Annotated Confession, November 2016

This morning during Morning Prayer, I heard and said the confession with different ears, as one is prone to do in liminal times such as when one’s heart feels broken or constricted. In light of an election that nominated someone who condones violence, normalizes bigotry, and epitomizes hypocrisy, as an American, I feel the need to repent.* As a middle class person and someone who benefits from white privilege (even as a registered Cherokee), my socio-economic demographic largely voted for Donald Trump. I have heard more than one voice say that if our “group” wants to generalize, say, all Muslims as terrorists or all blacks as thugs, then others can likewise generalize all whites–especially all white Christians–as racist, homophobic, etc., etc. It appears then that I, too, have condoned violence, bigotry, and hypocrisy, among other things; it appears that I, too, have not respected the dignity of all human beings, which is in direct contradiction to my baptismal vows that I re-affirm regularly.

Before I turn to my neighbor to exchange the peace, and certainly before I presume to come to the Lord’s table, I confess my sins against God and my neighbor.

Most merciful God,

Yes, God, you are merciful. There is little, if anything, we have done to deserve your compassion or forgiveness, yet humanity continues to exist.

we confess that we have sinned against you

Me, myself, and I–as a whole, broken person–have sinned. I have turned away from you, in spite of you.

in thought, word, and deed,

I turn away from you in what I think, what I say, and what I do. It may not be obvious to others when I sin; it might be known only between you and me. It is known, though, and these sins are not right intentions, right speech, nor right actions. They are mine, and they are wrong.

by what we have done,

Yes, I take full responsibility for my actions and hold myself accountable to them.

and by what we have left undone.

How many times has my silence and/or inaction kept your mercy and grace from being manifest in the world or allowed hate to have a louder voice?

We have not loved you with our whole heart;

The heart was considered the seat of the will, if I remember my Old Testament studies. The heart is considered the seat of courage. The heart is the seat of our love and compassion. None of these have I wholly given to YOU.

we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

My head hangs heavily, and my heart constricts at the gravity of the truth of this statement. Yet I say it, for it is true. There is no qualifier for who is my neighbor or who should be excluded as my neighbor. It’s not even “others,” because to presume “other” is to exclude from our “group.” Love my neighbors. Love everyone around me. Everyone. I haven’t loved them as myself. I don’t even know if I love myself as you would have me be loved.

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

I am sorry, and I humbly turn toward you, O God. I cannot simply say that I am sorry; I have to show it. I have to do something about it. It’s what I’ve been taught, and it’s what I teach my children. This repentance isn’t shameful: it is honest. It hurts because it reminds me that I have been wrong in my ways, that I have made bad choices: wrong because I let fear or anger govern my decisions, bad because they send ripples of negative consequences into the world, and I may never know the extent of the damage done. I cannot undo what I have done. With humility I can only move forward. I choose yet again to move toward God first; then I can move into right action.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,

In the most merciful act imaginable yet never fully conceivable by my finite being, you already showed us how to give our whole heart by giving yours. Let me never forget or take for granted the abundance of your love and grace. For the sake of all that is good and holy, let me not disgrace the worth of your sacrifice.

have mercy on us and forgive us,

I see what I have done. I realize what you have done and what you continue to do for us who turn to you. Mercifully, you grant us life eternal, relentlessly allowing us to return to you when we have fallen away.

that we may delight in your will,

With your mercy and forgiveness, there is joy to be had. That joy is deep and wide when our will is aligned with yours. This joy doesn’t promise riches or ease, but it promises a fullness and richness of heart that is only known by, with, and in YOU. I want that wholeness in my life. I may not even realize that I actually yearn for it.

and walk in your ways,

With your mercy and forgiveness, I will not only feel your joy but also walk in your way, doing the things that are right and good not only for myself but also for all of Creation.

to the glory of your Name.

What I do for you gives YOU the glory. I may be praised for doing good, but we both know that without your mercy and forgiveness, your love and guidance, I’m headed toward destruction and death. All glory is yours, O God. Thank you for sharing it with me, and help me carry it forward with both hands and all of my heart.

Amen.

Again, I say, “Amen,” as I take care of myself and family with love, as I listen intently to as many as I can, and as I stand strong as a woman of God striving to do all that I can in love of God, neighbor, and myself . . . with God’s help.

I am only one voice among many, one heart in the multitude, but I stand with a promise to love.

Love trumps hate.

 

* This list is not all-inclusive, I know. I also know there are those who voted for Donald Trump for many reasons: for a change to shake up the government establishment, for his anti-abortion stance, for his appeal to the common man, for his Republican nomination, for his not being the controversial Hillary Clinton . . . for these and other reasons. What he represented throughout the campaign, however, spoke to fear-mongering and to belittling (and that word seems too kind) much of humanity and creation. From my perspective, our collective voice did not vote for love of God and all of Creation in this election. What seemed to win is a legitimization of exclusion, oppression, and disregard for others, and it is for this which I confess.

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“Nothing complicated about it”

When thinking about how we move through the day, I’m more likely to imagine a digital clock ticking the minutes and hours away as we scurry from home to school to work to lessons and sports to home to bed. So much of our day is guided by appointments and obligations, most that make our lifestyle possible and others that make our lives enriched, and we consider ourselves privileged to do all this.

Then I come across something like this, reading out of a book I happened upon in our church lending library:

“In ancient times people found it natural and important to seek God’s will. With little spiritual guidance and in utter simplicity, they heard from God. There was nothing complicated about it. They understood that every moment of every day presented an opportunity for faith to fulfill a responsibility to God. They moved through the day like the hand of a clock. Minute after minute they were consciously and unconsciously guided by God.” -Jean-Pierre de Caussade in Abandonment to Divine Providence*

I confess that I do not in every moment think first about how my next move will “fulfill a responsibility to God.” While I may occasionally think, “God, what would you have me do?”, it doesn’t often enter my mind when I am making my daily rounds around the house or through our city’s streets. I’m more likely to be caught up in my own thoughts about what I have or haven’t accomplished on my unwritten to-do list. We are creatures of habit, and my routine is about what I need to do next, what I’m expected to do. It shouldn’t be a surprise that our society is primarily full of egocentric people, taking care of ourselves before everyone else because our primary thoughts are typically about ourselves. It’s natural for us to put #1 first, whether that be me, my family, my country, etc.

What would it be like if it were “natural and important to seek God’s will,” to hear from God, to move through our day “minute after minute . . . consciously and unconsciously guided by God”? De Caussade has a way with words (even in the translation) that points both toward a simple yet profound beauty. This beauty comes to me even as I see photos of the horror of the Syrian refugees and read the clamor of American citizens advocating for rights to marry or to live without fear.

The guidance of God contrasts sharply to the suffering and oppression at hand. Any action that is born of hatred and violence, of fear and anger, does not align with what I understand to be God’s will, that we love God and our neighbor. Christians aren’t the only ones who believe this, either.

Perhaps that’s why there’s nothing really complicated about it. If we let God’s will guide our next move, we move in compassion. If we believe in God, in God’s unconditional love for us, it is our faithful responsibility to share this love with others, including ourselves. This means that we surrender to the will of God: we surrender to experience the tremendous freedom that is found in the power of unconditional love. It’s not popular. It’s risky and counter-cultural. It makes us vulnerable because we open our hearts and become an easy target. I think God knows this kind of love well.

I’m going to replace the battery in my watch, the watch my husband gave me as a gift. I cannot promise that every time the minute-hand moves that I will first be thinking of God, but de Caussade said we can be “consciously and unconsciously guided by God.” When I fail to ask for guidance, may my faith guide me even when I’m unaware.

*As found in Nearer to the Heart of God: Daily Readings with the Christian Mystics, Bernard Bangley, ed., 2005

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Love and Loss

My
mom is a neverending song in my heart of comfort, happiness, and
being.  I may sometimes forget the words but I always remember the
tune.
 

~Graycie Harmon


Recently on my FaceBook profile, I wrote in my status that I wished we could talk about that which we most feared.  I wrote this because lately I have wanted to talk to people about death, even their own, but haven’t felt that it is socially acceptable.  Who am I even to feel I have the right to ask them about what might very well be their greatest fear?

But if we can’t speak truthfully and honestly to each other, what right have we to call each other friends?

I hope that I never let that opportunity to pass me by again.  I hope I have the strength to put what is most important first because it hurts to feel that I didn’t say what I was led to say,  that I stifled a responsibility — even if it’s just known between God and me.  May I be so open not just with friends but with my own family as well.  I must teach by example radical love, a lovingkindness that will leave an impression unmistakable, unforgettable, yet so subtle as to be felt without words and blatancy. 

We do not know the number of our days.  We may not know until the very end when our work here is done.  In that simple knowledge, we live our lives.  In that knowledge, we trust that every moment we share is significant, that we have work to do, even if it’s just offering a smile of maternal love, an assurance to a friend, or accepting that we do not know but surrendering ourselves to that which is Good.

May Wendy‘s soul rest in peace, her love surround her husband and boys, friends and family.

The best conversations with mothers always take place in silence, when only the heart speaks. 

~Carrie Latet


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Maternal Responsibility

Almost three years ago I started my little book of mini-essays, maternal meditations, if you will.  As much as I’d like to think I’ve climbed some mountain of achievement as I have filled the last pages, I realize I’m still in the foothills.  My kids aren’t yet teenagers.  I’m sure those years will warrant their own book of assurances!  I still see and hear my mothers and grandmothers worrying about their children, welcoming them back into their homes, living daily into their role of mother, a.k.a. friend, confidante, nurse, shoulder, financier, comedienne, etc.

Looking hard at my current situation, my husband and I conclude that we don’t focus enough quality time on the kids.  It’s hard.  We are but two, they are four.  We both like to be involved in our community.  I like to keep a tidy house.  The kids only really like to do things if it’s their own idea, even our toddler.

Yet another realization sets in, as lessons seem to be coming at me hard and heavy these days.  I’ve never wanted to have kids that resent me because I was too busy working on this or that or too adamant about keeping the house clean.  While I’m not likely to let go of the minimal cleanliness we have going around here, I know I cannot take on any more projects.  Any thoughts I have of going back to school or working in any way outside the home will have to wait at least another three or four years.  Right now I need to be the mother I say I am, the mother I want to be.

“I’m just a mother,” I usually say when people ask what I “do.”  After all, I don’t want to make them feel bad for not volunteering as much as I do, and I don’t want to make them feel bad for not spending more time with their kids.  But if I am to validate myself, devote more time to my kids, make my writing time spare and intense, then I shall declare, “I’m a mother of four exceptional children” (as my husband describes them).  If others offer that look of “oh, that’s all?” then I shall ask if what they are doing is having as great of an influence on the next generation as nurturing four souls.  I’d like to think I would, anyway.

My gift, my charge, is maternal responsibility.  Being a good mother for my children now will only make me a better person later, no matter what I do when I get older . . . when I grow up.  🙂  Besides, don’t I always say that life is all about living in the moment?
diosa_goddess_india_8351_l.jpg
When we go on vacation, I don’t like to be the one behind the camera — not because I want to be in all the photos but because I want to experience the real thing, photos or no.  May I be blessed enough to offer my kids the real thing.  May there be something, some way for me to be for my children a window to the Divine.  What greater responsibility is there?

photo from everystockphoto by Rosa y Dani

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