How is your Haal this Valentine’s Day?

Courtesy of free images.com

Courtesy of free images.com

How is your haal (the transient state of one’s heart) this Valentine’s Day? Does anyone remember the “Reach out and touch” televised ads of the 70s and 80s? Each presented a different scenario: a homesick college student; families relishing new friends they met on vacation…a women stops short when she hears her friend say, “Stop twirling your hair.”

Even in those days, long before wireless technology and smart phones, the message came through loud and clear: “when we connect, love is real and hearts heal.”

Since it is Valentine’s weekend 2016, let’s intentionally look at love through the lenses of the legend of Valentine’s Day and a reflection on being busy by Omid Safi.

The Legend of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration honoring an early Christian saint named Valentinus. St. Valentine of Rome was a priest who was martyred around 496 for refusing to convert to Roman paganism. He was imprisoned after ministering to Christians and presiding at marriages for soldiers during a time those serving in the military were forbidden by the Roman Emperor to marry.

As the story goes, to encourage faithfulness, Valentine would cut out parchment hearts and give them to Christians. According to legend, during his imprisonment, Valentinus healed Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer, Asterius. Before being executed, since she could now see, he wrote her a letter and signed it, “Your Valentine.”

I suspect Valentine has no idea of the legacy of cards, flowers, and candy that would ultimately develop from his outreach.

A Reflection on “Being Busy” by Omid Safi

Omid Safi writes a weekly column for Krista Tippett’s On Being blog. On Being Omid is Director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center. He is also a prolifer writer and editor of Progressive Muslims: On Justice, Gender and Pluralism. I found a column he wrote in 2014 particularly relevant.

In “The Disease of Being Busy,” Omid asks the question, “How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be fully human when we are so busy?” Omid associates being busy with not being “at ease” – and suggests this dis-ease is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we so desperately crave.

Amid explains that in many Muslim cultures when you ask how someone is doing, rather than saying, “How are you?” the question you ask is: “How is your haal?” Haal is the transient state of one’s heart, so the question translates as “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” Omid offers a distinction between to-do list items and giving voice to deep emotions that resonate. He says:

“I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, or how many messages are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.”

And here’s the Valentine’s weekend bonus: Omid goes on:

“Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.”

So what have we learned?

We learned the deep roots of commemorating Valentine’s Day emphasize care, healing (literally allowing people to see), extending one’s self to another, and faithful hearts.

Omid reminds those of us who struggle with the dis-ease of our incessant busyness to look deeper and honestly risk sharing the state of our hearts with each other. This message really is counter cultural.

See – Love – Touch – Heal – Be.

How is your heart?

Savor that word, glance, text, call, hug, question, touch, visit, conversation…that meaningful moment when someone reached out and touched you.

Or when you reached out and touched another.

I’d love to hear what a difference it made in your life.

Note:

  1. Safi, Omid. “The Disease of Being Busy.” Blog. On Being with Krista Tippett. November 6, 2014.
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On the Way to a Beloved Community. Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.

Still moving toward your vision of a ‘Beloved Community.’ Happy Birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.!

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., shared his vision of a ‘Beloved Community,’ he said, “This will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” Let’s take a step back and reflect on both what a quantitative change in our lives…something we can count…might look like – AND what form a qualitative change in our souls might take.

We’ll begin with some background on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Information on King referenced in this post comes from www.theKingCenter.org: “The ‘Beloved Community’ is a term first coined in the early days of the 20th century by the philosopher-theologian Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation. However, it was another member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who popularized the term and invested it with a deeper meaning. For Dr. King, the ‘Beloved Community’ was a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.”

“Dr. King’s ‘Beloved Community’ is a global vision, in which all people share in the wealth of the earth. Poverty, hunger, and homelessness are not tolerated because international standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism, discrimination, bigotry and prejudice are replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of being related. International disputes are resolved by peaceful conflict-resolution and reconciliation instead of military power. Love and trust triumphs over fear and hatred. Peace and justice prevails over war and military conflict.”

“It was fifty nine years ago when Dr. King spoke of the ‘Beloved Community’ as the end goal of nonviolent boycotts. In a speech at a victory rally following the announcement of the U.S. Supreme Court decision desegregating the seats on Montgomery’s busses, King said, “The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends…It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men”… and I’d add women!

“The core value of the quest for Dr. King’s “Beloved Community” was agape love, which he described as “understanding, redeeming goodwill for all,” an “overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative”…”the love of God operating in the human heart.” Dr. King said that “Agape does not begin by discriminating between worthy and unworthy people…It begins by loving others for their sakes” and “makes no distinction between a friend and enemy; it is directed toward both…Agape is love seeking to preserve and create community.”

Clearly, we haven’t gotten there yet! King identified six Nonviolent Principles that offer us a roadmap or a place to begin this year:

  1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people. It is active nonviolent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally.
  2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding. The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation. The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the ‘Beloved Community.’
  3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice NOT people. Nonviolence recognizes that evildoers are also victims and are not evil people.
  4. Nonviolence holds that suffering can educate and transform. Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation. Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
  5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate. Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body. Nonviolent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
  6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice. The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win. Nonviolence believes that God is a God of justice.” (www.theKingCenter.org)

For me, one quantifiable change in my life is easy to count. It’s somewhat counter intuitive, because it involves intentionally choosing to be involved in fewer activities.

Ahh…what about a qualitative change in my soul? It involves intentionally choosing to be present…even when the newly installed dishwasher stops working. Yikes! Principle 5 “resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.” It’s a choice and it starts inside of each of us!

Martin, your wisdom continues to inspire! We’re still moving toward your vision of a ‘Beloved Community.’

Love Your Scars

Love Your Scars

Really? Love your scars? It took years to overcome my own resistance and begin to see the depth of my scars. In my experience, we need to “see” before we are able to “love” our scars. 

Let me begin by saying, “It’s way easier to ignore your scars.” At least that’s how it feels to those of us more comfortable denying rather than acknowledging our feelings. Sometimes something happens that offers you insight and allows you to “see” you possess the courage to look at your scars.

Whether it was that mole removed in eighth grade, dental surgery after you caught that baseball in your mouth, an abdominal scar or a severe burn, as we age, if we’re lucky, we come to realize we heal from the inside out. Those of us who are honest know the process can be excruciatingly painful…and so worth it…

Scar tissue replaces normal skin tissue after our skin is damaged by a cut, burn, or skin infection. It’s as good a metaphor as any. When you’re ready to “face” your scars, you may choose to partner with someone trained to navigate this “inside out” growth terrain. Contact me when you are ready to enter into dialogue and begin seeing in a dramatically different way.

You’ll be amazed at what you are capable of!

 

 

Warning: The demolition of this structure is imminent

What My Appendix Disintegrating Taught Me About Institutionalized Religion

I heard the surgeon said, “When we opened you up, your appendix was disintegrating!” Learn what my appendix disintegrating taught me about institutionalized religion.

I had not planned on spending the final five days of 2015 in a hospital following emergency surgery. Certainly had not anticipated the abscesses that resulted from the disintegration.

I’m grateful! Sure, the process slowed me down, introduced me to some cool people, offered me lots of opportunity to ask for help, and allowed me time to reframe what I want to commit to in 2016. Expect to see weekly blog entries throughout 2016.

I drove by this sign a few weeks ago. It occurs to me the message applies equally to my appendix as well as the building targeted for demolition. The “Warning” of imminent demolition may also apply to some existing structures of institutionalized religion. Like the pain on one’s right side before one’s appendix disintegrates, many of us ignore religious structures and practices we were introduced to as children. We’ve outgrown them. They no longer fit.

I invite you to explore what’s below the surface. Give yourself permission to explore your inner depths. The good news is our wounds, even deep ones, heal in the presence of wisdom and care. Sometimes it takes antibiotics!

Free Digital Photos.net

Spotlight

I saw the movie Spotlight this past weekend. The setting is Boston in 2001. The new editor of the Boston Globe, Marty Baron, assigns a team of journalists to investigate allegations against a priest accused of molesting more than 80 boys. Their research reveals a culture of silence, secrecy, and judgment that shakes Boston and continues to reverberate through the Catholic Church to this day…14 years later.

For years, the Globe had received tips about clergy sexual abuse. Yet, connecting the dots and exposing the depth of the pattern occurred only when a Boston outsider, who was Jewish, had the courage to follow his intuition and commit the resources of the Spotlight team, each of whom had grown up as practicing Catholics in Boston. Two things became clear to me as I watched the story unfold: 1) The degree to which our biases blind us to seeing creative possibilities for action; and 2) Leadership means engaging with integrity.

The movie ends with a series of four screens listing more than 200 dioceses in the United States and around the world where clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups have occurred. As I walked out of the theatre, I felt nauseous. The last time I was nauseous at a movie was when I saw “Twelve Years a Slave” a few years ago. I felt guilt as a white American, complicit in dehumanizing behavior to black men, women and children.

This time I felt guilt for remaining loyal to the institution…for not naming sexual and spiritual abuse a casualty of the clerical culture and the “good Catholics” that protect it…for believing bishops and cardinals when they commit they’ve addressed issues in their dioceses. Perspective taking is easier when we see the story and feel the emotions of those most affected.

Spotlight is a movie I recommend everyone see and engage in conversation about. Dialogue is one way cultural change happens. A fact-based movie like Spotlight focuses awareness on deeply ingrained patterns of behavior that threaten and demand people sit down and shut up, pledge loyalty to schools they attended decades ago, or trust friends and colleagues in perpetuity, especially when a leader’s behavior (priest, monsignor, bishop, or cardinal) is out of integrity with the core value and mission of the organization they represent.

Hope is never lost, even when buried under the debris of corruption. It’s worth seeing and worth feeling whatever you feel. Processing what you feel frees you to expand your perspective and take creative action.

“Freedom is the ability to make a new decision about who we really want to be in life.”                                                                     ~Joan Chittister                                                                 

Photo credit: Stuart Miles and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Epiphany by Janet McKenzie

What We See Colors Our Worldview

It was 2004 after my initial journey to West Africa that I was first exposed to Janet McKenzie’s multicultural art. It took me being a minority to feel the cognitive dissonance and realize how prevalent and out of place European art was in churches I visited in Ghana and Nigeria.

Here’s the thing. It only bothered me after I literally put myself into the shoes of the people around me and saw how narrow a perspective is reflected as Jesus in all his whiteness hangs on the crucifix when every person in the community is black.

The stark reality is that, as a white American woman, I stood out. As a child, I learned I was made in the image and likeness of God. Everything I saw reinforced that MY God was white and male… UNTIL I was exposed to a broader and deeper perspective. Travel accelerates shifts in one’s point of view.

The image above is “Epiphany” by Janet McKenzie (used with permission of the artist). In Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: the Art of Janet McKenzie, Katharine Jeffers Schori explains, “Epiphany is usually framed as ‘revelation to the nations,’ so that the good news of God in human flesh is available to all the peoples of this earth, not only the nation in which Jesus was born. The traditional way of understanding the wise ones who come to pay homage to the baby born in Bethlehem is that there must have been three, for three gifts are named, but also that they represented the known regions of the ancient world: Africa, Asia, and Europe…(Janet McKenzie) invites us into yet another awareness of what it means that Jesus is born for the whole world. All of humanity is represented in these figures: yes, women! (by whom we all come into the world)…This is about the ancient wisdom and ministry of women caring for other women as new life is brought into the world.”

Our worldview colors what we see. Katharine Jeffers Schori poses a question that each of us might ask ourselves today, Where do we meet and acknowledge and bless God in our midst? That is the largest challenge Epiphany presents. It seems most often to be about finding God in the unexpected and surprising.” 

What has to happen for us to be the wise men and wise women of our day?


Jefferts Schori, Katharine. “Epiphany.” Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: The Art of Janet McKenzie. Ed. Susan Perry. New York: Orbis Books, 2009. 46-50. Print.

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Where Did the Wise Men Come From?

Do you remember the wise men, sometimes referred to as astrologers, magi, or kings? Two thousand years ago, this group of learned, distinguished foreigners visited Jesus and brought valuable gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

They followed a star and when they arrived, they were welcomed!

Where did they come from?

Probably present day Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Yemen.

Each year we celebrate Epiphany and sometimes we experience epiphanies, sudden or striking realizations.

How many of us recognize the Christmas story is the story of a Middle Eastern family wandering in search of safe refuge?

Empty Nest?

Empty Nest?

We look forward to our children going away to school or moving out on their own. An enormous amount of time and effort is focused on the process.

We feel proud, relieved, excited… and acutely aware that their energy no longer fills our home. People refer to us as “Empty Nesters.”

How strange! Like any life transition, it feels uncomfortable in the beginning. Embrace all the emotions you feel, moment by moment. Reflect on what is possible now.

Jean Shinoda Bolen’s words ring true for me: “When we are in a threshold time, what we decide to do determines what comes next.”

 

 

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Can We Talk?

Dear Pope Francis:

Can we talk?

               Even if the door is closed?

                                                     What is our best next step?

                                                                                           Let me suggest we open the door and begin a dialogue?

Delighted to hear you encourage us to not hold back…be messy… to acknowledge the Spirit at work, especially in those not “part of our group” or “like us”…

At your final event in the United States, in Philadelphia, during the homily, what I heard was:

“God wants all his children to take part in the feast of the Gospel. Jesus says, “Do not hold back anything that is good, instead help it to grow!” To raise doubts about the working of the Spirit, to give the impression that it cannot take place in those who are not “part of our group”, who are not “like us”, is a dangerous temptation. Not only does it block conversion to the faith; it is a perversion of faith!”             

                                                                                                       ~Pope Francis

Assuming you are open to dialogue, please have your people call my people…better yet, since I don’t have people,  have your people call or email me.

In Joy,
Kathleen

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Father Knows Best or Modern Family?

No longer content to watch reruns of Father Knows Best, we freely create community as Modern Family.

Father Knows Best? debuted on radio in 1949. In those days of audio entertainment, the title of the show ended with a question mark, suggesting that a father’s role as family leader and arbiter was dubious. In 1954, Father Knows Best moved to television, without the question mark, where it ran until 1963. Museum.tv describes the show as a sitcom “in which moms were moms, kids were kids, and fathers knew best.”

Need I remind anyone 1954 was sixty-one years ago? Even if we remember Father Knows Best, we’re no longer content to watch reruns. How many of us have a console TV like the one pictured above?

Modern Family debuted in 2009. The show revolves around an extended, multigenerational family with straight, gay, multicultural, and traditional characters. It’s funny! Let’s face it: our reality is different than it was sixty years ago…

Whether we watch TV or not, our experience has taught us that everyone has a voice and the right to use it.

The WOW Conference (aka Women’s Ordination Worldwide) is coming to Philadelphia September 18th to 20th! The theme is Gender, Gospel & Global Justice. WOW aims to demonstrate the interconnection between the exclusion of women in ministry and the global damage the Church does to the status and treatment of women and girls. Amazing speakers include Theresa Kane, Kate Kelly, Patricia Fresen, Tina Beattie, Maureen Fiedler, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Asra Nomani, and Shannen Dee Williams.

From where I stand, the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis visiting Philadelphia pale in comparison.