Losing Things – Love Letters to the World

Don’t you hate it when you lose something in your own house? You KNOW it’s there somewhere, you just had it a moment ago, or yesterday. This morning alone, I lost a notebook that I KNOW is in my home because I just used it two days ago and we are in quarantine. We go nowhere! Where could I lose it really? Looking everywhere, still can’t find it. Decide to return to the porch with a cup of coffee and as my mama used to say, “retrace my steps.”

Sitting down with the coffee, I see a letter I need to finish and reach for my pen. Of course, I forgot to bring one out on the porch. Returning inside for a pen, I do another quick scan of the studio area for the notebook – nada. Oh, there is my iPad I thought was on the porch.

Sitting back down and taking another sip of coffee, I reach for my pen, only then I remember I picked up the iPad instead. I like writing handwritten letters. They are art I want to keep alive. Not only are they beautiful memories of loved ones or lost loves, but they are often also histories, histories that would not have been known if someone hadn’t written a letter and the recipient kept the letter.  Paper has no magic keyboard or voice to text (by the way, voice to text is another entire comedic moment when you are Southerner).

As the morning progresses, I keep spinning between porch and studio. No wonder I’m dizzy so much these days.  As one would expect, I move much slower than when I was younger and free from vertigo. It wasn’t until vertigo developed in my middle-ages that I realized I had been a whirling dervish all of my life. No wonder I love the Sufi’s. Though, now, I can’t even look at a picture of them without getting lightheaded.

The more I think about it, no wonder my ex-wife divorced me. I say that because the swirling and twirling didn’t (and doesn’t) stop when I am in bed. Long before meeting my wife, I learned not to wear anything overlarge to bed unless I wanted to be strangled in the night by the shirt from my own tossing and turning. Entering menopause also added to the additional fun for my wife because then, I was up and down all night going to the bathroom. I should have divorced myself!

Though I did lose the love of my life as a partner, I want to say now, that the person and love are NOT lost; forever remaining in my heart, mind, and even my being. How is that? Because of how well she did love me, that love is forever part of my experience even if it is not a current experienced. We often “lose” people because each one of us is imperfect in many ways. Sometimes, we get lost to the self. Sometimes we lose each other in the business of life or the tragedy of life or the busy-ness of raising a family. The one thing we need to remember, however, is that we never lose love.

Many would argue because when we lose a loved one to death, the end of a relationship, the change in a person due to health issues, disability, or the aging process, we miss the person we knew before. Still,  we never lose love because love changes us.

When I lost my marriage, and consequently my home, town, and church because I had to move, I was devastated. Then the hurt turned to anger at my ex. Those emotions and feelings are a normal part of loss and grief. Friends who hated to see me hurt and other friends who were also hurt because I had to move away, well, some of them wanted me to stay angry. At the time, I was so hurt that I wanted to stay at least miffed about it or righteous about it, even though anger is an emotion I do my best to avoid.

Church of the Holy Cross Episcopal, Valle Crucis, NC.

Living in Beech Mountain, at the edge of the forest, healing began. Life-long friends were there for me during the time of loss and grief. G-d gave me wonderful friends at my new church in Valle Crucis. Those new friends kept me singing and praying until the hurt didn’t manage me. I’ve gotten lost in pain before, and sadly, hurt others inadvertently because I was blinded by pain. In addition to the Church of the Holy Cross, High Country UCC reminded me of a host of things I was unable to embrace the last time I lived in the Boone area. Their willingness to allow me to participate as a musician and guest speaker helped heal a different part of my heart.

The same could be said of Resort Area Ministries (R.A.M.) of Boone. In the 80s, I was one of the musicians who worked in the summer singing at the resorts and campgrounds. Since returning here, the memories of my family visits returned, but none fonder than of the beauty and love learned through R.A.M. The ministry was and still is a leader in the power of Ecumenism to make a difference in a hurting world. A long article has been simmering in my heart and soul since returning here, but to summarize, they are a reminder of the thread of love in my life that has existed all my life…even when I couldn’t or didn’t necessarily see it. These beautiful people (and even more than I list) remind me that love abounds even when it is hard to see or feel in other places in our lives.

As the pain over the loss of my marriage eases, and I have run out of things (so I think) to apologize for on my part of the marriage’s failure, guess what remains? LOVE. Though my situations in life have changed time and again – more than I ever wanted – the one thing NEVER lost is love.

How can I say that? Because love is not a feeling. The warm cozy feelings are only one of the many bonuses of love. Feelings are only one facet of the brilliant and dynamic gem of love. When you love, or when you allow someone to love you, love changes you. I wish I could define how love changes you but that would put a limit on love, wouldn’t it? Also, love is a different experience for each of us.

I want to say that the love of which I speak is never bitter, or angry. Yet, as human beings, we remain human even when we love. That’s one of the most amazing things, that these frail bodies, minds, spirits, can contain all of that love. The love of which I speak is that love that causes – no – MOVES us to love one another – even those who are different than us. Even those who are difficult to be around, and yes, even those who have hurt us in the past.

That love is a way of being and that love is Divine. Yet, from my blessed experience, it is also grounded in humanity, animals, and nature. That love dwells in me in the depth of my soul and that love will always be with me. That love can never be taken away from me or lost because it is a deep well. When I love another or someone loves me, that well only fills to overflowing.

Clearly, I even lost my train of thought when I wrote this. As I return to it, glad of heart, I wonder where I put that notebook.


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It is Past the Time for Whites to Listen. DO SOMETHING NOW!

Say Their Names

“To Love Is To Know Is To Act” ~Eknath Eswaran

Whites, it is time to change yourself. Forget other people, look in that mirror, and change yourself. DO SOMETHING NOW. Whites have not been listening until now and now is not the time for learning but the time for action. The challenge comes with how do we change ourselves and the systems around us when we feel so helpless. I suggest to you, a mantra (or mantram).

“The mantram is a short, powerful spiritual formula for the highest power that we can conceive of – whether we call it God, or the ultimate reality, or the Self within. Whatever name we use, with the mantram we are calling up what is best and deepest in ourselves.”
– Eknath Easwaran

In a new meditation group I’ve joined, one of the first things we are asked to do is to choose a mantram. Though I’ve been familiar with the word as mantra or mantram, the way Eswaran talks about it and explains how the mantram works makes more sense to me. Yes, it is a calling back to meditation phrase or word. Most meditation texts state that.

However, the place where Eswaran is clearer is in HOW a mantram works to help us in meditation; how it can be used as a hammer to get through the hard places inside of us. For those unfamiliar with meditation, we who meditate do so in the practice and desire to be better and more loving human beings. Eswaran goes on to say that the mantra “has the capacity to transform consciousness when it is repeated silently in the mind.” My suggestion is that all white people need a mantra like the one below to hammer into our souls.

Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter. Why is it taking people so long to understand this? I have never understood this AT ALL. It is especially horrific to hear people who say they are of faith speak or support anything that would harm another. People of faith should be adding love, not harm to the world. Black lives matter and are created and loved by the Creator of all!

We white people who see that this is wrong, now race to read everything we can to make a change. I include myself among whites who want to do better and yet somehow have failed our sisters and brothers of color. Why haven’t we changed this before? People of color, black people, have been asking this of us since being forcibly brought to this land. What has taken so long? What IS taking so long? Why has it been so hard for us white people to change? We destroy several nations of Native American people, enslave Africans and then seek to destroy them too. Then, wait, no – it is NOW that there are still people of color being detained at the border (once over 2000 children CHILDREN). As I search for an exact number, one doesn’t come up for today’s date, June 17, 2020. Why?

Then, I remember the article I read in the New Yorker yesterday about Pandemic as Punishment. What the government doesn’t want us to know is that there are five times as many blacks in the criminal justice system as whites. Read the entire article and have your heartbroken. Modern slavery exists. The ACLU summarizes it this way:

Racial Disparities in Incarceration
• In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population.
• African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.
• The imprisonment rate for African American women is twice that of white women.
• Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested,
42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially
waived to criminal court.
• Though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately 32% of the US
population, they comprised 56% of all incarcerated people in 2015.
• If African Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites,
prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.

Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.

As a person of faith, belonging to a community we say is led by a great brown man who was Jewish, what am I doing NOW to make things better? How am I loving more? Am I standing up for what is right by standing against oppression? If so, how can I make a difference living here alone on my mountain of peace?

Writing this article is only a start. Reading books, well, I’ve been reading books on social justice all of my life. Those readings have changed my heart and mind through the years, but society hasn’t changed much at all if the recent murders of innocent blacks show with brutal clarity. I have not watched the video of George Floyd being choked to death. It is devastating to read of such inhumane actions much less to SEE and HEAR such injustice. Get out and vote!

Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.

Use your white power to vote to stop this horror so that no one lives in fear of being harmed by the very “authority” who was supposed to protect his citizens. A person who murders with such audacity takes away the hope of every person ever born in this country much less anyone seeking to find “asylum” in such a country.

My life has been blessed to know good and kind people. Even so, some of those same Southern people have been racists and perhaps still are. Some of those “good” people died thinking that whites are the superior race. However, as long as we white people do nothing to change our way of thinking, being, and treating other human beings, WE are the lesser race and a blight upon humanity.

Transforming one’s self is hard work, I know. It is hard as I struggle to make simple changes to my diet to be healthy. Systems can be healthy, but we must be willing to make the sacrifices of old patterns and ways of thinking before the system will heal. Violence won’t heal the injustices that are occurring. Voting won’t change a lot with all that has happened in our government, but it is a start at least. VOTE!

Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.

Many of the human and civil rights that were on record to make our country kinder, safer, and respectful of the environment are currently being reversed by those in office. We must stop this bleeding first. Our country is wounded to the gut and we will bleed to death if we do not somehow stop the government’s dismantling of all of our rights. We must vote. It is more important than ever to exercise your right to vote out those who are dismantling and obstructing true justice.

Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.

That however is only a part. Transformation requires of us a constant practice. Just as a mantram requires that we repeatedly hammer away at that which keeps us from being a peaceful or decent human being, we must also practice with every breath seeing the person beside us as a sacred life. Say it every time you are afraid. Say it when you see someone that smiles at you. Say it again and again until the practice changes you because once you do, love will embrace all of life.

In the past, my mantra was Love one another. What more says LOVE ONE ANOTHER than this? Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.

[1] “Passage Meditation.” God Makes the Rivers to Flow: an Anthology of the World’s Sacred Poetry & Prose, by Easwaran Eknath, Nilgiri Press, 2009, pp. 261.

[2] ACLU, A. “Family Separation by the Numbers.” American Civil Liberties Union, American Civil Liberties Union, 2 Oct. 2018, www.aclu.org/issues/immigrants-rights/immigrants-rights-and-detention/family-separation.

[3] Aviv, Rachel. “Punishment by Pandemic.” The New Yorker, 22 June 2020.

[4] Ibid. aclu.org/issues/human-rights/human-rights-and-criminal-justice

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Daredevil Bird Flight

Spring 2019

There has been a juvenile junco doing daredevil flights from a neighbor’s porch on the second floor. In the two and a half years since living here, many birds have flown into the windows on the porch, but they don’t usually zip in from the east out to the forest in the west. Living on the first floor means that there is a porch above me. A new neighbor on the second floor and also next door, has birdfeeders out. Most of the time, the birds are flocked on their porch and my dog, Birdie,  and I have the joy of watching bird antics from our porch. There is one of the young’uns that loves to take a challenge.

The other day, I thought it was a juvenile mockingbird as it dove at my sleeping dog melted in a porch sunbeam. Birdie was as surprised as I was because if there’s sun, we are on the porch in the mornings. The dog looked at me clearly asking what had happened with a “what did I do wrong?” look on her face. She is such a sensitive soul. At the time, I laughed thinking that the young bird couldn’t tell that the dog was harmless even if it had a nest nearby.

Later, I saw several juvenile juncos that had tails similar to the mockingbird. Then, I tried to remember the last time I’ve seen a mockingbird, and it wasn’t on this side of the mountain. Maybe they are up at our elevation, I simply don’t remember seeing them. In my mind, the bird that startled my dog was the same little daredevil that had been zipping through the porch area.

There is a patio umbrella that came with the porch furniture. When the spring begins, I put the umbrella up. When I first moved here, I didn’t understand why since it is rather shady on my porch, but the umbrella is protection for when the visitors above forget that someone lives below. In these past few years, I’ve enjoyed watching the red squirrel and different birds check out the umbrella. Today, the umbrella caused an accident. Well, my movement of the umbrella caused an accident.

This winter was drearier than most even before COVID-19 became the constant news. There have been more rainy days than past winters. The rain even replaced the snow of previous winters. Somehow, snow isn’t as dreary as a constant rain to me. Even the dog, who doesn’t usually mind rain, is tired of rainy days. Some days it’s clear that Birdie thinks I can stop them. I see the plea in her eye to stop them. Needless to say, we both need more sunshine.

The dog is a pillow thief.

In the past couple of weeks, it has gotten warm enough that if there is no rain, the dog and I can sit on the porch. Birdie has even learned the word, “sunshine”. I can tell, for on the mornings where the sun is out, I call out to the dog hiding in the bed (she usually sleeps until 11:30), that there’s sunshine on the porch and she hops up joyfully to run outside. To the left, there’s a photo before hearing the words, “There’s sunshine on the porch.”

Here’s a photo after I have told her of sunshine on the porch.

When she gets too hot in her chair, she takes a break by moving to the floor in the sunbeam. If she gets really hot, she might take a break in the shade, or just steal my chair where it’s not so direct a beam.

Sitting in a corner across from the dog, I write of dreams from last night. The wind blows and makes it chillier so I tilt that umbrella away from me to allow the sun to warm my back. Next, I hear a fluttering of wings and look towards the area where the bird often flies through. Birdie heard it too and is looking. Then I see it, a bird on the mesh patio table.

I cry out, “Oh No” and wonder if the bird had slammed into the glass, but it would have been on the porch floor if that was the case. Instead, it was on the table just to the left of my meditation books. I rush to get gloves so that I can gently move the bird from the mesh table to a place where it can fly away if it comes back from being stunned. At least 50% of the birds have survived slamming into the glass.

Birdie is looking for the bird and trying to figure out what is going on. Luckily, I keep gardening gloves just inside the door so that I can grab them before the dog finds the bird. She is an excellent dog, but she has a strong hunter drive. She locates the bird on the underside of the table and I tell her to leave it. I wondered if the bird had tried to light on the table and gotten its foot caught.

Once, while riding bikes with my sister when we were kids, a sparrow was hanging upside down from a barb in a barbed-wire fence. It made us sad so I went to get the bird down to bury it. The sudden flutter of wings startled me because we thought the bird was dead. As soon as I freed its little foot, it flew away. I prayed that this little bird would fly away too.

As I freed this bird’s little feet, its chest heaved. The bird’s feet were not caught. I gently placed the bird at the foot of where I keep a St. Francis. I made sure its little wings wouldn’t get broken if it started suddenly. Then, I stepped away wondering if in just a moment it would take to flight. I could see its little chest still breathing. It tried to move. I was unsure of how to proceed. Lees McRae has a wildlife center, but do they have anyone there since COVID sent all students home? Then it was clear that the bird’s fate was up to what little I could do because even if they were open, in the past, my bird rescues meant taking the bird to a refuge. Though I have a trike now, I can’t make it more than two miles on the mountain.

I went to the bird and held my hands cupped over the bird’s body. I knew not to touch it with my hands but hoped that at least the warmth of my hands would keep it warm enough until it could come to from being stunned. Then, an adult junco lights on the porch watching me. With her right eye accusing me, I apologize aloud to the adult junco simultaneously figuring it was a mama bird watching her baby learn to fly. Then, all I could think to do was to kneel and pray to  G-d, to St. Francis, to help the bird to life. Then I told the bird to be strong by saying, “hang in there little birdy.”

Of course, that confused the dog since the words sounded the same. I told the dog she was a good girl, and then she knew that I was protecting the bird. She sat to my right knee attentively listening to me beg G-d for the bird to live and trying to encourage the bird to keep fighting. Do dogs pray? It sure felt like Birdie was praying with me. Though she may not know what prayer really means, she does know that I do the same thing for her when she is sick. She knew the bird was hurt. The bird then moved and I could tell because its little feet moved. I quickly moved my hand away, hoping it would stand, then fly away. It stretched out its right wing. Then, the dog and I watched as it took its last breath.

I bury the bird at the foot of the fern moss stump. Tomorrow we will offer sunflower seeds to the other birds as a memorial. The mother bird flew to a branch near the porch and I told her I was sorry. Another juvenile, a sister/brother/sibling stopped at the tree too. I said I was sorry to the sibling bird and my heart still grieves hours later.



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This is US

Monday Morning Montage COVID-19 Rambling
April 27, 2020

I start writing for the new week, the question arises, “is this us“? Looking for a soundtrack to the week, I listen to NPR until the news has me so angry, I can’t think straight. The Navajo Nation is being hard hit, the African American population, all who live in poverty are dying fast and where are those who profess to follow this ancient leader named, Jesus? I’m not excluding myself from this question either. Right now, the truth is a hard one. The people of color would say that yes, this IS US. What are we going to do about it?

The US is one country divided into 50 states, but it may also be a country comprised of several tribes or factions.

A Gillian Welch song comes up in my playlist. Though it’s called “Miss Ohio”[1], these lyrics seem to speak to the apathy we are seeing in our people of faith:

I know all about it, so you don’t have to shout it
I’m gonna straighten it out somehow
Yeah I want to do right but not right now….

My question is not about staying home or working but about caring for people in need and right NOW. Right NOW, we have an entire country in need. Yes, people want to get back to work who work, but there are people who have wanted to work all along. There are people who have suffered all along. The world has come and put us ALL on the same level, vulnerable and afraid. The sociologist, Brené Brown[2], states, Courage is borne out of vulnerability, not strength.[3] Yet, being so vulnerable and frightened often causes one to choose to be reactionary instead of pro-actionary, as in proactive. In those same times of fear, we often revert to being self-centered. Fear can cause us to be focused on “what’s going to happen to me”, that we forget the most important question about the US in the world.

Right now, it is interesting to think that the abbreviation for the United States is “US”. The abbreviation has always been that way, but with the changes in grammar, removing the periods in abbreviations (from U.S. to US) it clarifies. More than ever before, we are beginning to see the importance of being an “us”, and in particular, we can now begin to think of what it means to be UNITED instead of divided. Our country is abbreviated as the US and not DS.

There is nothing wrong with being vulnerable or afraid. Right now, we have reason to be afraid because the Corona Virus is not contained within our country at this writing. Our country is being divided right at a time when unity is vital. The line from Welch’s song sings as though she is reciting a litany response to my complaint:

Yeah, you want to do right but not right now.

Though there is an argument about who stated the following quote, we keep using it as an important reminder of what it means to be good people:”All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”[4]

This quote speaks to me on several levels. It matters not who said it as much as it speaks an enormous truth. Regardless if one is a person of faith, this calls to each person to stand up against the wrongs that are occurring in our country. However, as a person of faith, it is more important to stand up for those in need. We have a world of need right now and it is hard to discern where to focus. Yes, we are called to care for our personal body as a gift, our family, friends, neighbors. We are all in this together, where does one begin to speak up? When is it time to speak up on behalf of the other?

Since the medical professionals right now are the ones who will safe our lives should we be infected with this disease, let’s use part of their Hippocratic oath that basically states, Do No Harm, but more specifically, I WILL NOT PLAY GOD.

What does it mean for me to “DO NO HARM”? Hey, I’m staying inside because my state is still under stay at home orders for quarantine. I’m a homebody anyway, right, so this order has actually helped me get through April without any major asthma attacks. I still have three days to go, but this is the first time in over 20 years that I’ve been well from the last week of March to the first week in May.

To think that I am doing right by those around me by staying home is important. However, more must be done. As a disabled person, my ability to march, protest, to be a volunteer is very limited. Especially during COVID since my asthma puts me at high-risk. What does it mean for me to care for my neighbor, the poor, the underprivileged? It means a lot of things really. But my focus today is that I’m standing up to say, THIS IS WRONG! The Way our government has mishandled the response to this pandemic is ultimately wrong. If we continue to support how this is being handled (or rather, not handled), then we are contributing to evil.

I’ve been fighting with myself, praying, researching, praying, reading the scriptures, and books from my faith. Now is the time for me to stand up and say something. NOW is the time for us all, people of faith or not, all of US need to stand up and begin to live lives and speak lives of do no harm. This “do no harm” applies to all of us as human beings, living creatures, our earth, water, sky. Have you seen the article about how the earth is beginning to clean itself now that we have stayed home? That in itself is a tremendous message that WE ARE THE ONES RESPONSIBLE for what is happening in our world.

WE MUST STAND UP NOW to the things that are going wrong in our country. We gain courage by thoughtful prayer, meditation, conversations with the wise who have kept us on a path of good before. Sometimes, especially in times of fear, people are wrong. Compare what the wise person says to this maxim DO NO HARM.

“Meditation and other spiritual disciplines are largely meant to give us the toughness required to take hold of our lives. Without this toughness, despite the better goals we may cherish in our hearts, we will not be able to take the road that leads where we want to go.” Eknath Easwaran

Because of my faith tradition (meditation is important in most faith traditions), it is important for me to pray before I speak, act, or make life choices. In the Christian tradition, a question is often asked of followers about choosing now who to follow. The Jesus who is exemplified in scripture and history is a man who not only lived a life of “do no harm”, that same man sought to heal and reach out to the outcasts of his day. What does it mean for us to follow THAT man?

What does it mean to have the courage to stand up against what is going wrong for you? For me, it means writing, calling, praying, calling, painting, praying, singing (which is also prayer), and being in continuous conversation and meditation with those who lead me on the right paths. We must start NOW why? Because our world is in chaos, but also, if not now, tell me when?

[1] Welch, Gillian Howard, and David Rawlings. “Gillian Welch – Look At Miss Ohio Lyrics.” MusiXmatch, 2003, www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/Gillian-Welch/Look-At-Miss-Ohio.

[2] Brené Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston, where she holds the Huffington Foundation-Brené Brown Endowed Chair at the Graduate College of Social Work. Her books include The Gifts of ImperfectionBraving the Wilderness, and, most recently, Dare to Lead.

[3] Brown, Brené. “Brené Brown – The Courage to Be Vulnerable.” The On Being Project, The On Being Project, 29 Jan. 2015, onbeing.org/programs/brene-brown-the-courage-to-be-vulnerable-jan2015/.

[4] Most often attributed to Edmund Burke openculture.com/2016/03/edmund-burkeon-in-action

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Marking the Days and Sometimes, Rage

Raging Corona Virus Diary

April 14, 2020
Normally, my days are marked by church days. On Sundays, it is worship and Adult Christian Education (ACE) when possible. That way, I know if the next day is Monday. I know if it’s Tuesday by its location between church on Sunday and my prayer group on Wednesday. Now, NOW is all there is.        “What kind of freedom is it that exists in doing nothing? It is the freedom not to interfere or react. It is the freedom to merely observe.” ~Ananda Baltrunas, “A Prison of Desire”

Window On Beech and a painting by JRobin Whitley

More days have passed and writing was set aside. Thoughts are more elusive these days. One moment, like above, I have something on my mind to write or draw or sing. The next, I am standing at the door staring out at the trees. Trying to calm myself, find a place to anchor my prayers that is not a place of fear, I bounce from moment to moment. Yes, that place is in our Creator. But also, isn’t it somewhere within the goodness of humanity? Aren’t we called to care for each other and the earth?

Going on without denying any aspect of the human drama is what strength is all about. We are carved by life into instruments that will release our song, if we can hold each up to the carving.”  ~Mark Nepo

Something is being carved away from us with this virus. We have a choice right now whether to pick at the wound of it and end up with scars, or to allow healing to occur more naturally. Yet, as humans, not only are we fearful but we all want to be in control. Though experts on the virus, actual doctors and epidemiologists, tell us to remain in quarantine, there are those protesting the stay at home orders. I understand that they are afraid of their livelihoods. Many have been posting things on a FaceBook page that go along with The Proud Boy message. It’s frightening. The group is a designated hate group.

“Established in the midst of the 2016 presidential election by VICE Media co-founder Gavin McInnes, the Proud Boys are self-described “western chauvinists” who adamantly deny any connection to the racist “alt-right,” insisting they are simply a fraternal group spreading an “anti-political correctness” and “anti-white guilt” agenda.”  from Southern Poverty and Law Center[1]

I don’t know how to address this with love. When Obama was elected President, many believed all the nonsense about Obama taking guns away. Some of my family members are taking risks now with their lives that scare me. This morning, I am alternating between writing and catching up on the news that happened in the short time that I slept, a powerful article by John Pavlovitz speaks to me.

“I may be wrong, but I don’t believe whatever or whoever god is, that such devastation and death are part of the plan. The best guess I have right now, is that this season of suffering (like all moments), is the sacred space for we who claim faith to live what we believe: to persevere and to give and to heal—and above all, to love. That love, is the only plan.”[2]

Love as the only plan leads me back to speaking up when I can and it is timely, but otherwise to mind my own business. As the theologian Buechner says, to love is to work for another’s well-being even if it means sometimes leaving them alone.[3] That leaving them alone is really hard for us. I say us, because on one hand, I understand that we are all entitled to our beliefs and points of view. On the other hand, in this time of the unknown, the only thing we DO know for sure is that the only way to stop the pandemic is to STAY HOME. I understand what it means to fear for one’s income. Most of my life, I have struggled financially.

None of us in the U.S. have faced what all are facing with the downfall of our government since 2016. No one in the world has experienced COVID-19, so who knows what is best for anyone really? I was glad to see that Pavlovitz addressed the fact that some think that the pandemic is an act of a god. Only a little insecure god would do such a thing.

Taking a break to do the weekly chore of garbage duty, it is hard to return to writing because of the topic at hand. Karl Barth said that the pastor should read both the Bible and the newspaper. His actual quotes about the importance of keeping up to date on our society is so that we understand what it means to live as a person of faith in any era.

“The Pastor and the Faithful should not deceive themselves into thinking that they are a religious society, which has to do with certain themes; they live in the world. We still need – according to my old formulation – the Bible and the Newspaper.”

“Reading of all forms outspokenly secular literature – the newspaper above all – is urgently recommended for understanding the Epistle to the Romans”

Perhaps the most clear statement on the record from Barth concerning these matters comes from a Time Magazine piece on Barth published on Friday, May 31, 1963:

“[Barth] recalls that 40 years ago he advised young theologians ‘to take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible.’”

The Time article goes on to give us more of Barth’s thoughts on journalists and their place in the world: “Newspapers, he says, are so important that ‘I always pray for the sick, the poor, journalists, authorities of the state and the church – in that order. Journalists form public opinion. They hold terribly important positions. Nevertheless, a theologian should never be formed by the world around him – either East or West. He should make his vocation to show both East and West that they can live without a clash. Where the peace of God is proclaimed, there is peace on earth is implicit. Have we forgotten the Christmas message?’”[4]

These thoughts came out of his experience with the news of his day. Though Barth was a man living at the start of a technological society, the internet was not something the world shared. Now, in addition to newspapers and radio, we have cable news, social media spread across a wide variety of platforms. There is so much “news” that it is not only often hard to discern fact from fiction, but also, how could we read it all and still have time for prayer or scripture reading? The task often overwhelms me and I stick to only three or four reliable sources for understanding what I going on in our modern world.

Trying to check the news of today while also praying, it is hard to finish this essay. I check on the black bean soup I’m cooking. Write a paragraph, then research the news. The news is too overwhelming causing me to stop writing because the angst of the situation begins to choke me. For fifteen minutes, I work on the icon project of St. Julian of Norwich and her holding the words, “All shall be well.” Though it calms me for the time while working on the painting, the question now arises, “when?” When will all things be well again?

That’s the question no one can answer of course, when will life be closer to what we know as normal. At this point, it is clear that our world is being changed through this pandemic. Nothing will be the same whenever we can return to some semblance of life before Covid-19.

The most important implication of the breakneck changes currently underway, though, is that there’s no going back to normality. That train has left the station. The coronavirus isn’t going away. And even when there is a vaccine, the risk will endure, because climate change and the erosion of wildlife habitats will ensure a ready supply of zoonotic viruses. Companies will have learned to build supply chains with resilience built in. White collar workers will have discovered that they don’t have do as much commuting as before. Air travel will go back to being a luxury. And so on.[5]

Though we have no definitive answers on what the world will be like tomorrow, there is an ultimate goal in life for those of us who claim to have faith. That path is one of love. We are called as people of faith to work for each others’ well-being. We are all afraid and some are afraid for different reasons. The thing we must ask ourselves, however, is what does it mean to trust? What does it mean to trust another human working for our well-being? Yes, but more importantly for the person of faith, the question is, what does it mean to trust in G-d in these days of confusion?


[1] Hate, General. “Proud Boys.” Southern Poverty Law Center, 2020, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/proud-boys.

[2] Pavlovitz, John. “No, This Pandemic Isn’t God’s Plan.” John Pavlovitz, 19 Apr. 2020, johnpavlovitz.com/2020/04/19/no-this-pandemic-isnt-gods-plan/.

[3] On the contrary, he [Jesus]is telling us to love our neighbors in the sense of being willing to work for their well-being even if it means sacrificing our own well-being to that end, even if it means sometimes just leaving them alone. from Wishful Thinking by Frederick Buechner

[4] University, Princeton. “FAQs about Karl Barth.” Frequently Asked Questions | Center for Barth Studies, Center for Barth Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, 2020, barth.ptsem.edu/about-cbs/faq.

[5] Naughton, John. “When Covid-19 Has Done with Us, What Will Be the New Normal?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 Apr. 2020, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/18/when-covid-19-has-done-with-us-what-will-be-the-new-normal.


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