All Thum,bs

I cannot ty pe, my thum,b is big

It acts ju st like a woodenn peg.

Now spaces come and space s show

Exactly where they sh ouldn’t go.

A careles step on ice an snow

Had sent me to the ones who know

That bandages s o big and strong

Must couch my thum,b for far too long.

Now ma imed and bound, I type for thee

As one explorer sa iled the sea:

“Columbus method,” my dad said,

“Find a key, and onn it land.”

The words now stumble off the ke ys,

And so ’twill be for many days.

Forgive me, all , who read my stuff.

I fear the road will b e quite rough.

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Unpacking

We’re still unpacking. It seems like it will never end. Boxes get emptied onto most any horizontal surface that will support the contents, that are then sifted through and sorted into: “Throw away;” “Goodwill;” “Find a place to put it.” And “Find a place to put it” is hampered by all the stuff laying around! Every day more and more boxes are put out on the front porch for recycling, and we do see a dent in the stacks, but it just seems never-ending. Will we ever truly be unpacked?

Maybe not. Maybe to be alive is to be continually unpacking of life. When we’re settled in a casket, we will not have to unpack anything more in this life. Until then, things come and go, and we have to deal with them. People come and go and we have to engage with them. Times come and go and we have to relate to them. Always in flux, change as the only constant, each day is a gathering of energy to be expended on unpacking. But what are we unpacking? Is it merely a train of sensations, flowing through us with no residue or effect? That would truly be a pointless existence.

No. We bear witness to significance. As things, people and times come and flow away once again, we notice what truly matters and announce it to the world. For some it will be one thing, for others it will be another, and perhaps the true significance is yet one level deeper where things come together as one and all significance is seen for what it truly is—or maybe even that is to be unpacked deeper still, where all is one in the One, and redemption is complete.

Then borders will be seen as a means to greater humanity, not politics or economics or (worst of all) blind xenophobia.

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Second Annual

I’m at the Second Annual Border Ministry Summit of the Episcopal Church, meeting at St. Philip’s in the Hills Church in Tucson, AZ. Last year we hosted the first (and rather exploratory) event in El Paso. We had 60 people there. 200 have registered for this one. People have come from all over the nation. Apparently, this idea scratched an itch, and as we normally do, we make it a “thing.” Second Annual…and Third, and Fourth, until just past its useful life, and then it will go down in the annals of our church as “something we did.”

But it’s something we’re doing now, and it’s important now. Granted, we’re singing to the choir—the people here have come because they have an interest in border issues—but as numbers grow in this initial stage, others will come to the place where they cannot ignore it any longer. Then the story of José Antonio Elena Flores being shot across an international border by a border patrol officer because rocks were being thrown over the wall, and of the officer’s subsequent acquittal, can become important symbols of a broken system into which we’re trying to shine a light. Then the fact that Latino immigrant workers, (as USA Today reported today) many of them undocumented, are becoming the backbone of the economies of increasing numbers of sectors in our society will be openly acknowledged, and we can deal with the contradiction that we secretly believe our economy needs to keep them here AND keep them illegal at the same time. Then the fact that, on a minimum wage salary, so many undocumented workers live here and send half their earnings back to families in Latin America will confront the insane opulence to which Middle Class America has grown accustomed. Then the link between violence in Central America and US foreign policy over the last 100 years can be owned and mourned, spurring us to constructive work to rebuild peace where we helped to destroy it. Border issues are much bigger than an imaginary line between two nations. The implications run to every line we draw in the sand between the we and the them. And I am guilty, too.

But it’s not all bad news: Second Annual…and Third and Fourth and Fifth—or whatever it takes until we see merciful justice rise up like the morning sun.

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To See

When we lived in New Mexico, the room in which I did my morning prayers faced south-east. I wrote many a blog post about Cooke’s Peak, 30 miles away, across the prairie. I prayed looking out the window. Now I live in town. At this time of year, I do my prayers in the dark, facing southwest, looking at a wall. It is tempting that in such a place I cannot see, but I am finding that not to be true. For many years, part of my prayer awakening exercises is to place myself in my mind’s eye on the surface of the earth, looking down from high enough to see the continents. I can see the trajectory of the horizon, curving around me, and I am located globally. I see mountains and seas and forests and prairies in relation to where I sit in prayer. Now I am just north of the 48th parallel, farther from the equator, my birthplace, than I have ever lived. I’m closer to the North Pole.

With this inner map drawn, I can center down to this particular place, at this particular time, and see what is going on here and now. Breathe in, breathe out, count the breaths, my weight on the chair, sitting here, just north of the 48th parallel, with the Pole behind me and the Salish Sea before me, seen by the mind’s eye. Suddenly it opens up into its brilliant isness, and I have seen once again. Then the eye of the heart and the eyes of the head have become one eye.

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Ex-…

I heard a presentation last week from three ex-vangelicals. Such is the new term for those who, raised in the evangelical wing of the Christian faith, look elsewhere later in life. In these peoples’ cases, all three of them were young adults. I was in my 20’s when I found a faith tradition that suited my soul better than what I was raised in, too. Another young adult woman told me recently that as a girl, she was taught she bore the image of man, and man bore the image of God, so she was by gender one step removed from divinity. The revelation sent her spinning with delight into the arms of the Episcopal Church where she is now a priest at a neighboring parish. It goes both ways, too. I know a fine doctor who was raised Episcopalian and told me a while back, “The older I get, the more conservative I get.” He is now Roman Catholic. What makes a person break with the status quo? What makes a person an “ex-…?”

We could wander into the weeds of the difference between existential and ontological reality, but I don’t think that addresses the question. People become “ex-…s” for existential reasons. Their world becomes incapable of supporting their emerging sense of themselves, and they go searching for another world to live in. Some people find a long-term home that can stretch with them as they grow. Others jump from one thing to another to another. But jump we will. It seems party of the human experience.

Maybe we’re really trying to jump down, down off a human construction that insulates us in some way from an emerging sense of the real. Both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record Jesus quoting Isaiah, accusing the Pharisees of, “teaching human precepts as doctrines.” (Matt. 15:9, Mark 7:7) If so, then the move is an attempt at Truth, a desire to approach mystery within and around.

If so, I’m proudly an “ex-…”

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Passage

She was beautiful in a long, blue dress, flowers in her hair, and the gifts of jewelry. She danced with her father and her mother, and with couples who had contributed to the event. Her Quinceañera put a smile in her heart, but it was more than that. It was a rite of passage. She is now a young woman in the eyes of her community.

Such rites nail down time. They anchor memories in a community that add aspects of definition to a person in society. They are now someone who has…been born, baptized, celebrated her Quinceañera, gotten married, inducted into a special order like the clergy or the military, or died. We “specialize” these moments with ceremonies, gifts and pictures in order to go back to those anchored moments and remember who we are. Without them our life would be meaningless, an undifferentiated stream of consciousness. We perceive by distinction and comparison. Time nailed down gives us those distinctions in time flow.

At the same time, it is one life lived that shares in the many lives, part of the One Life, which means that every birth is my birth, every baptism is my baptism, every Quinceañera is my coming of age—and yours—and ours—and the world’s; otherwise there could be no community. In the end, the world is One great unity expressed in an infinite diversity.

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Darkness

I arrived in the Pacific Northwest in January to 9 hours of daylight that quickly gave way to 16 hours in June. Now it’s dark again, plunged overnight by the loss of Daylight Savings. I found myself driving around at dusk yesterday doing errands and going shopping, and constantly reminding myself that it was only 5:30, stores were still open, and the lights on my truck worked fine. The equatorial part of me was wanting to curl down for the night, and the new life I now live requires me to “colonize the…night.”1 Not that we all dove in bed at sundown when I was growing up in the jungles of Ecuador, but light came from cooking fires, kerosene lamps, flashlights consuming short-lived non-alkaline batteries, and candles, all too expensive to burn for long. In our house we had the luxury of two Coleman lanterns Dad lit at 6 and put out at 9, the family’s bed-time. The only light after that was from the moon and stars if the clouds departed. Yet the people I grew up with moved around at night. Countless times I have stood on the edge of the pool of light from a lantern and suddenly a presence makes itself known at my elbow—a friend arrived unseen in the darkness. I have long thought their night vision was better than most.

Darkness within inspires a mirror of light. What is not seen elicits as much as what is seen. Comfort or fear, wisdom or folly, virtue and vice; they are all choices made as quickly in the dark as in the light, yet with different kinds of consequences. It has been said that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking (social darkness.) Darkness harbors both the dangers of unseen evil and the potential of yet un-apprehended wisdom. Both the tomb and the womb are dark. The great spiritual wisdom of the world bids us walk into the tomb, because the womb never comes first.

 

Maybe the Northwest carries spiritual wisdom in its days and nights.

1Koslofsky, Craig. Evening’s empire: a history of the night in early modern Europe. Cambridge University Press, 2011, 17. Other references occur in the book as well.

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