A god of lesser things?

So, my sister saw my earlier re-blogged post about God and noted that she’d had a dream that God was named Margaret. Then I see that I’d already given God the name Eugene. In any event, lots of things have changed since this post, including I now have 3 daughters who know how to make a bed.

Tina L B Porter

Can it be that I have a 12-year-old child who does not know how to make a bed?  Oh, yeah, she is my child.  A Gemini, too.  Bed-making has never been an issue for me–and yet, when I do make the bed, when the sheets are all clean and cozy, well, there’s just nothing better, right?

So, we washed her sheets and I left it to her to make the bed and she comes out and asks, “Do you have to be a mom to figure out how to put these things on the bed?” She indicated she was having more trouble with the mattress cover than the sheet.  So I go in to help her, and I’m showing her how to ease it over one end, pull toward the other then, well, you know the drill, I’m sure.  So I’m in the midst of showing her and I say…

View original post 199 more words

“Can I Pray for You?”

More from the vault …

Tina L B Porter

So, I noted in my last post that I’ve been under a black cloud the last few days.  It’s been a rough patch here, and, as if the death of a friend/mentor/church leader and my father’s illness weren’t enough, I had an old wound rend open without notice.  You know, when you are vulnerable anyway and then a past grief finds its way into your heart all over again?  I think my grief immunities are super, super low right now.

And then, this morning, as I worked at home, the phone rang. It was my neighbor, wanting to invite me to an event.  In declining the invitation, I spilled it all out all over the place on her.  Here’s where I am, here’s what hurts, here’s what happened all those years ago, blah, blah, blah.  We shared similar tales of similar woes, and then she felt moved to say…

View original post 596 more words

The mess of righteousness

I spent the day reviewing old blog posts–feeling a bit melancholic, perhaps–and am reblogging some to remind myself of where I’ve been.

Tina L B Porter

Yesterday was a mess in so many ways and I won’t detail them all here.  But the day’s messes left me wondering: What are we owed?  When we choose a church community, when we live in a neighborhood, when we live as a family—what are we owed?

At one point in this day that seemed chock full of mess, I had two kids in the car who were angry with each other.  One because she is the middle child and she did, quite frankly, get the short end of the stick when it came to birthdays this year.  The other was the oldest child, whose birthday it was, but who has never quite figured out how to be inobtrusive on other people’s birthdays. They were bickering back and forth because one was upset because she got hosed on her birthday, and the other because the other one was making her feel…

View original post 684 more words

On doubt, faith, and God’s cell number

I just came across this post today, lying in my sick bed with that same fluffy cat across my lap and remembered that the house phone rang this morning and it WAS a four-digit number, but the phone I grabbed died in my hand before I could hear anything.

Tina L B Porter

We planned on sleeping in a little on Saturday.  We silly humans who make plans.  And the cats say “ha!”  My big fluffy tiger cat sat by my closed door and whined loudly for attention at the crack of 7:00 a.m.  I grabbed my pillow and then him and went downstairs to the couch to try to find a few more minutes of sleep there, with a cat purring upon me.

When I fell back to sleep, I had the weirdest dream.  I was out, at a party or something, and my cell phone rang.  I looked down to see who would be calling and all I saw was four digits … 2 7 7 9 (I think).  I answered tentatively, “hello?”

“Hi Tina, it’s dad,” came my father’s voice through my ear.  Distinctly my father’s voice. Not his timid, little-boy, end-of-life voice, as we came to call it. No…

View original post 664 more words

Nectarine Season

IMG_1878I was already dreadfully late this morning when I realized that my husband had finished off the coffee I had planned on pouring into my travel mug. I decided that people would rather see me fully caffeinated but a little later than half-caffeinated and just late, so I made another pot. As the coffee was brewing, I decided to make a sandwich because eating at my desk would make up for the being very, very late. I’m quite good at rationalizing.

I got out the turkey, and the spread and the bread and washed off a few limp pieces of iceberg lettuce. As I was making the sandwich, I was thinking how appropriate this sandwich is for this week: bland turkey on wheat-ish bread with soggy iceberg lettuce and a generous helping of Miracle Whip.  Ah, my comfort sandwich. This week of Robin Williams and Ferguson and the always present other news of people hurting each other with policy and projectiles–this week required a full-on comfort sandwich.

I don’t know that anyone would be surprised to hear that I have experienced depression in my life. I know there are people that I love dearly who would prefer that I didn’t share that statement out loud or online, but, frankly, it’s not a very well hidden secret and the tougher I think I am being in my battle with it, the less control I have over my reaction to the rest of the world. So, I’m making a declaration here that is scary in its public nature, but I hope will allow you to see that when I say I needed that sandwich, I wasn’t being just a melodramatic middle-aged white woman. I was being a melodramatic middle-aged white woman who got a severe gut-punch on Monday.

You see, I knew that Robin Williams took his own life when I heard the news that he was dead. I didn’t need anybody to tell me that and I didn’t even really want to know it. Monday night I sat quietly, trying to watch and not watch the news about it at the same time. My instincts were to protect me, because, well, lets just say I wasn’t in the best head place to begin with.

And then I spent the week watching and not watching, reading and not reading, starting to write and never really writing. People told me how I should talk about suicide and depression, and how I shouldn’t. All of it was, I’m sure, well meaning, but frankly, I just didn’t need the word police knocking on my door this week.

And then Michael Brown and Ferguson and militarized police. And that’s all I’m going to say about that right now because … I am a middle-aged white woman with an understanding of institutionalized racism and the politics of privilege and I just think so many people have addressed this so much better than I ever will and yet … yet it is important to be public about being a middle-aged white woman who is angry as hell that black men and boys continue to be killed and jailed disproportionately in this country at this time.

And so, I needed that sandwich. That bland and dough-y concoction that represents home on the day after Thanksgiving (or Thanksgiving night, after all the guests are gone and we have all tucked into the couch and turned on “Love Actually”)–that was what I needed.

I finished making the sandwich and poured my cup of coffee into my travel mug and then I looked around for something to accompany that sandwich at lunch time. And there it was: the Nectarine.

I knew as soon as I picked up that nectarine that it was perfectly ripe. You know how you know these things, you intuit it from the slight give when you pick it up and the weight of it that indicates it is full of juice and sugar and happiness. And I knew that if I packed that nectarine into something to take with me to eat with lunch that it would be bruised or the skin would tear and leak all that loveliness all over my backpack.

So I stood there, in my kitchen, with that nectarine in my hand, looking out over what promised to be a stunningly beautiful day with the sun shining on my deck and on all the lovely flowers, and I knew what had to be done.

I dug my teeth into the flesh of that perfect nectarine while holding the paper towel under my chin and as my teeth tore through the flesh, they released the juices which would have dribbled all over my chin if I hadn’t had the forethought and good teaching to just slurp those juices up while I ripped at that flesh. And the taste? Divine.

I stood in my kitchen, leaning out over the island, ripping and slurping with an abandon that was downright pornographic, but I didn’t care. The nectarine was perfect and it needed to be appreciated in its fullness. But more than that, I realized after I’d wiped my chin and washed my hands and was heading in to work with the taste still lingering at the roof of my mouth–lingering in a way that made me put off taking a drink of coffee because I just didn’t want to lose that flavor–I needed to eat it.

I needed to taste that taste that is the perfection of life–the fruit at its height of ripeness. I needed to feel that burst of flavor and color that is the exact antithesis to the eating experience I envisioned as I made that sandwich.

I needed that nectarine AND I needed that sandwich at the end of this week. I needed to be comforted and I needed to be shocked back into living in this real and complex world, this world that has rules we understand and those we don’t. This world that has spoken and unspoken codes by which we are supposed to live. One of my struggles with depression is not that I’m sad, but that I am expected to not be, because that isn’t “normal.” But really, it is normal– for me.

As I drove home, I thought about that nectarine and how I wanted to sing it’s praises for just being perfect and about how great fruit season is and all that. I thought about Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, which really was the start of my spiritual journey. I had to go look up the quote I was thinking about, you probably know it, it’s the one everyone knows:

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.”
― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple 

And I’m glad that I didn’t piss God off today by walking past that nectarine, but I’m even more glad that the search for that quote led me to this one:

“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.”
― Alice WalkerThe Color Purple
both quotes found here: https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/3300573-the-color-purple

This is my theology. This is what I (mostly) live by.

And this is my learning this week. Not that I should say this or I shouldn’t say that. Not that depression is what it is and it won’t ever not be that. But that there are ebbs and flows and that I needed to be jolted back into living, writing, and being and it took this little ball of fruit to re-anchor me.

We are all an expression of the divine. It is important to remember that of each other, but also of ourselves. It may not be enough to save ourselves from the diseases that pull at us, or from the learned behaviors that keep directing us to believe we are not a connected body. But then again, it may be enough, and for now, that’s where I’m putting my energy. Because “for now” is really all any of us has.

The Itty Bitty Living Space

http://i.imgur.com/28Id1fA.jpg

I don’t want to rush in and comment about Robin Williams. I want to take my time as I roll his death around inside me–inside my head, inside my heart, and all around in my soul.

It is too much. He walked me through my life. Just like the first time I saw Steve Martin, the first time I saw Robin Williams on Happy Days, I knew I could not get enough of this man. As if there ever was enough of him.

Apparent suicide.

We don’t know yet for sure, but as soon as I heard that he was dead, I made the leap. I remembered reading that he had recently battled his addictions again.

How hard this life is. How hard it is to navigate.

How lucky we mere mortals had stars like him to light and lighten our way.

RIP, dear Genie, who has finally escaped this itty bitty living space.

8/12/2014: Updated to include the artwork created by Disney that so captured what I was trying to articulate here.

Manifesto

(Because Audrey asked for more verse)

I shall eat when hungry
sleep when sleepy
move when weary
seek beauty when weighted down
   by the hugeness of the world

Where do I stand
in the midst of not just darkness
but depravity that hollows us out and leaves
   not even a stench, or a whiff of what once was,
   but soul-less-ness?

How do I bring myself to the front
and hold myself accountable?

How do I wage not war
   but resilience in the face
   of hope-less-ness?

Like those tulips that rose
through this winter that 
   ended finally not in spring
   but in May flurries
   and frost warnings

And still they rose.

High and hope-filled
stamens billowing with curiosity.

And will you
  dear friend
   who lives within my heart
will you
    rise and meet the day

with beauty
with soul
with purpose

These days are small and short
and we are young
and must bear witness
Backs as straight as they can be
while the sun beckons our petals

to open

with strength, grace,
   hope
     beyond, with, and without
         reason

Hope

Because

Hope 
    will
          rise

Grace … or something like it

My go-to music on my drive to-from work is usually Mumford & Sons–mostly because I can easily tell Siri to “play Mumford” and get at least an hours worth of soul-soothing or fast-driving tune-age. But the lyrics also require me to confront the concept of grace more often than I ever have in my life.

I’m not a theologian, nor a minister, nor a student of the Bible nor of other religious texts. More unfortunately for the context of this piece, I do not consider myself a Christian. I do, however, consider myself to be a religious person, one who can get behind the concept that a group of people can bind together to accomplish things that are good for the common purpose as well as for the individual. I also recognize that people can and have used religion to bind together to destroy great things or to do great wrongs.

Here’s my dilemma about the concept of grace (and I gratefully extend an invitation to those who wish to correct my understanding to do so): my dilemma is that if grace is the gift we did not earn and do not deserve, wouldn’t that, in essence, make us all more tender-hearted toward those in need of that unearned gift?

I have been granted grace in my life–people hold doors (metaphoric and otherwise) open for me all the time that they might not hold for others and often times I know it is not because I am particularly good or deserving, but because I am white, middle-aged and have a clean driving record. I’ve had grace extended to me not only in the mercurial, day-to-day understanding of second chances, but also in the large spectrum of understanding that I truly have not earned the grace of living in a country that is not currently and consistently under siege. And then there’s the grace of being loved, wholly and fully, despite my flaws.

What I don’t understand and would like someone to explain to me is: can you be a Christian and opt out of the concept of grace?

You praise God and say, “there but for the grace of God go I,” but then you close borders and opportunities and second chances for others. Is it possible, then, to be Christian? I’ll ask in another way: is it possible to follow Jesus, claim him as your Savior, and then be hard-hearted to those who not only don’t have bootstraps but wouldn’t know how to wear a boot if it was handed to them?

I know I’m mixing policy with doctrine, but since that is the norm now, I would like to know how a religious group that says they follow the teaching of Jesus can just say “no” and “no” and “no” again when everything I know of his teachings was to say “yes” to those most in need.

When I say I consider myself religious but not Christian, I am not rejecting the teachings of Jesus, nor of the power of believing in his teachings. What I object to is the doctrine of Church leaders who bend the legend in order to meet their small needs. It is so frightfully difficult to care for the needs and rights of others–of other people whose lives will not impact ours, directly–but as I understand it, that was what Jesus called on others to do. We do it with love in our hearts and anger in our soul so that the Kingdom of God can be realized here on earth. We do it for high, exalted reasons as well as for the low and selfish reasons, but we extend grace because some day we will need it to be extended to us, to our children, to the children of our friends.

So, I ask the question again: can you be a Christian and opt out of the concept of grace?

Because I know it is possible to opt out of Christianity and still believe in grace by other names. You can believe in second chances, and the hope that, given opportunity and access to it, great things are possible. Great changes in individuals and in communities. I know it is possible, but there has to be the ability to imagine it to be so.

I believe in the power of grace and in the power of love, but I also believe that these, alone, will not transform a world so greatly in need of a moral imagination that binds people together willingly and with purpose: to nourish, to clothe, to shelter. It takes hard work and a willingness to be wrong and be corrected by someone who understands the concept of grace, someone who not “but for” but because of the grace of God, can help lead us all on, toward the Kingdom in which we already live.

What I learned this week

Here’s what I learned this week
as I was walking my feet to nubs
back and forth and forth and back:

Stark white walls can be a canvas
inviting to the artist
as they consider
layering color over dreams
if only in their mind’s eye
and not actually on the walls …

Or white walls can be barriers
distancing
distracting
implicit “don’t”
explicit “don’t”

Clean and tidy is welcoming
but perfect is a myth

We are all in this together
except for those who aren’t
who distance themselves
by work
by study
by importance
or by
class

We are all in this together
and still
we walk, wheel, scoot, or crawl alone

What I learned this week as I
moved
in and out of
public and private spaces

is the importance
of a baseline understanding
neat and clean takes work

from everyone

I also learned, as I tried
to throw away cut flowers
who insisted on losing their
petals all over

Shedding them willy nilly
like the clumps of fur that show up on IMG_1529
the floor each morning from
nocturnal cat play

when I am trying to clean them up!

I learned that sometimes
in the process of cleaning up
you make BIG MESSES

Know what else I learned?

(that I wish I knew when my kids were littler
and when I was little to medium-sized?)

Here it is:

Messes are okay

They indicate that people and beloved pets
and even beautiful cut flowers that die
slowly for our pleasure
have been here and
experienced something with us

And that something is     life.

And guess what else I learned this week
as people needed and pulled me
with them to places
I hadn’t been in some time?

I learned that I’d rather live in the smudgy-walled
messiness
of my tidy life

than to have the perfect blank canvas
that holds but does not
reveal
the work of living
with others.

Worry not

IMG_1536Worry not
My identity has been found

lurking in another purse
being held in place
by a clamp and a key

Worry not
now that it is found
and sitting in the light glowing
on my desk
we know other lost things

will appear

pride, hope, purpose, art

They all must be there, too
in the recesses of some other
long-forgotten purse

And all I  need to do is
dust off the fine mist
of candy coatings
and tissue lint

And all the other smudgings
of the life
I have had

Or maybe that is my
art, my life, my pride

My identity …

That which is left alone
and coats itself

with candy dust and tissue lint
to hide the glimmer
and shine

Worry not

We are found
though we believe
we were okay

Being lost
and dusty

too.