P.O” (Post Office is threatening to close)

 

From this place, I experience a wellspring of support.  It’s the Source from which I feel inspired to move, and to learn, and to love…with no guarantee of success.  When all of the other Rules have fallen to the floor, maybe this is the rule that remains.  See what I mean?  I can’t help myself….

It seems fitting to end this blog with a tribute to one of my favorite Eco-chaplains of this century.  Please enjoy

 

magnolia magic, while meandering UC's campus, Berkeley

Magnolia magic, UC’- Berkeley.

 

 

Be.Hold. JOY (& my 2014 manifesto)

Be.Hold. JOY (& my 2014 manifesto)

 

I find ecstasy in living — the mere sense of living is joy enough.

– Emily Dickinson

I took some time on New Year’s Eve day to be thoughtful about my 2013.  What was I celebrating?  What was I just as happy to be leaving in the year’s wake?  And in what ways was I preparing myself to be open for what 2014 has in store for me?  I paused at that one.

 

Can you relate to this?   I can become so consumed by all that I’m about that I forget to clear myself out for the unexpected.  And so often, the unexpected is waaaaaay better than anything I could have planned.  In my experience, the unexpected comes in the form of Joy.  It’s often a bit startling, nearly always spontaneous, and fully embodied.  Realizing this, last Tuesday morning, I began to smile, and then I began to laugh…and then I began to really, REALLY laugh.  Loud.  For about 5 minutes.  It felt so good and hearing my own voice only prompted me to laugh more.

 

And when the laughter slowed and subsided, the words on my lips were, “Be Joy.”  In this New Year, whenever possible, I want to Be Joy.

 

I will forget this desire.  I will forget it for moments – or days – at a time.  I will, once again, become consumed, or I will be overtaken by fears and anxieties that compete for my attention.  And so, considering this on New Year’s eve, I thought about all the people in my life who, through their own practice of Being Joy, remind me that I, too, can make that choice.  AND, that even when my own Joy feels far, far away, I can Hold the Joy of another.

 

You’ve noticed this, right?  The delight that comes from tasting the joy in the story of a friend, a child’s face walking down the street, or recalling something funny that happened the night before?  (If not, please watch this and let me know what happens – and I mean it: I want to hear from you!).  SO, if we can’t Be Joy, we can Hold Joy.  And then, Behold!  Joy abounds.  Why am I on a New Year’s jag about Joy?

 

Because things are dire, that’s why.  Because the world needs us and it needs us to show up in our Joy.

 

In the final days of a year, as is my tradition, I created my Vision Board for the year-to-be.  This manifesto created itself, with zero prompting. It was revealed in Joy and it offers a string of instruction that, to me, feels timely and perfect to share in the dawn of 2014.

2014 Vision Board Manifesto

2014 Vision Board Manifesto

Be.Hold. JOY! And from this place, let’s make some good change roll!

Happy New Year!!!

Happy New Year!!!

 

 

 

 

What’s In Your Manger?

God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illuminated by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.

~ Dag Hammarskjold

What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time and in my culture?

~Meister Eckhart

 

 If you were raised Christian, you might have some memories, like me, of unpacking and creating the nativity scene in your home during the Advent season.  We had a few of them at my house: the one my parents brought back from their visit to Jerusalem, the ones my brother and I made from uncooked macaroni noodles in Sunday School, and the teeny-tiny one with a fake tree and baby Jesus that were irresistible toys for the cats.  “Has anyone seen the baby Jesus?” my Mom would question, her head poking under the chairs and shelves, hoping to repair the fragmented story and invite its anticipated outcome.

 

The nativity pieces from Jerusalem were my favorite.  In addition to the usual suspects, there were animals, shepherds, wise men and camels.  My Mom would let me create the scene, reminding me that the three kings arrived later and therefore, shouldn’t be in the stable with Mary and Joseph, but rather en route.  Years later, in the home of my spiritual director, I stood dazzled and mesmerized by her nativity, an annual original creation, that covered her entire dining table.  Every animal figurine you can (and can’t) imagine – scorpions, dolphins, emus and dogs, serpents, chickens, and unicorns – were making their way across the loooooooong dining table to see the new baby.  Seeing the scene depicted in this way, allowed me to expand its scope.  In this overtly mythic and more cosmic unfolding, I could find myself in new facets of the story.

 

It’s from this place this year, I’ve been falling in love again with the Christmas story.  Whether or not you celebrate this holiday, I encourage you to consider and live the metaphors alive this week….

 

You are on a journey, to be counted with everyone else, in the census.  Given the circumstances, and putting it plainly, this journey might sort of suck.  And there’s this Angel thing.  A sign, a dream, a moment of serendipity or surprise that suggested there is something very important on your horizon.  What is it?  It’s in you and it’s beyond you…and it’s coming!!!  And, with all this anticipation, and with all this uncertainty, you keep walking toward a new place; a very simple, earthy space.  And in that spot, inconvenient and unfamiliar, but supported by the vision that is in you and beyond you, you birth a spark of Divinity.  What, dear friends, is in your manger?

My nativity scene, 2013

My nativity scene, 2013

 

Peace, blessings and love to you this season

and in the dawn of a new year.

If We Were Bees

One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care.  Such is the quality of bees…

~ Leo Tolstoy

A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34-35 (New Testament scriptures)

 

 

For two seasons now, I have been beekeeping with my neighbor, Frances.  It has been a true adventure with plenty of humor and doses of drama.  The hive sits in her yard, next door, and on days when details or work have become far too engrossing, I’ve taken to walking over and observing the hive.  What happens there, and what happens to me as I watch, is a welcome miracle.

 

Hive Installation, 2012

Hive Installation, 2012

If we were bees, our vision would measure at 23,000 — that’s 3 times worse than legally blind for humans.  If we were bees, we would fearlessly fly blindly because our navigation skills (using the sun and movement) would put any human navigator to shame.  If we were bees, we would let all the bees in our hive know where the best food is by dancing (sounds fun, right?).  And all our friends would know what we’re saying, not because of how our dance looks (so don’t be self-conscious; we’re blind, remember?), but because of the sound we make with our wings (13 flaps a second) and the degree to which we direct our waggle.  If we were bees, we would understand one another with such accuracy, we could consistently double our population at the aforementioned food source every 15 minutes.

Welcome, winged wonders!

Welcome, winged wonders!

 

Meanwhile, if we were bees, in the hive, we would, each of us, come up through the colony ranks, fully mastering our declared roles: nurses (tending the bees who’ve fallen ill), guards (protecting the hive from intruders of all sorts), foragers (finding the food), grocers (bringing the pollen home), housekeepers (meticulously cleaning any and every mess — especially the ones cause by beekeepers checking on the hive!), construction workers (building comb, sealing with propolis), royal attendants (ensuring Her Highness has everything she needs to be profoundly productive), and undertakers (yes, those too).

 

Navigating their new home

Navigating their new home

And if we were bees, we would be doing all of this…for the good of the hive.

It’s insanely organized, bafflingly efficient, and utterly miraculous.  Standing there, at the            hive, watching the coming and going of these winged wonders, I feel the sun on my face and        listen to the buzz of those wings flapping 11,400 times a minute.  My heart flutters, it’s own          attempt to join and appreciate this simple, ancient community.

If we were bees and Earth our hive, what role would you play?  In what way are you called to      serve, sustain and grow this life together?

 

 

 

Sacred Activism (Part Two)

[This post, is the second of two (Sacred Activism, Part One, posted 8/1/2013).  Together, they form a homily I delivered at the ChI Interfaith Community monthly interfaith service on July 20, 2013.]

 

We need to ask not whether it is realistic or practical or viable but whether it is imaginable.   We need to ask if our consciousness and imagination have been so assaulted and co-opted by the royal consciousness that we have been robbed of the courage or power to think an alternative thought…

– Walter Brueggemann

 

In Sacred Activism, Part One, I asked us to check-in with ourselves about the ideas we currently hold around the word, “activism.”  We scrolled through a short list of some of today’s local and global issues inviting change, justice or transformation.  Then, just before going numb, spitting fire or admitting hopelessness, I suggested that there is NEW activist at work in our world; an activist who, standing on the shoulders of activist ancestry, has cultivated 3 unique characteristics –  sacred practices, we might say – to meet life fully engaged, moving beyond anger, beyond avoidance.   We began with Practice One: Begin with Love, Return to Love.  And now, I would like to describe two more.

Practice Two: Regenerative Humility, Rippling Faith

Photo Credit: Unless otherwise stated, all images courtesy of Google Images

Photo Credit: Unless otherwise stated, all images courtesy of Google Images

 

Back in 2004, there were some Americans – myself among them – who really wanted a different president.  In Northern California, the tone of the election was wiry and frantic.  In a last-ditch effort, I volunteered at a phone bank, calling residents in swing states.  One night, I spoke woman in her 60s.  She lived in Ohio and I asked her if she would be voting in the election.  She said, “Oh, I sort of stopped doing that.”  “Really,” I pushed on, “When did you stop voting?”  “Well, the year I turned 21 was an election year and I was very excited to go to the polls.  The Daylight Savings Time measure was on the ballot and it didn’t pass the way I wanted it to, so I stopped.”  My jaw dropped.  There was nothing on my phone bank script that seemed a suitable response.   I took a deep breath, “That must have been disappointing for you.  Sometimes we don’t get the measures we vote for, but I do think it’s still really valuable to ask for what we want.  I really hope you’ll go to the polls next week.”

 

Because the starting point and returning point is always love, Regenerative Humility and Rippling Faith work in tandem for the New Activist.  This practice is about healing the whole by healing one’s self.  If that woman in Ohio had had some tools for being with her own disappointment, is it possible she wouldn’t have burnt-out so quickly?  In 2013, the very notion of Activism implies the Long-haul.

 

Recycling is endless

Recycling is endless

Humility keeps us curious and from becoming overly focused on the outcomes.  What do I mean by Regenerative Humility?  I’m describing something that is less interested in changing the world (outside in) and more aware of how the world is changing me (inside out).

Humility becomes regenerative, when it believes in real transformation, at a pace that can sustain the inevitable set-backs or disappointments along the way.

lunchcounter

To find this staying power, humility is in symbiotic relationship with Faith.  The New Activist has faith that just he or she is doing does his or her own work, others are doing their work also.  Rippling Faith is where these two meet.  It’s where our mutual efforts co-mingle and inspire one another, neither angry, nor avoidant.  Rippling Faith is Shamanic; it’s a deep knowing that what is above is also below; that we can move forward with receptivity, steadiness and compassion toward what is happening and what will be.

 

Practice Three: Prophetic Imagination

The last practice I want to highlight, for now, is Prophetic Imagination.  If this is a new term for you, please explore it.  The New Activist looks to Prophetic Imagination as a North Star, and also as an unwavering source of inspiration.  It is the North Star because, when we consider how we got here, at all, we have the holiest of all Imaginations to thank.  In the words of Thomas Berry,

“If the dynamics of the universe from the beginning shaped the course of the heavens, lighted the sun, and formed the earth….(with) seas and the atmosphere, if it awakened life in the primordial cell…and               finally brought us into being and guided us through the turbulent centuries, there is reason to believe that this same guiding process is precisely what has awakened in us our present understanding of ourselves and our relations to this stupendous process.”  

Who are the prophets?  They are the visionaries, the restless ones.  Prophets are the historians who tell our story using paint, poetry, dreams and dance.

The prophetic imagination puts treasure immediately at our fingertips.  And it is also our prophetic imagination that brings fresh eyes to see the issues that have been cleverly avoided or brushed aside as “a thing of the past.”

And so now my closing question, who is this New Activist? 

This activist is moving in you (yes, you…and you, too), and in every single one of us.

 

The Sacred Activist, is US.

We create the world we imagine and there is a time-sensitive invitation at stake for us all.  What story is our history t0 tell, with our poetry, our visions, our first-hand account of living life fully right now?  What do you love?  Where can curiosity provide renewed energy?

Lean into it; make art (click that!); tell a story; see what happens…

 

Bibliography and Photo Credits:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ongoing_military_conflicts

http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2012/december/annual-hate-crimes-report-released/annual-hate-crimes-report-released

Stanford SIQSS Studywww-cs-faculty.stanford.edu

http://www.climate-insurance.org/front_content.php?idcat=885

Images: Unless stated otherwise, all images courtesy Google Images

 

Sacred Activism (Part One)

[This post, and the one that will follow (part 1 & 2), are from a homily I delivered at the ChI Interfaith Community monthly interfaith service on July 20, 2013.  It is dedicated to all those participating in the Summer Heat Richmond demonstration tomorrow, Aug. 3rd – http://joinsummerheat.org/bay/]

 

In preparing my thoughts for this talk, I asked a few friends what came to mind when they heard the word, “activism.”  It was the response of one friend that particularly struck me.  “When I hear the word, ‘activism?’” he repeated my question, “ I think of angry people.”

Check in with yourself for a moment.  Do you or does some part of you agree?

 

Photo: Google Images

Photo Credit: Unless noted otherwise, all photos in this post are courtesy of Google Images

 

Photo: Google Images

 

Photo: Google Images

 

Is activism now understood to be what those angry people do to take a stand on all those issues?   And for a moment, let’s consider a small sampling of those issues…

Picture1

 

At present, 9 major wars (1000+ fatalities/yr) & 25 other conflicts (<1000 fatalities/yr);

 

 

 

 

 

 

www.justseeds.org

www.justseeds.org

 

Of the 6,222 FBI reported hate crimes in 2011, 6,216 were single-bias incidents—46.9 percent were racially motivated, 20.8 percent resulted from sexual orientation bias, 

19.8 percent were motivated by religious bias, 11.6 stemmed from ethnicity/national origin bias, and 0.9 percent were prompted by disability bias;

 

 

 

 

 

 

One in six people live on less than $1 per day, and 50% of the world’s hospital beds are people suffering from waterborne diseases.

 

 

 

 

 

Indigenous cultures are in decline all over the world;

 

 

 

 

 

and social isolation is on the rise.

 

 

 

Everyday, 137 species go extinct – 1000 times the normal rate, and if the scientific global climate models are accurate, we should expect an increase in the frequency, severity and impact (economic, social, environmental) of weather-related disasters.

Check-in with yourself, again.  What’s happening inside you…RIGHT now?  Is there anxiety?  Feelings  of Powerlessness?  Outrage?  Or maybe a simple desire to escape?  And, under the present circumstances, who of us is wrong to run for cover and escape?

It’s alright.

The enormity, the hugeness of what we are part of on Planet Home can be deadening, no question.  And often, it’s in this space where we make the choice to be an Activist…or Not.

And here, is where we can see the problem: because humans tend toward dualistic thinking, we are either Activists (aka “angry”), or we’re passive, hoping and praying a creative genius to those who feel less overwhelmed and can, “go deal with it.”

 

I agreed to talk about Sacred Activism.  So I asked my friend about this, too.  He said, “’Sacred Activism?’ Now, you’re just messin’ with me.  I don’t know what to think of that.”

Sacred Activism has been coined by a few authors and peace-making historians who suggest there’s another way.  I know they’re right.

Today, there is a NEW activist who stands on the shoulders of activist ancestry.  This activist has cultivated a few unique characteristics – sacred practices, we might say – to meet life fully engaged, moving beyond anger, beyond avoidance.  The practices are interconnected and inform one another, but to describe more specifically how this New Activist is born and moves in the world, I’m going to describe three of them — one now and the other two, in Part Two:

Practice One: Begin with Love, Return to Love

Many individuals have stumbled on what becomes activism simply by doing what they love: Mother Theresa, nursing the poor, for example.  Foster parents.  Marine biologists.

We love to love what we love! 

And there’s a funny thing about love…

our love is so strong and so tender that sometimes, it gets hidden behind WALLS of defense, TUNNELS of outrage, or WAVES of grief.  It can be a long return to love.  In the year before I professed myself an “eco-chaplain,” I had already served as the Executive Director for Green Sangha; I had built from nothing, an environmental action team at the hospital where I was a chaplain and still, in the world around me, nothing was being returned to its right place.  I saw 1-person-per-car idling on the freeway, an endless supply of Styrofoam cups and plastic bags being used once and tossed.  The Goodwill store, near my house was having a SALE!  I felt mildly psychotic: We are clearing the Earth’s forests, so we can drive to the store to buy stuff, to give to Goodwill, so they can send it to the landfill. I was desperate, I was angry; blame was pointless and staying mad felt miserable, so I turned toward what I love — toward the rocks, the trees, the smells of nature.  I began to ride my bike so I could climb the hills and sweat and breathe Mother Earth’s theology. Moving from this place – from my love – I was able to see my grief as a teacher.  My grief and love became the impetus to work within corporate America – the previous target of my outrage and blame. Love dissolves boundaries and brings us into intimacy with what is, so that even when we encounter that which seems opposite to love, we may seek to love it, too.

So, take this week to explore what you love —

Ellie, one of Lauren's LOVES!

Ellie, one of Lauren’s LOVES!

I mean really, really love.  Notice if there’s something blocking you from it (self-created, or otherwise).   What will it take to return?  To love what you love?   Next Week: Practices 2 and 3…

Visit Here: http://joinsummerheat.org/bay/

Visit Here: http://joinsummerheat.org/bay/

 

When God Grows

Children…always say, Do it again; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough… It is possible that God says every morning, Do it again, to the sun; and every evening, Do it again, to the moon…  It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. 


– Gilbert Keith G. K. Chesterton

 

He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

Psalm 147:4, NIV

 

As a seeker, and one who feels called to serve, I look forward to the moments when God gets bigger.  In my work as an Interfaith Minister, God expands most readily in my encounters with those who practice Faith Traditions that are different from my own.  A few weeks ago, I had the thrill of traveling, on an interfaith tour, to Turkey.  I must confess that in the 10 days we were there, my experience of God busted right outta da box.  Because there’s too much to tell, and no words for lots of it, here are four times when, for me, God grew.

 

Just before the trip, a friend of mine who is Sufi, explained to me that in Arabic, “Al” is affirmative, translating to mean, “yes,” and “Lah,” is negative, or “no.”  Al-lah.  Yes-No.  Allah.  Yesno.

 

Mevlana Rumi Mosque, where Rumi is buried

Mevlana Rumi Mosque, where Rumi is buried

Five times a day, the Muslim Call to Prayer resounds from the minarets and mosques across all of Turkey.  Whether the Call found me walking with others in the daylight, or waking me from sleep at 4am, I was eager to add my own prayers, to the millions of others, petitioning, thanking, praising God, the One who is Both, the One who is Neither, the One who holds the Inbetween.  Yes-No!  God-Dess!  Al-lah!

 

Even the smallest villages have gorgeous mosques with tall minarets!

Even the smallest villages have gorgeous mosques with tall minarets!

One hot, windy afternoon, out beyond the nearest village’s audible Call to Prayer, God grew again.  It was when we visited the site of Mother Mary’s home.  Driving up the mountain, high above Ephesus, I loved being pushed to imagine for the first time, what had happened to Mary after the Resurrection.  Where did this mother, this woman whom Catholic Christians and others revere and entrust with their prayers, where did she go?  It was then that our Tour Guide used a word I wasn’t expecting.  It was innocent, I’m sure, when he said, “superstitious.”  He said it in reference to the fountains of holy water and the wall of prayers created by those who have come to Mother Mary’s home.  How many times, I wondered, have I limited God’s bigness by labeling certain practices as….superstitious.  Without hesitation, I went directly to the fountains, dipping my hands in the holy water, touching my cheeks and throat with the cool wetness.  I thought of how many times Jesus, Mary, Mohammad, had been equally grateful for water’s refreshment.  Rummaging through my bag, I wrote my prayer on a piece of scrap paper and tied it faithfully to the wall of prayers.

 

The shrine where Mother Mary once lived

The shrine where Mother Mary once lived

 

The wall of prayers outside the shrine

The wall of prayers outside the shrine

How’s your Turkish?  Mine, like God, is growing….though not as rapidly as would’ve been useful during visits with our hosts.  Verbal language, be damned!  Connecting with these humans through facial expressions, charades of comic proportion, and – in extreme acts of desperation – bad drawings on found bits of napkin, we discovered genuine affection.  We unearthed the deep regard humans can feel for one another.  In each face, a spark of God.  Seven billion sparks of God and growing…

 

Dinner with Olive Farmers

Dinner with Olive Farmers

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IMG_1963

Gifts and Playtime with the Next Generation!

 

 

Laurel and Tom

Laurel and Tom

 

And lastly?  I haven’t yet mentioned that I was on this trip with my Mom, and her husband, Tom.  Looking across ruins I had been asked, as a kid, to re-create in Sunday School using toothpicks and marshmallows; looking across ruins, whose architecture I studied and was made to memorize for The History of Theatre, as a college freshman; looking across ruins, my eyes picked out of the crowd, my Mother, the one who brought me here.

 

 

 

 

Mom, in awe...

Mom, in awe…

Ho hum, another angel-evoking creatiion

No wonder!!! (Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul)

 

God grows….

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Where, in your world, is God getting bigger?  And when God grows, what happens in you?   Please share with me….I like hearing from you.

 

[A version of this post also appears in Lumunos, where I have the thrill of “guest blogging” from time to time.  Visit them!]

 

Seeking: Right Response

[This post is dedicated to the West Coast Climate Riders, 2013, who will pedal their bikes 320 miles from Fortuna, CA to San Francisco’s City Hall between May 19-24th.  Thank you, Climate Riders — Have a GREAT Ride!!!]

Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb.

– Macrina Wiederkehr, O.S.B

 

God made so many different kinds of people; why would God allow only one way to worship?

– Martin Buber

 

I had assumed that the Earth, the spirit of the Earth, noticed exceptions — those who wantonly damage it and those who do not. But the Earth is wise. It has given itself into the keeping of all, and all are therefore accountable.

– Alice Walker

There is phrase used in Buddhist circles, “radical acceptance,” it refers to the uninvited, unwanted circumstances or conditions in our lives and the often challenging – though ultimately liberating – practice of making peace with them.

 

Biking California Photo: MMaggenti

Biking California  Photo: M Maggenti

 

Radical acceptance is bravery in action.  And for me, the precursor is feeling fiercely that which I radically, or otherwise, can NOT accept.  (Do you know the ones?)  I’ll share the one plaguing me right now:

 

“On May 9th, for the first time ever, the carbon dioxide counter on the side of Mauna Loa, the most important scientific instrument on earth, recorded a daily average of above 400 parts per million. It’s a grim landmark — it’s been several million years since CO2 reached these levels in the atmosphere.” – BillMcKibben, www.350.org

 

Climate Ride Friends

Climate Ride Friends

I can’t argue with a number.  There’s nothing to finesse or negotiate.  I will accept the number….but the human behavior in response to that number and what it means?  UN-acceptable.

 

Or is it?  And who am I to say?  I am seeking the right response and I’m asking each of you, what is it?

 

What is the right response to a mess we have created, a mess that is accelerating, a mess that forecasts massive loss, systems breakdown, and suffering for so many?

 

Climate Ride Puppy Pile!

Climate Ride Puppy Pile!

I welcome your ideas and I love to hear from you.  In the meantime, my thinking is this…

Respond!!  Do something and ordain it.  It can be big and dramatic.  It can be daily and ordinary.  Experiment.  Try both!!! Listen to someone under the age of 13.  Whatever you choose to do, honor it for the Holy act that it is – know that it is prayer, empowerment, connection.   In this church, called Earth, we are ALL men and women of the cloth and every action is sacred.  Can I have a witness??

 

Climate Ride - City Hall Rally!

Climate Ride Finish – City Hall!