Wednesday, June 21st at 6:30 PM, I will read portions of my novel “Volunteer to Die, A Denise Reed Mystery” and answer questions at Latter Library in New Orleans, Louisiana. If you would like to purchase of copy of the book, you can get it on Amazon! I hope I see you there!
On Wednesday, last week, we put up an art installation at All Saints. These are images of Jesus from around the world and from our own community. Can we find the image of Jesus in others? Can we find his image in us? Can we find his image even if the image is unfamiliar to us? I hope so.
I wrote this last year after the tragedy in Orlando. I was unsure where I would go with my writing, so I have held on to this piece. After the latest violence and terrorism in Manchester and London, I pulled out the piece. I think all these instances of violence are related. Since lately terrorism occurs almost every 10 days I thought I would share it.
“It has been over a week since the terrible tragedy in Orlando. A gunman murdered over 49 people and maimed at least another 50. Once again, we have the back and forth in the media and on Facebook. Some shout about gun control. Others offer limp prayers. Still others argue about the type of hate that motivated this particular attack.
On Sunday morning I wondered, along with a few others, what would be the appropriate response to this tragedy? Perhaps another prayer vigil? An angry worded letter to Congress? Frankly, the options of responses feel a little overdone and under-helpful.
As usual, per the script, people demand answers, shed a few tears and then return to Keeping Up with the Kardashians. We can only last so long in the heat of emotion. We can only pay attention so long until…oh look, alpacas! I think that we ask the wrong questions and I don’t think we want to hear the answers.
Why did this happen? Why did this man decided to shoot up a club filled with people having fun on a Saturday night? I think we sort of know the answer to this. This man was mentally unstable, felt hate for gay people and the LGBTQ community, and decided to express that hate as violently as possible using a powerful weapon, a gun.
Why does he feel so angry and hateful? Now, there is the question. We can speculate where that hate began. We can point back to moments of rage and instability in this person at earlier times, but we don’t know why exactly.
What can we do to stop this kind of violence again? Ugh, I am not sure that we can or that we would be willing to do what it takes to stop violence. We could take away guns, knives, and other items. We could medicate people as soon as they have a diagnosis of mental illness. We can prohibit any speech that is violent or offensive. Those steps might slow the actions, but will it get to the heart of hate?
I am not sure that you can combat hate. I think that hate has to be dismantled like an old Cadillac, one piece at a time. We have to commit to living lives of love, reaching out to the excluded, listening, confronting and dealing with emotions-even the ugly ones. Piece by piece, we speak the truth in love to one another. Piece by piece, we help each other work through anger and misunderstanding and not sweep it away. Piece by piece, we show new ways to deal with problems that do not use violence.”
There is a cute little song that we used to sing at summer camp. The words are: “Give me your unconditional love. The kind of love I deserve. The kind I want share. Uh-oh, uh-oh, oh-oh!” When you sing it, you clap. Next thing you know, you are dancing. Super peppy!
Thinking about this song, I wonder how often we give unconditional love. I wonder how often we receive unconditional love. The truth is we love what is likable.
We love sweet, cuddly puppies. We love smiling babies. We love those people and things that exude pleasantness. It is easy to love a fun personality and good character. What about those things or people who are not easy to love?
Can we love the unlikable? What about loving those who have lousy personalities and terrible character? What if that individual is even hostile and unwilling to love others or themselves? Is love conditioned on whether or not someone can reciprocate?
If I am totally honest, I struggle with loving unconditionally. For that I repent because love is not to be earned with good behavior or won because we are worthy or deserving. Love loves. Love is not based on my opinion or my measuring stick.
I am sure there is someone out there who finds my personality repellent and awful. They might detest my character. There are certainly times in my life I feel totally unlovable and yet I am loved. I am loved not because I do something cute or lovable. I am loved. Thank God, love is not based on condition.
You are loved. I am loved. The unlikable are loved. We are loved not because we are good but because God is good. Whatever the condition, we are loved.
Last week was strange. I had two funerals. One was a parishioner. One was a friend’s mother. Both changed the trajectory of my week, as they should have.
Tears welled up easily. I could cry at the drop of a hat, but thankfully, nobody was wearing one. I was somewhat surprised by grief and yet, I am not surprised.
I was surprised at how tender and sad I felt. I was surprised at how these two deaths dredged up other grief. Grief has a way of reminding us of other grief. I know that somehow I should know that, but I guess I choose to forget or ignore that fact.
Grief interrupts the day, the thoughts, the visit to the grocery store. Grief interrupts until one can make space for it, the time for it. Nobody wants to make time for grief, so it interrupts with tears at the airport or some other seemingly inopportune time.
We don’t want grief to interrupt, but it is part of the whole deal about love. When we love, at times, we lose. That loss hurts and that is okay. Feeling hurt or sad is okay because that hurt and sorrow are the other side of the love. The hurt and sorrow won’t last forever and the love is still there.
Nobody wants to feel sad, but that is part of love, part of life. Grief may interrupt for a little while, but love is always there.
I think we need mercy. We need a lot of mercy. Certainly we want people to be merciful with us, but we need to offer more mercy.
Mercy is like a reset button. The argument stops. We put down our weapons. The heaving and snarling are replaced with tears. The cuts receive a bandage. We stop, we breathe, we reset.
Mercy cannot be taken. Mercy can only be given. Mercy is the gift from the one who it would seem is in no position to give. Mercy shifts who we expect would be powerful.
Mercy is the gift of forgiveness from the cross. Mercy is the choice of the injured party. Mercy is the recognition that I can do nothing more without you unless we are together.
We need some mercy.
I actually keep a journal. It is leather-bound with blank heavy pages. I received it as a gift a few years ago. I recommend this practice of writing down what is going on in one’s life, crazy thoughts, pictures, etc.
I like to whine in my journal. Not much of what I write is very profound. Sometimes I doodle. I like the flexibility of not having lines, so I can go where-ever I want on that page.
The discipline of writing everyday is really important, especially if one is trying to improve as a writer. Of course, that is not why I keep the journal. Certainly writing everyday helps, but I write in my journal to try to work through ideas, emotions and frustrations, and record events that are important to me. I try to write frequently, but I do not write every day. I do keep the discipline of dating each entry.
The date is vital for remembering. I should probably do this more often, but I go back and re-read my journal entries sometimes. Having the date reminds me of where or when I was when I recorded something.
I will wince sometimes when I read what I wrote. I can see how far I have come and recognize how much farther I have to go, as an individual. I get the benefit of hindsight. I can read where I was and marvel about all that happened to get me where I am.
Sometimes the path seems obvious, yet somehow I could not see it at that time, in my writing. There were signs along the way like shiny pennies on the sidewalk and I just kept moving, writing, oblivious. The re-reading can be agony, but necessary.
I re-read and I have decided that all my journals should be burned, unopened, upon my death. The wisdom gleaned is not for anyone else, but me. Still, I need to re-read them and remember and recognize mistakes I have made and what I learned and how I have changed.
I re-read and I can see God moving in those strange moments. God was offering me opportunities for growth and adventure. I can recognize the miracles taking place. I need to remember that so I record, so I write and I date these entries. I get to see what a difference a day makes.