Rice & Beans

I'm horrible at self-discipline. Sacrifice is particularly rough for me and developing new patterns for myself practically kills me, to be honest. It's part of the human condition. We're made to be selfish and to guard our rights and possessions. And we think we deserve it all, like we've somehow earned what we have and it's ours.

I took a challenge this week. I spent three days eating only rice and beans. It was supposed to be five, according to the challenge. I only made it through three, and here's what I've learned (or at least remembered):
  1. I'm weak and I need the support of my family and community. I was encouraged not to give up by my husband and several members of my community who also participated in this challenge, who acted as support, accountability and others who could identify with what I felt. I don't even attend the church which sponsored this challenge, but I learned about it through a friend, and it was something that I felt would be a good exercise for me in compassion, understanding, and even in spiritual discipline. This is the longest "fast" of any kind that I've ever done, and frankly, I'm actually proud I lasted as long as I did.
  2. I live in an environment full of temptation. I'm not really sure which is worse, having no choice but to go to bed hungry, like the people with whom I set out to identify, or going to bed hungry because I CHOSE to participate in this, knowing that there were all sorts of other options in my house and watching my children eat whatever they wanted. There was ice cream in my freezer, bagels in my refrigerator, Oreos on my counter, all kinds of processed "convenience" foods in my pantry. There is also a slew of menus from various restaurants in the area to call for carry-out or delivery, and money in our checking account to be able to do so when "necessary."
A friend told me that this sort of exercise did nothing for her, that she's identified with "third world" countries by being there and walking the streets. For her, that's enough "awareness." For me, even after having walked through the villages of Grenada -- seeing the dirty huts they call homes, watching them climb trees to find bananas and mangoes just so they can have lunch, and eagerly awaiting the one delivery of water a day to their village just to have a drink (I'm not sure when - if ever - they had baths or showers and I don't know where they went to the bathroom) -- even after seeing all that and feeling my heart break, you know what I did? I returned back to the "base" where we stayed and had a warm shower, changed into clean clothes, and drank a tall glass of water. I grabbed a fresh banana from the stash in the cellar, and waited to be called to a huge dinner in the "mansion" house. My biggest concern was whether I had enough sunscreen for the trip to the beach the next day and I knew that I had a soft bed to look forward to, but still complained about sharing the room with the other girls because they were "noisy."

Stepping out of my comfort zone was essential to my understanding and awareness. It was an exercise in compassion. Even knowing it was temporary, it hurt. And I spent three days hurting deeply for those around the world who don't have a choice about what they eat. I have utmost respect for anyone who doesn't practice spiritual disciplines, and do not in anyway look down on them. We are all where we are, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Another friend mentioned that he was glad that the "golden goat" he worshipped didn't make him do things like that. While I laughed a little at the comment, I was frustrated at the same time. No one made me do this, and no one is a lesser person for NOT doing it. Like all practices, you get what you give, and it was all about the decision to participate and engage myself fully in the exercise. I wanted to learn. I wanted to be changed. And if I'd done it just to "jump on the bandwagon," I don't think it would have done anything for me either.

But I needed to be reminded of how blessed I am. I needed to be reminded that it's not a right to have the luxuries I think I "need." And I needed to be reminded in a very practical way that there are those who aren't so "lucky" and that there has to be more I can do.

And I was never so thankful for the gift of the warm bagel I had for breakfast this morning.


The Ceremony of the Dress

for Brenda

The strong are the ones
who've learned
to let go
who have walked through
the fire and left
some behind

as the dress slowly melted
to colorful flame
we shared in the awe of how
quickly it went
this one moment of time
this brief whisper
of life
flaring in violence
in a smoking black blaze

Amid tearful relief
this memorial to grief
in unspoken goodbyes held
in this breaking of time
and of moments we share

we hold what we've lost
in these scars in our keeping
and this knowing
we are
and still learning
what matters while watching
life burn

now this sacred rite passes
in the flowing of beer
our spectres released
of the things that once were
wafting on puffs
of stubborn cigars

What happens here, stays here,
but we carry it inside,
knowing we celebrate
with others who've vanished
and lost to the night
renewing hope for the future
gaining strength from this burn.

***apologies for the sound quality on this video. I'm not an editor.

#Twitchicks present: crazywidow, c_visual, jacksvalentine, jamiebentley, jbairy, jessm918, lholubec, mk_girl, mrsbenedict


Happy Earth Day

There is so much I want to say and feel like I need to say about earth day, but I'm not going to say any of it. Because everyone has an opinion and everyone turns it into something political and it's just ... not. Frankly, I'm just not in a place to deal with any of that today.

So, instead, I'll just wish everyone a Happy Earth Day. Like Christmas, it doesn't matter if you believe in it or not; I do, so I wish you happiness regardless.

Do something to save the planet today. It's the only one we've got. Truth is regardless of politics or your personal beliefs on your responsibility to the earth, you do live here. So clean up after yourself. It's only fair to the others you share the space with.

Peace, love, and hippy freaks (which probably includes me).



So I'm floating away
with nothing to stop me
no net to catch me
and I know that I'll fall

but I'm almost indifferent
lost in nonchalant apathy
like it wouldn't even matter
if no one was there

and the stakes are so high
that I can't even see them
and if I just pretend
they'll cease to exist

I'm not sure which is worse
the heart-rending pain
or this empty existence
where all feeling is numbed


Beautiful World (Part 2)

I don't understand how or why anyone would call themselves a follower of Christ and NOT be involved in sacrificing themselves for the needs of those around them. Jesus said:
  • "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (from Luke 18:24-26)
  • "...whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (from Matthew 25:31-46)
We all have passions and desires that guide our paths in life. One person cannot be expected to heal every hurt in the world. Even Jesus himself realized human limitations and took time to rest. He placed a trust in his bride to carry on his work when he left this world.

We don't have to do it all. We don't have to give away everything we own and live in a cardboard box just to "make God happy." That's not how it works. We are, however, asked to let go of those things that we feel we deserve and are owed to us, to lay down our claim to our "rights," and to be grateful for the things we take for granted in order to put others first.

I am part of an adoptive/fostering families group with my church. Every one of us has chosen to make a difference in the life of at least one child, by opening our families to include them. We know this is not something that everyone needs to do, but it's at least one way that we feel led to care.

This year, we're working on teaching our children what service to others means. The adults are working through a DVD series called Becoming a Good Samaritan, which is an excellent reality check for all of us. We are working on projects with our children where they learn to think of those who don't have as much as we do, like putting together "mystuff" bags with personal care items and toys for children who have been taken out of their homes with nothing the can call their own.

The idea is simple. Get out. Learn about what's going on outside your own little bubble. Find out how you can help someone, even in a small way. And help make this world more beautiful for those who can't see it on their own.


Need a simple place to start? It takes only seconds, but it could make a difference to hundreds of young people in Lancaster City, PA. Vote everyday in the month of April for Teen Haven to be the recipient of a $50,000 grant to remodel their gym.

More stuff on this:


Beautiful World (Part 1)

We live in a beautiful world...

Oh all that I know is nothing to run from
Cause yeah everybody here got's somebody to lean on
~Coldplay "Don't Panic"

Look around you. No matter what you're dealing with, you have to agree there is beauty everywhere. And it's ours to appreciate, enjoy, and take care of. Too bad not everyone can see that, eh?

Guess what; If you're reading this, chances are you have everything you need, and probably a lot of what you want:
  • a computer or access to one, which implies you live in an environment where there is electricity and other such comfort luxuries (running water, heat, etc.)
  • a home or at least a roof over your head, most likely with several rooms, possibly even one just for your computer
  • clothing, likely more than you can even wear, and the means with which to clean them with the touch of just a button or two, possibly even at your own home
  • a variety of foods to eat and beverages to drink, some of which are likely already prepared or semi-prepared for you already
  • some mode of transportation readily available to you, whether it's your own vehicle or public transportation
  • access to necessary medicines and doctors, whether you pay for it or someone else does
  • people who care about you and can help you out when you find yourself lacking in any of those things
And that's a partial list of what we have. Even if you're without a job, you probably have those things or you wouldn't be reading this.

How many people out there don't? This isn't politics. This is fact: we live in one of the richest countries in the world. Even the "poor" in this country, could go to a large percentage of countries on this planet, and be among the wealthiest people there.

And yet, we whine and complain when we don't have those things, or we don't get them the way we think we deserve to have them. When we lose our right to chose what we want for ourselves, we act like it's the end of the world.

And no wonder people around the world think we're selfish and arrogant.

(to be continued...)


Meditation and the Art of Worship

There have been quite a few "coincidences" or "divine appointments" (depending on your viewpoint) in my life lately, particularly in the area of my spiritual development. I've had some really interesting conversations with people of various backgrounds and experiences. I have people applauding my openness and desire to make my spiritual journey very personal, and I have people who are very concerned about all of the "weird" and "new agey" stuff that I'm into lately.

Regardless of your perspective on this, I've come to discover something that has become a very real and personal part of my relationship with God and my spiritual walk. The creative side of me really resonates with allowing myself to worship artistically and really appreciates the opportunity to love God with heart, mind, soul, and body.

As such, I've become very interested in the tradition of worship through mandalas. Psychiatry uses them to assist in the centering, calming, and compartmentalizing the thoughts and emotions. Nearly every religious tradition makes use of mandalas in one form or another to focus the mind, body, and spirit on God or on a central concept or idea. Like anything in the world, there is nothing sacred or secular in and of itself. It's the value or meaning that we assign to something. Everything in life can be used for "good or evil" but there is a lot of value to be taken from this ancient practice.

When I color mandalas, I'm able to concentrate on what I'm listening to or thinking about. I'm a visual and creative person. As such, if I don't have something to do with my hands and have the concepts right in front of me in color, my mind wanders and I can't pay attention.

So, I color them and jot down words and phrases I want to remember. And because I am artistic, I spend a lot of time on each one and often go back to it at later times. It's an act of focus, an act of worship, and an act of meditation and absorption. Here are my notes from church on Sunday, as well as my continued meditation through the next two days on the topic of worship.

The main points of the message are there. The message topic was "Now is the time!... to worship: The Songs of my Heart." And as I leafed through my book at the start of the message, this mandala caught my attention with it's "wings of praise." There were six of them, and we were about to walk through six different reasons or reactions to worship.

As the various reasons were listed, I wrote them clockwise around the mandala on the "wings," along with the scripture example and the response for each. I chose a color for each wing that represented the ideas to me, and I discovered something as a result that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The wings that were opposite one another were similar colors, and as I examined the concepts closer, I realized that those ideas that ended up opposite each other were also very similar, the type of concepts that usually go hand in hand.

As the message ended, the question was posed, "Which song are you singing right now?" We weave in and out of the different songs in our lives at different times of our lives, and we find worship in all things. To see a complete image of the God that we worship, we must allow ourselves to sing whatever song we need to at any given time, realizing that they are all woven together as a piece of who we are made to be.

And this all came out of the notes that I took, the pattern I chose, and the colors I used, repeatedly allowing myself to review these concepts and digest them in a different way each time I looked at and contributed to the artwork. There's glory (gold) in each form of worship and life (green) in all.

We become more beautiful through the process of allowing ourselves to be touched and changed as we worship God.

What You'll Miss...

Despite what anyone tells you, what you'll miss most when you die is the little things: the grass between your toes, the clink of the ice in your coffee, and the scent of the breeze as it lifts your hair and tickles your neck. Those things you'll miss and so much more, because those are the moments of life. Those major life moments, special as they are, are not the things you remember. They're made up of small moments, the ones that make your day unique to you.

Like sitting in the sweltering heat, in black heavy robes, just waiting for your name to be called. Of walking to the stage, just praying you won't trip or lose your cap, or do something else stupid stupid that will make you the one no one forgets. Of the smile and the handshake, the snap of the photo, and being handed the paper you paid for, only to return to your seat an realize it's not even the real thing, but only a prop to tide you over while you wait for the mail. Of the sudden realization that there are no classes tomorrow, and the freedom that turns to fear in the light of the uncertainty.

Like standing in the foyer with the storm raging outside that ruined your plans for pictures in the park and caused flooding severe enough to make the pianist miss her flight from Chicago, delaying everything as drowned rat guests trickle in. Of fighting the white runner that you didn't even want but you needed to have so you could live the dream of walking on those rose petals that never got dropped by a little girl afraid to walk through the crowd of people. Of the song that seemed shorter the day that you picked it, with everyone staring at you just standing there nervously giggling and waiting for the end. Of tripping on the long train you just had to have and paid far too much for, just so you could feel like a princess. Of good-natured laughter when you hiked up that skirt and practically ran from the sanctuary, dragging your baffled new husband behind you.

Like the sudden realization that you'd given up on tests and can't even look, not knowing where the sudden nausea comes from. Of that first tiny yawn and the hours of tears, incompetently fighting with sleep. Of standing over his bed and brushing his hair back from his face as his eyes flutter in dreams. Of the handful of crumpled violets, clenched in tiny hands and held as an offering of love and devotion. Of the single tear that runs down your cheek when you watch the backpack disappear down the hall, wondering with a mixture of sadness and joy how you'll spend the next 3 hours all by yourself.

Like the story of one child that pulls at your heart as the sun sets at camp and you know that you've only begun. Of the mountains of papers and hours of examination of every aspect of your life and the thousands of dollars and the perfect house you sacrifice to know what happiness really is. Of the pan of cookies that nearly burned to a crisp as the holiday tradition turns into that call that changes your life. Of the quick run to Target for itty-bitty diapers and formula for a little girl you've yet to meet. Of the round of applause from family and friends as this angel becomes more than just an idea and again when the final decree is spoken. Of the squeals of laughter that tickle your ears as you tease those chubby legs, admiring the strawberry blonde curls she didn't inherit from you.

Like the steadfast gaze of adoration after a decade of change and the knowledge that you'd never go back and you wouldn't change a thing. Only knowing all the memories of things that didn't yet happen all those things that you know you'll still miss. These tiny moments are the things you'll miss when you die.


Killing Jesus


held here by no one

only solitary confinement
abandoned by the conflict

when all is stripped
and left naked

hanging here



hanging here

left naked and
stripped from all

abandoning all conflict
for suicidal confinement

no one here to hold