Fifteen minutes of Flame

HONK! The beeping squall announces sacrament.

Ruffle of coat as the door becomes locked against the world

With a practiced swirl the coat is laid down over his bag

Puppy howls and purring clucks sing greeting.

Fluffed heads and ruffled butts, affection gifted.

Maybe fifteen minutes then the worship service is over,

He vanishes like an unanswered prayer.

I am blinded by my faith, accept it as my truth

even as I’m told I’m a sinner:

“You do this.”

“This is your fault.”

“You don’t have courtesy.”

“(s i l e n c e f o r w e e k s)”

FUCK YOU!

As I kneel at my altar after giving all I’m able,

it isn’t enough because I’m not whole-y holy.

I am “The Chosen One.” I am “loved dearly, but,”

This church is beginning to feeling like a silent prison.

I meditate in deep communion to ponder pontificated parole.

The Suitcase

“You just don’t waltz into and out of people’s lives.” I found this quote in a podcast/article by a man I respect very deeply. The entire script and podcast is found HERE.

A happy suitcase wearing a hat

A happy suitcase wearing a hat

I’ve moved all over the country. Up until I got to Oak Ridge, I’d never in my entire adult life lived in the same house for more than two years. Considering I’ll be 47, that’s not a good track record for stability or longevity but it’s also taught me a lot about change, leaving, and transitions.

Most of the time when I’ve become disgruntled, disheartened, or feeling a loss of hope are the precise times I’d pack up the bags either metaphorically or physically and set them by the door. It was not uncommon for me to check those bags periodically to see that they match my state of mind given whatever the situation I faced.

If I ended up in a relationship that I knew may end, I’d pack the bag and set it down because I knew it would fail. I knew that I couldn’t give my whole heart to anyone who wasn’t willing to love me back the way I needed. It might have been because they were violent or they were absent from the beginning, or even that they were afraid like me to give in to the commitment all the while longing for that connection. No matter the reason, there was always a pile of luggage (not baggage because that has to be lugged around), ready by the front door.

The point for me when I knew it was time to leave was the point when my heart was irreparably broken. It would happen when I knew and understood that no matter what was done or said from that moment forward “WE” could never fill that trust back up again. I’d lost hope, trust, and an ability to want to rebuild it at that point.

I try to be mindful of relationships. I struggle to maintain some that aren’t good for me. Some demand that no matter what is happening in my life that their life is far more important. It has never been about anyone else, but for them to be at that point is an astonishing progression from “I don’t matter at all”, so I try to be mindful of that. It becomes unhealthy.

I’ve tried to remain friends with people who can’t see any light, no matter how bright. They are so asleep in so many ways that the only time I’ve allowed them to re-enter my periphery is when they really are trying to make changes for the better in their lives. When they are actively seeking answers that I’d given them before, but either they weren’t ready to hear, or they needed to find without my guidance. I’m not claiming to be a guru or an expert, but I’ve messed up enough to know certain things in life.

I’ve tried to be the best I can be no matter who I’m around, but sometimes my best isn’t what someone else needs. Sometimes they need a broken person with horrible feelings of self esteem to coddle, take care of, feel needed by to make up their own value as a person. When they reject every good given, that’s when the dependent person feels lost, vulnerable, and without taking time can fall into a vicious cycle of begging to be taken back.

With each one of those, I’ve waltzed out at will and sometimes against my will, but they’ve all ended in one way or another. My packed suitcases were at the ready so the transition was easier but no less painful. I don’t like that I’ve had to, for whatever reason, walk away from various lives in my lifetime, but self-preservation has been worth it.

What I didn’t expect, after reading the article, was a glance to my door and a note that there weren’t any suitcases packed there waiting. Not a duffel bag or a backpack, not even a fanny pack laid up waiting for my itchy gypsy toes to want to hit the road. BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! And why do I feel a sudden jolt of panic?

I’m in a marriage where there is a level of reciprocity that I’ve never had despite fumbling intentions before that had all failed. I’m in a neighborhood that is distasteful, but where I find myself waving at people I like and know. People that I tell my stories to and they tell me theirs. I discovered a diamond and platinum spiritual home that has given me a stability of family that I’d been missing for eons but found on accident thanks to John Lennon and John Denver. I have friends interwoven in generational blankets of uplifting proportions that bring me to a place of stellar humbleness, gratitude, and the best teachers of compassion I’ve ever known besides my Bapa’s family.

I think it’s safe to say that sometimes that waltz from one life to the next is necessary to move into the house that will become your home. The home where suitcases are no longer necessary because it’s truly where your heart is born, grows, and can be found at any time.

Imagination gone dark

Those who want the world to stop burning must first realize that it's on fire.

Those who want the world to stop burning must first realize that it’s on fire.

Quit selling me your Jesus. Who is thick with thorns?
Don’t bleed your justification while the poor you scorn
Don’t tell me that my color is wrong, that a prison is a matter of fact
When you took away our baseball gloves and gave us baseball bats
Don’t tell me that I need to work, that I’m just a lazy bum
When you sent my job to the Philippines while calling me black scum
Don’t tell me to step up and be a father, when you took mine when I was seven
My mama couldn’t take care of me, she wept “He is watching me from heaven.”
But she believed in the Jesus you sold her that burns like a cross in my yard
She counted prayers and sang the hymns while my brothers lives are scarred
Quit telling me that I love my forty that dims the daily grind
Quit telling me I’m worthless so why should you educate my mind?
Don’t tell me that you value me just to get my vote you take away
You love me about as much as a crack baby born every day
You took away the healthcare to let my people suffer
While praising God and Jesus, filling up your coffers
You spend our money on bars and chains instead of buying books
You take away from teachers and schools, entertaining disdaining looks
Quit selling me your Jesus who is thick covered with your angry words thrown
While wearing the cross you put on your own back, you’re reaping what you’ve sewn.

Preying Hands

Preying hands

Preying hands

I took my vow of silence when I unwillingly walked the aisle

I knew that once sealed, I was lost. I hoped to be.

I kissed his lips knowing they were poison

I tenderly held his hands that blessed me with curses;

beat me, berated me, tore me down to the floor where

I prayed at his altar with bloody knees,

“Please! I won’t sin again!”

I genuflected my resolved acceptance

of my worth from his unholy blessings and unlawful prayers.

I lay prostrate, willing myself to Mother Mary

Falling short of grace;

denied her forgiveness.

With the community choir ignoring the sermon

of discipleship he insisted I learn,

fifth in hand

I begged physical communion

I knew he’d lay down the fists for lustful sins

grunting self-satisfied “amens” of self-approval.

While I lynched my own redemption

on the clothesline laden with our dirty laundry

begging silently with screaming stains of humiliation

Betrayal drip drying fresh spilled secrets

Everybody listened

Nobody came.

Everybody knew

but denied my name.

Until

I found my voice

Until

I left six bullets in the clip

putting them safe in my pocket

one still in the chamber.

I knew you were a crappy shot

I won my life in a daring public race of rushing roulette

As I ran among my neighbors that I’d shared bread with

taken their children on vacation, gifted with Christmas

Challenging them to shine a light,

to allow me one phone call from my personal prison

Each house darkened but one remained.

My prayers finally answered

by confused badges of protect and serve honor.

I surrendered my protection

my haven

my home

because his shame lied

lay bruises on my arms.

Hear this, Father of my ex-communication,

I am again holy.

I am true in spirit.

I walk in grace while you walk in your valley of darkness

I pray you find your way to your own righteousness

I pray you never feel the transgressions you offered to me

visited upon your person

I pray that understanding of your offense

be never washed in the blood of another.

Amen and Blessed Be

NaPoWriMo: The Birth of Your Art

NaPoWriMo

NaPoWriMo

Lady Cathy Gritter took me into her church

near her garden door that led only outward.

It had nine panes of stained glass

that guarded the treasures within the hall.

On the pristine white shelves

is where she stored centuries of art,

a sacramental archive of holiness.

I’d enter her church through the side door

withering looks from her husband William

glared resentment at my childish intrusion

I scooted sinfully through to gaze with adoration

at the hallowed scriptures

blessed gospels of

van Gogh, Picasso, de Vinci, Kahlo

offering sermons of:

Sunflowers, Girl Before a Mirror, Mona Lisa, and Weeping Coconuts.

I was allowed to peer into the eyes of holy angels

upon my confessional return of each holy grail.

NaPoWriMo

NaPoWriMo

Homogenized television

At the store we stopped by on our way to my Mama-in-law’s, I saw a diverse snapshot of people. An inter-racial gay couple who were both very tall, an Italian mother and her daughter, a few white employees, a mixture of humans milling about the aisles selecting last minute purchases for their Thanksgiving feasts. Every person I saw greeted me with smiles and warm wishes which I firmly returned to them. I felt so alive with happiness that I wished I could hug everyone I saw. I even commented this to Ben (my husband) as we got into our car and finished our journey. I felt amazing.

My beautiful in-laws are avid fans of local station news/sports/weather and keep the litany in the background all day long. The same newscast at noon gets a tad of refresher before being the 6 o’clock news and then the 11PM news. In between these news segments/shows were, what felt like hours of commercials. This is where I noticed something keenly off.

There was not a single local ad played on the station that had any people of color. The homogenized version of society was played out with white families, white men, white children dancing around with extra money in their hands to go pay homage to the golden calf shopping centers. Occasionally there would be a non-threatening black woman with VERY natural hair to demonstrate how very black she was (it felt this way…cartoonish in appearance to make her feel safer?) but not a single black man appeared in any of the local commercials. In fairness, the national ads (Straight-talk phones, for example) showed a knowledgeable black man with no sense of humor, but not any of the local ads had many black people at all.

Every show that was on the station had all white characters, many without even a “token”. I said out loud, “That can’t be right.” As the evening progressed I heard comments referring to the “needy black folk” as only those, “Who probably didn’t want to work anyway,” followed by the subsequent “Amen corner” rolling with the praise Jesus commentary.

Before you think I’m judging, please understand where I get this visual. My Uncle was a bit…shall we say…passionate about his faith for quite a while. He would attend church 7 days a week, sometimes twice a day. As kids, my brothers and I found it completely reasonable to want to tag along. We witnessed some incredible things while traveling to the back hills churches in Lake of the Ozarks. Speaking in tongues, rolling in the aisles, snot blisters the size of basketballs, and afterwards, the best food brought out by the church ladies (Nobody to this day has ever surpassed Myetta Baptist Church’s gooseberry cobbler).

But what always amazed me about those churches were the amen corners. They said Amen to everything the preacher said. If the preacher said they were all sinners, the amen corner agreed. If the preacher proclaimed they were all beating their kids and that was okay, the amen corner nodded their assent to their transgressions. If the preacher said that the fires of hell would make the pews burn off clothes, the amen corner would start stripping. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but they just simply agreed, sometimes without thought.

That’s what sitting in this living room felt like. Another comment flies past, “Always with their hands out. They should work.” A nod and a grunt of assent follows. Every local channel I surfed through and edited was whitewashed to the point where the diversity I saw in the grocery and at the theatre and at the gas station was absent.

It felt like the local channels were purposefully and methodically pointing fingers at those “needy blacks” that take and don’t give. It felt alarmingly wrong.

Another story that was shown on the news that involved “those people” was about a little boy whose mom and dad had been drug addicts at one time. Ready? The dad was black and the mom was white. The little boy had pale skin like his mom. Comment: “He must have a different daddy because he don’t look black.” “Amen. Amen.” The story talked about how this family used to be takers but now they were saved and serving others, isn’t that nice?

The only mention of Ferguson was a short 30 second blurb that talked about the march from Ferguson to Missouri’s state capitol. Then it was back to local sports.

How can anything change when people are not shown the “real world?” How can people realize that their behaviors are not out of bigotry (in the case that I am sharing) but of ignorance. It’s perpetuated by their everyday lives being reflected to them in whitewashed versions of reality. It creates such an obvious wedge that I believe, as an outsider, it’s no longer even noticed.

I get that change is a personal thing, but when there is such an obvious spin on the negativity of change being perpetuated by the ridiculous “reality” of shows, you may as well just be listening to one song over and over until your ears bleed. No matter how much you enjoy listening to “Peace on Earth”, until the tune changes, the song becomes as tired of a litany as the obvious erasure of any other race on Southern televisions.

If I can see this in just one living room in the Deep South, how many other people are doing their own “Amen corner’s” affirming that they are doing the right thing? Reaffirming that their belief in the stereotypes is justified because they once knew a person who knew a person and we all know how that ended. (No, actually I don’t. That isn’t the world I live in).

How many other families are camped around their tribal fire (aka the television) learning that to be anything other than white is an unforgivable sin? How many children of any skin tone other than “white” are learning their “place” (that sounds so bitter and cynical) by watching their own race, their own skin be erased until they are…less than’s? This is not acceptable.

Please remove this ignorance from your vocabulary and transform it into the education of your mind to the people you live around each day. Plug into your community instead of the media whom lies to you each day. Remember that the further we are from uniting as one people, the easier we are to divide and to be conquered. The farther divided we remain, the more ignorance is allowed to breed and the longer the cycle continues.

Please, for the love of humanity, do not let the ignorance continue. Let’s not repeat the murderous rampages of the 1960’s of peaceable men doing noble things. Let’s regard the possibility of peace among humans with reverence, not complacency. Let’s learn from our outrage that change is necessary. Change can only happen when we stand united as the people we are in our divine glory of humanity. Change is possible. We ARE that change, together; me and you.

My path to Spiritual Love

Hello there! You’ve indulged my need to post poems for a couple of weeks now. For that indulgence, I thank you. I’ve been grateful for the kindness you’ve shown as I show you snapshots of the people in my life and although there are more that I will be sharing, I thought it would be nice if you could see a snapshot of me and pray the same indulgence.

I’m not telling you this story to be a witness or a proponent of the church I am now a member of, but to explain how I came to my own realization of my own faith. I don’t think anyone or anything can tell you how to find faith, love, or even whether or not God exists. I find love and God, in my life, to be synonymous. It’s my goal to help others because that satisfies my love for myself, my love for my neighbors, and builds a stronger community. I’m not asking for you to believe as I do nor am I encouraging you to follow my path. I say, flat out, that I’m not a Christian and I experience God like the Cowardly Lion,  “I do believe. I do believe. I do believe in ghosts!” But I do try to live by a basic rule, Love My Neighbor as Myself. It is difficult to do when people don’t “get” me, but I still put forth the effort because I also use Namaste.

We are ONE

We are ONE

I’ve attended so many different churches and other religious establishments in my lifetime. No matter where I landed my butt on a Sunday morning, my primary concern of finding faith in the love of God became discarded after a conversation with a pastor’s wife in Lake Station, IN. At the time, I attended and was heavily involved in a Covenant church which has rather extreme views about the roles of women and men. It felt awkward, but it pleased my husband so…I went, participated, and attempted to alter my heart to fit into the culture.

The nutshell version of that garden conversation is this: God won’t accept you if you don’t believe in Jesus.

This did not fit with my heart. It didn’t even come close. At that moment I realized, that for me, God (or whatever face you see or don’t) can’t be contained into a neat label any more than an individual can be labeled only one thing. I left the church in search of Love as the face of God.

Johnny Lee’s 1980 hit, “Looking for love (in all the wrong places)” fits quite nicely. I searched everywhere I could think to without results. Years passed, I didn’t even claim faith any more. At times I’d even mock the faithful for being so gullible as to fall into the junkie mentality with religious fervor and misguided ideals.

A shift in the spiritual winds of my soul started out as a light breeze, but about two years ago, it hit with a hurricane force. There was no fanfare. There wasn’t anybody asking me to go to their church. There wasn’t any outside influence suggesting to me via written, conversational, or other form of communication telling me to go to church. It just happened. A screaming Mimi in my mind saying, “GO NOW!”

A friend of mine held a group that I really dig at the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church (ORUUC). The fact that they allowed that particular group to meet under their roof (It’s the Red Tent Temple) caught my attention. Noting the time of their service as I drove past, I thought, well if I get up on Sunday, I’ll give it a try. I had no intention of honoring that fleeting thought.

As it happened, my eyes popped open early enough to not only shower, drink coffee, dress, lounge, and still make it to the service that I felt compelled to comply with my intuition that started doing a happy dance as soon as I accepted the wisdom.

I entered the church expecting what I was familiar with, a fashion show with pretty people pretending to be good long enough to get a pat on the head from the pastor then back to neglecting their spirits for the rest of the week. Cynical, yes, but that’s how I viewed the church.

Instead, there were people in jeans, dresses, suits, bohemian eclectic, dressy casual, and they were hugging each other. Genuinely hugging. Not the “A” hugs where the hips don’t meet. Not the half-hugs where an arm and a hip touch. But “I” hugs, the sincerely glad to see you kind. The welcome table had a sign in sheet and name tags. I refrained. I figured if they want to know, they’ll ask. It weirded me out as the service time got closer when I saw friend after friend of mine from social media arriving. Then I was the one being embraced with “I” hugs. I was still resisting.

The service was pretty typical at first. Call to worship, blah blah blah. But, the first hymn I heard? John Lennon’s “Imagine.” That got my attention. Who in the world uses secular music, even with peaceful intent, in a church service? My WTF button came out of my pocket as my skepticism faded. I checked the bulletin and found that the next hymn would be John Denver’s “Sunshine on my shoulders.” I choked through the rest of the service in disbelief. Who were these people?!

I didn’t go back for a long time, over a year I think, because the idea that there were others like me searching on their own paths gave me pause. But there was something that called me to return to “those people.” I started attending pretty regularly. Atheists, Buddhists, Humanists, Christians, Jewish, Conservationists, Scientists, all of them together under the same roof in the spirit of love.

One of those people and I had a conversation. She said that everything was created by God but humans are the only one of those into which God breathed life.

“Love is the breath of God.” I thought.  Those words encompass my daily journey to pursue my peace and happiness, harmony with my fellow human beings despite their circumstances or situations. As my favorite song says, “When I breathe in, I breathe in peace. When I breathe out, I breathe out love.”