How Quickly Passes Our Moment

streetYesterday, as I was driving home, I came over a rise and there were the Cascades in all their sunset glory. Around me, multi-color leaves were sparkling in the amber light, and I said to myself, “What is more important than appreciating this?”

The thought hit me hard. Seriously, what in my life is more important than experiencing  the breathtaking beauty that surrounds me?  I thought of my Mom and Dad, young people back in the 1960’s with their lives ahead of them, vibrant and strong and full of dreams. How quickly their moment passed.

How quickly passes my moment, too. Mike, a childhood playmate, is gone, dead of cancer this year. My cousin Gordy, as well. They were my contemporaries, and their time is over.

But here I am, given the gift of this day, this moment. I’m here. I’m still here. I have the sunset to watch, the trees to admire.

I am blessed.

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FOCUS 2019

focus 2019smaller

As you know, every year I create a FOCUS list. The FOCUS list is an assessment of one’s heart and spirit, and it helps us to know where to put our time, talent, and treasure for the upcoming months. (Create your own 2019 FOCUS list here.)

It’s been fascinating to watch the lists through the years. Some elements – spirituality, writing – remain constant. Other items move in and out, or up and down, in focus.

This year, as I worked through the exercise, it was immediately clear that in 2019 I would concentrate on strengthening my foundations. Health, home, work, community, creativity, spirituality, even time itself – all the focus is on ensuring my base is solid.

This makes sense to me. You see, I believe that life has three stages: childhood; first adulthood; second adulthood. In the first stage, childhood, we grow to maturity. That process isn’t complete at age 18 or 21; for most of us, it ‘sets’ around age 30.

Our first adulthood is the ‘trial run’, so to speak. It’s where we immerse ourselves in growing our careers, families, passions – it’s the nose-to-the-grindstone phase, where we learn our lessons and make our mistakes. That phase seems to last about another 30 years.

Then comes the prize, the payoff for all that painful growth. It’s our second adulthood, where we get to reap the benefit of all that experience. We can throw ourselves into life with confidence, because we’ve been here before. This time, we know our way around.  We can enjoy life, enjoy others, enjoy ourselves. 

But just like the first two stages of life, we want to be sure we’re proceeding with a firm foundation. Thus my need to focus on the very structure of my time, energy, and purpose.

I can’t wait.

In the Beginning was the Word

vocabWith the rise of social media, I’ve become concerned about the disregard for grammar and language exhibited by many Americans. Although spell check is possible with the push of a button, many posts and tweets are thrust into the public eye with glaring errors.

These people are not embarrassed by their inability to demonstrate basic fifth grade language skills;  in fact, they often mock those who do. I’ve read posts about ‘grammar nazis’ and how they need to just be quiet, because grammar and spelling are not necessary in today’s society.

This morning I came across this, written by Madeleine L’Engle in the late 1970’s:

“If our vocabulary dwindles to a few shopworn words, we are setting ourselves up for takeover by a dictator. When language becomes exhausted, our freedom dwindles – we cannot think; we do not recognize danger; injustice strikes us as no more than ‘the way things are.’ ” (from Walking on Water – reflections on faith and art.)

I was stunned, because she is describing the exact situation facing America today.

Thoughtful discourse has been replaced with a few memes. Citizens are being fed a diet of words like ‘libtard’ and ‘bonespur’. People have fed for twenty years (or more) on this thought-shrinking diet and now espouse mindsets that are more evocative of Brave New World than the Declaration of Independence.

Have we become inured to danger and injustice? The Black Lives Matter movement says we have. The #metoo movement proclaims the same. And the proliferation of mass shootings in our country, coupled with the unwillingness of politicians to do anything substantive to protect America’s children and citizens, trumpets this most loudly of all.

“That’s the way things are” is a lie. It is a lie promulgated by those who would see people diminished, enslaved by an ideology that co-opts our ability to think and replaces it with a focus on minutia. If we are kept occupied by patriotic-sounding repeating loops about second amendment ‘rights’, we will not look up and see our country slipping away to a few powerful men. If we are kept focused on tweets and antics, we will not notice the laws passed that are the real threats to our freedom.

Most heinous, to me, are those who use Christianity as a tool in this sneaky takeover. That’s NOT what Jesus came for. That’s NOT what Jesus said. He did not say, “Well, that’s just how things are. We have to work with what we have, you know.” He did not say, “That’s what the religious rules are, so let’s not be rude or step on toes,” or “That’s what Caesar says, so we should just get behind him and give him a chance.” No, he shook up the status quo. He spoke against corruption and the abuses of power by both religious and political leaders.

What he did say was, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Freedom begins with having enough words to advocate for ourselves and for others: for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the homeless. This is what Jesus did.

Words are so important that Jesus was called the Word. “In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.”

Words matter. Being able to articulate our thoughts isn’t an act of snobbery. It’s an act of defiance as bold as our forefathers who proclaimed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The real battle isn’t being fought with guns, it’s being fought with words, and THAT’S where we need to armor up.

We must break free from the fog of small-thought rhetoric, and arm ourselves by reading broadly. Forget Fox News and News & Guts. Forget Blue Nation and Red Nation. Read the works of great thinkers, past and present. Read literature and biography and philosophy. We must expand our vocabularies and our ability to effectively express ourselves. We need more words in our arsenal, because with more words comes the ability for more thought. And with more thought comes less delusion, less ability to be swayed by the power mongers who RIGHT THIS MOMENT are making their play to take over our country, and to remake our values into a mockery of their original meaning.

Do we want to stop violence and injustice? Then we must read. Read everything, not just what has been selected for us by our religious or political pundits. If we read, we will expand our vocabulary and our understanding. We will be less likely to be duped by the rhetoric of those who are actively enslaving us for their own selfish purposes.

Do you think I’m overstating the case? Then prove me wrong. Read. Learn. Expand your vocabulary, leave memes behind, and articulate my error to me.

I feel confident about my challenge. I believe that if people venture beyond the borders of their pundit-fed mindset, there will be few who come take me on.

Habakkuk’s Encouragement

youth

As part of my Lenten walk, I’m reading Biblical verse and then writing poetry as a meditative response. Today, my reading took me to Habakkuk, Chapter 2. I was stunned: it seemed as though Habakkuk was looking through the lens of time to America today. Here’s an excerpt:

Some people’s desires are truly audacious; they don’t do the right thing, unlike the righteous person, who lives honestly…but the arrogant man doesn’t rest, he opens his mouth like the grave; like death, he’s never satisfied.

He gathers everything to himself, nations and people. But people tell mocking poems and tales about him, saying “Doom to the one who multiplies what doesn’t belong to him.”

They will rise up to bite him. Those who frighten him will awaken and he will become plunder for them because of all the human bloodshed and violence done to the country, to the cities, and to the inhabitants.

Doom to the one making evil gain for his own house, for putting himself above the people.

I couldn’t help but make certain connections, though I will leave it to each reader to experience their own quickening of Spirit. You’ll probably get a hint of how it spoke to me in my responsive poem (and the photo I chose):

Habakkuk’s Encouragement

Speak out, tell it like it is,

Write it in large letters,
Don’t be bullied
Into silence.

Rise up!
Call out the arrogant men,
Who reap riches
Upon the sorrow of others.

Doom to them and their evil gain,
Their lifeless, cold idols
Will not save them
From you, the awakened.

— Cherie Renae, 2/24/18

Something Bigger than Myself

Bigger Edit

“It is important that life is lived with a sense of partaking in something bigger than ourselves.” – David Adam, A Desert in the Ocean.

I read this line today and the devil’s advocate side of my brain said: “Why? Why is it important to live life with a sense of being part of something bigger than myself? What if there ISN’T anything larger? What if God/Spirit/Universe/Divinity is a myth? It’s not as if God walks among us. Won’t I have wasted my life if I live it imagining I’m part of something bigger, and it turns out that this ‘something bigger’ isn’t real?”

So I imagined living my life without belief in anything divine. I imagined throwing myself into my passions, my pleasures, my profit, my gain. Because I’m a charitable person, this life I imagined involved helping others, being kind, being involved in civic organizations, etc.

Then I imagined that same life led with a sense of Community – of being linked by Spirit with others, the world, the universe. And my heart opened and tears came to my eyes. I felt excited and eager. I felt so happy!

So, this is the answer to my question: It is important, because it fills my life with joy if I live with a sense of greater purpose and community, with the belief that there is Divine Presence and Connection. Whether it’s ‘real’ isn’t at all relevant: it’s the wrong question, the wrong frame.  What matters is if it’s true, and it IS true, because it causes my life to resonate and my spirit to glow.

I can call it God, Spirit, Divine, Sacred, Universe: I can give it any name I’d like. But it is more than merely ‘important’ that I live with a sense of being part of Something bigger than myself. It is essential. It is integral. It is necessary, if I am to live MY life at all.

FOCUS 2018

FOCUS 2018If you’ve followed my blog at all, you know that every year, I create a FOCUS list. (Click here to create your own.) 

This year, the list was less ‘personal affirmation’ and more ‘marching orders.’  Short, sweet, and to the point, it summarizes how I will approach 2018.

  1. Writing is number one, and I’m turning up the gas on this lifelong passion and profession. Production is the goal and the focus.
  2. Adventure! I’m not giving myself permission, I’m removing the internal barrier that says…actually, I have no idea what the barrier says, other than “mmmm, maybe not?” In any case, I’m tearing that wall down.
  3. Connection with family & friends requires staying open and receptive, so I’m inviting love and joy to FLOOD in.
  4. Kindness is always important, and this year, I will focus on lovingkindness toward myself and others.
  5. I am a mystic. I have insights, I have vision. It’s not necessarily well looked upon by society or even by religious folk. But I need to be true to me, and much of my creativity stems from the mystic soul that swirls and sees.
  6. Learning is important. No matter the subject, it broadens our ability to interact with our own lives by giving us new mental perspectives. And it helps prevent Alzheimer’s. Enough said there, right?
  7. Spirit has put it on my heart to help others through my photographic skills. By teaching. By capturing the world & people using my fresh vision. By offering my talents in whatever way Spirit nudges.

So there it is. And as I look at my list, I feel excitement upwelling in my heart and soul. I can’t wait to get out of bed every morning, because look what I get to FOCUS on this year!

Happy New Year, all.

So, What Are You Here For?

holy family

“If you came to this place expecting a tame story, you came to the wrong place.

If you came for a story that does not threaten you, you came for a different story than the one we tell.

If you came to hear of the coming of a God who only showed up so that you could have a nice day with your loved ones, then you came for a God whom we do not worship here.

For even a regular baby is not a tame thing.

And goodness that cannot threaten complacency and evil is not much good at all,

And a God who would choose to give up power and invincibility to become an infant for you, certainly didn’t do it just so you could have dinner.

But.

If you came because you think unwed teenage mothers are some of the strongest people in the world;

If you came because you think that the kind of people who work third shift doing stuff you’d rather not do might attract an angel’s attention before you, snoring comfortably in your bed, would;

If you came because you think there are wise men and women to be found among undocumented travelers from far lands and that they might be able to show you God;

If you came to hear a story of tyrants trembling while heaven comes to peasants;

If you came because you believe that God loves the animals as much as the people and so made them the first witnesses to the saving of the world;

If you came for a story of reversals that might end up reversing you;

If you came for a tale of adventure and bravery, where strong and gentle people win, and the powerful and violent go down to dust;

where the rich lose their money but find their lives and the poor are raised up like kings;

If you came to be reminded that God loves you too much to leave you unchanged;

If you came to follow the light even if it blinds you;

If you came for salvation and not safety;

then, ah, my friends, you are precisely in the right place.

So what are you here for?”

– Quinn G. Caldwell, All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Abingdon Press (2014)