I AM.

The day Moses met God, he asked,

“What is your name?”,

 

“I have no name”, comes the reply,

From a Source now unnamed.

 

All alone atop that Holy Mountain,

Moses worries after those waiting down below.

 

“Without a name”, he pleads, “How will my people come to know

You from all the other gods

Belonging to these poor, lost, wandering men?”

 

Was it courageous, or cowardice to stand there in that place,

And so boldly ask God for the Grace –

To become small enough for them?

 

“This, not that” was the first and only Law given

By God to those two humans in the Garden.

 

An instruction for an era lost,

The Garden now invisible,

And yet –

 

Just like Moses and his people, most of us here

Are still believing “this, not that” will save us

From the pain of our uncertainty.

 

Shaped by years of wandering through deserts

Of our own,

Are we not guilty of thirsting after the image

Of arriving –

Somewhere, each one of us a beggar.

 

“This, not that, black or white, Please Lord, make it simple”.

 

Moses could have said that.

I hear it in his question.

 

Yet, God, unchanged and ever changing, always sets the tone –

A riddle for an answer.

Or perhaps, an Answer for minds too riddled to hear it:

 

“I AM”.

 

Do you ever wonder what that sound was like in the ears of the man who heard it first?

 

Could it have been pronounced “A-UM”?

 

I’ve heard that sound fall from the mouths of people

Perched atop holy mountains of their own.

Spandex on their bodies,

Twenty dollars for enlightenment.

 

Do they know the Holy mountain upon which they are standing?

They’ve at least removed their shoes.

 

“OM”, it is written, but as it moves from breath, to throat, to tongue, to lips

It sounds

More like this:

“Ahhhhhhhhhh—Ummmmmmm”.

 

The Beginning and The End.

The Alpha and The Omega.

The Atman and The Brahman.

Or can we say, The Ego and The Soul?

 

That which can perceive That which Is.

 

It’s strange and clear and merciful –

Each ancient tradition tells a story

Of this sound.

 

Do you recognize it yet?

 

It’s unclear whether Moses or his people could,

And most days it seems the same for you, and for me –

 

Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when he bothered once again

To tell us,

“I AM”.

 

The way, the truth, and the light.

 

I think we needed someone to show us,

In the flesh.

I AM.

 

“Stick your finger in my side”, he says,

To his dear doubting friend.

 

But that’s not what I was taught.

Were you?

Instead, instructed over and over to literalize,

To flatten it down.

 

But, didn’t God warn Moses?

Oh wait, I mean,

I AM.

 

Jesus may have been the flesh and bone and blood encounter

With a God

We can’t nail down.

 

Genesis tells us of Creation from No thing.

Science claims the heart begins as a null-point,

A Zero at the center.

No thing.

 

Then a twist, and a spin, and suddenly a beat:

I AM.

 

And while our riddled minds are grasping yet again

After a Name

For the magic happening here,

 

The temple curtain gets torn straight down the middle,

From top to bottom, falling away in two –

Pieces.

 

Holy of Holies now unveiled,

Each one of us bracing to be blinded

By a glimpse

Of what’s inside.

 

Yet, those among us brave or crazy enough

To look

And see –

Will find

No thing is there.

 

No name.

No nails.

 

No thing.

 

Only

I AM.

 

Did not Siddhartha while sitting under the Bodhi tree

Find

No thing too?

Once named, then unnamed, and renamed:

Awakened one.

One who sees.

 

Would you look for yourself?

 

Try Within.

 

Each one of us already knows this Place,

It’s Only human

Beings who could mistake that inner space

 

For alienation.

 

Instead of what it truly is –

Our own Holy ordination.

 

— Whitney Logan, 5.8.17

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Fully Human & Fully Divine

“I’m convinced that the discovery of a true God, and the discovery of the true Self are simultaneous journeys; they feed one another. When you meet the true Self, you’re most open to a bigger, truer name for God. When you meet a bigger, truer, more loving God, you surrender to that same identity within yourself.”

— Richard Rohr

Nothing is wrong with you: an Easter message.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to hear Anne Lamott speak about her new book, “Hallelujah Anyway”. The conversation was so honest, and soul-stirring that I followed it up with a couple days of binge-listening to several different interviews Anne has done in the last few years. During one of these interviews, she mentioned something a Jesuit priest once said to her about what he called the “5 rules on how to be a Good American”, which we are all forced to learn as early as possible.

1. Don’t have anything wrong with you.
2. If there is something wrong with you, fix it immediately.
3. If you can’t fix it, hide it.
4. If you can’t hide it, stay home—just don’t show up or you’ll make other people uncomfortable.
5. If you insist on showing up anyway, at least have the decency to feel ashamed.

Some of my earliest, earliest memories involve a growing, nagging, sweat-inducing certainty that something was terribly wrong with me. One of the primary reasons I fell so completely head-over-heels into the psychological refuge of Christianity was that it seemed to possess the answer to this precise problem.

“Yes”, Christianity said to me, “there is indeed something very wrong with you. Of course, this will continue to be painful for you and everyone who knows you for as long as you live. But, BUT: if you believe in exactly precisely this one thing, in exactly precisely this one way, and try your best to imitate exactly precisely the attitudes and actions prescribed by this one thing, your reward will be this: immediately AFTER you DIE, you will then finally become perfect”.

What a relief.

So, naturally, I swan-dove into this ideology at 12 years old, and really didn’t start to look underneath the hood of any of it until I was about 22 years old.

Eleven whole years of messy, beautiful, clumsy, miraculous, painful, healing, mentally ill, and spiritually sublime moments later, I have decided that this is not at all what Jesus tried to teach us. In fact, I now believe that to the degree with which we have confused his actual message with the nonsense described above is the degree to which we will wind up abusing ourselves and everyone around us.

So then, if not that painful personal pretzeling our way to salvation, what do I think Jesus did try to teach us?

Well, when I read the gospels now, I hear – over and over – a message that sounds more like this: “Oh, you beloved over-anxious, grasping, clinging children. I need you to try really hard to put your listening ears on for a whole minute while I explain this to you again. Heaven is not somewhere else, it’s right here. Communion with God is not later, it’s now. The Holy Spirit is not behind a curtain in the temple, it’s in your own body”. (Paraphrasing, hi).

Don’t believe me? Read it all over again for yourself. Start with Matthew, finish with the first part of Acts. Consider setting aside your preconceived or previously conceived interpretations, and going very slowly through the story again. Because it’s all right there – every beautiful, relieving, grace-soaked word – hidden in plain-sight.

I love Eve.

Eve, my favorite bible character, or otherwise known by the patriarchy as “Adam’s wife”, showed up in a TIME op-ed piece co-written by one of my heroes, Glennon Doyle Melton. This particular bit or writing right here (click link) is the whole reason I couldn’t stand being a woman in the church any longer. In fact, I think I have now spent a cumulative 7-8 years in therapy working this poison out of my own self-concept.

More pressing still, I now have a daughter, and I’m genuinely afraid to bring her up in the church for fear she might receive the same messages I did. In fact, I go visit churches by myself like an adult pre-screening a PG-13 movie to make sure it’s not going to be too corrupting for my child’s eyes and ears. Sometimes I actually picture myself sitting in the back of her fictional Sunday School classroom, and when we get to the whole bit about Eve, standing up and saying something like:

“Alright. That’s enough of that then.

Listen up kids, let me give you a brief little background about ancient semitic oral tradition and language, and how that fits into a much larger puzzle of religious and cultural context than the story itself reveals on the surface.

You tracking with me?

Okay, cool, next up: the ‘serpent’ as a symbol of feminine spirituality and the cycles of life-death-and-re-birth innate in a woman’s developing consciousness.

Any questions so far?”.

(Somehow I’m still waiting for my invite to be a guest Sunday School teacher at any church in town?!).

As Christian women (and men) start to wake up and demand better for themselves and their daughters (and sons), the church is going to have to decide how to respond. And as they do, I sure hope they look to JESUS instead of Mike Pence for guidance. Because Jesus spent plenty of time with women, all by himself, without a chaperone. In fact, they were some of his closest companions.

“Love each other as I have loved you”.

The recent shooting of two Indian men in Olathe, KS happened not far from the church my parents attend. On Sunday, an Indian man at their church delivered the week’s sermon. He told thousands of listeners that this incident helped him realize how he had not allowed compassion for his Muslim, Black, LGBTQ, and LatinX brothers and sisters to run deep enough.

That was a courageous thing to say.

It never fails to surprise me how easily people, including myself, believe in the fantasy of their own safety when they are not being specifically targeted. Because the reality is this: if any of us are vulnerable to abuse by power, we are ALL vulnerable to abuse by power.

Every single day I wake up and try to remind myself, “we belong to each other”. This isn’t a fluffy, rainbows, and kittens, and warm hugs type of sentiment either. It’s hard work to believe in this idea day in and day out. Because for me, it not only includes the vulnerable and oppressed, but also the difficult people – i.e. the person who told me to burn in hell last month, some of the scary people in Washington right now, the unapologetically bigoted man my friend is married to, that super bitchy mom at the playground last week, and even this troubled soul who shot two innocent men, and one brave bystander.

After learning about this shooting, I spent some days feeling enraged with a whole host of things. (Trump, the NRA, Breitbart, those dumb red hats – all the usual suspects). And while I do believe that there is a time and a place for appropriate anger, I also keep remembering that after we register that anger, we have to dig deeper than the anger before we figure out how to respond.

We have to grieve. We have to hold this broken open world in our broken open hearts.

Srinivas Kuchibhotla lost his life because of fear and ignorance. There is nothing more grievous than that. I think of his mother almost everyday.

But there is something else equally grievous. The man who shot him was taught – somewhere along the way – to fear and hate people that don’t look or act like him. I also think of his mother almost everyday.

When we belong to each other, it hurts a little. It’s hard, and it’s clumsy. We try to stand with the people who we see are suffering, but we make mistakes. We get scared. We say the wrong things. We think the wrong things. We have good intentions, but we wind up demonizing one group of people in order to protect another. And then, if we’re disciplined enough, we are able to remember: “oh, these people I’m so afraid of are also my brothers and sisters”. And we are humbled.

ON THE INSIDE.

What we do with that humility is the next step. I don’t know about you, but I’m still constantly working it out over here, without a lot of clear answers yet. Sometimes that humility looks like you might imagine: contrite, curious, conciliatory. Other times it looks like telling someone I love that their words and attitudes don’t square up with what they say they believe, while being simultaneously willing to hear the same kind of feedback about myself.

It’s messy. It’s hard. But it’s the path I keep climbing back onto even when I’ve fallen off for a bit. And each time I climb back on, I feel better. My eyes, ears, and heart feel clearer, and I start thinking about how to address the pain in this world, rather than escalating it any further.

Taking a word back.

When Toni Morrison, best-selling author, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner, and Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, was criticized for her depiction of graphic violence, and use of the N-word in her book, Beloved, she said this: “The slave owners were creative in their cruelty. I am taking that creative power back”.

She did not describe the violence of slavery for entertainment value, nor did she whitewash the verbal abuse black people have endured in this country. Instead, she exercised her freedom as a black woman living in the 20th century to write a novel about the unthinkable horrors of slavery. When I read her novel as a 21-year-old white woman, I came face-to-face with a narrative about human slavery that I had been shielded from up until then. It was supposed to make me uncomfortable – to disgust, offend, and ignite me, and it did.

This weekend I marched alongside over 4.2 million women, men, and children worldwide – across all seven continents – many of whom were wearing homemade bright pink pussycat-ear shaped “pussy hats”. Some of them were carrying posters with pictures of cats, or the phrase “pussy grabs back” on it. I saw one woman dressed in a vulva costume, and another woman wearing a vulva hat.

Since then, I have seen a whole lot of conservative women on the internet react to these hats and posters with revulsion, criticism, and even accusations that the same women carrying these “vulgar” signs are part of the culture that promotes and celebrates the moral depravity we have seen from Donald Trump.

When I was in college, studying Religion at a Baptist University, a man named Tony Campolo came to speak to my class about childhood poverty in America. “There are more than 10 million American children who’s families can’t afford to feed them today”, he said. “And the harsh reality is that most of you sitting here today don’t really give a shit”. “In fact”, he continued, “I would be willing to bet that most of you here today care more about the fact that I just said the word ‘shit'”.

So let me try to explain what I see as a similarly frustrating response to the language used by some participants in the Women’s March on Saturday.

Did you know that one in four American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime? Do you doubt for one second that the current President of the United States has sexually harassed, molested, assaulted, or abused women? Because he admitted it on tape – more than once. Try to wrap your head around that with me for a moment: a little less than half of this country’s voters voted for a man that was caught on tape bragging about sexual assault.

I’ll say it again. They heard that tape, and they voted for him.

For many women who have been sexually assaulted, the election results exposed every single fear they have about our “look-the-other-way” “boys-will-be-boys” “what-were-you-wearing” culture. Because that was exactly Trump’s defense. “It’s locker room talk”, “she’s not attractive enough to assault”, “it’s all lies”.

On the morning of November 9th, the first person I talked to voice-to-voice was a sexual assault survivor. Through wracking sobs, she asked me, “What do you think my attacker learned today? Because I think he learned what I learned.”

Until Trump’s Access Hollywood tape was released, I had probably only said the word “pussy” maybe 12 times in my life – usually in an embarrassed whisper when quoting someone else. Almost every single time a man has said the word “pussy” to me, or in front of me, it has been meant to humiliate or threaten me. I haven’t been conditioned by my life experiences to be a fan of that word, and even now am a bit nervous to defend it.

When a word has been used by someone in a position of power to abuse or malign a person that does not occupy that same position of power, it is unquestionably offensive. But when that same word is used by the victim(s) – ON THEIR OWN TERMS – and turned into something empowering and unifying, that is how you take the power of a word back.

So, even if you hate the word and would never use it, never allow your kids to use, drop dead in the street if your husband or father or brother or mother or neighbor used it, please try to imagine how impossibly healing it might feel for countless other women to stand in a sea of people celebrating the power of that word as a unifying force.

By reclaiming the word “pussy” in this strikingly feminine way – knitting a bunch of pink hats, creating art, costumes, camaraderie, and conversation – 4.2 million women (and male allies) worldwide said, “This is our word now. We are going to take the narrative about our bodies back”.

After Saturday’s march, I cannot imagine ever feeling afraid or offended by this word again. How powerful is that?

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#WomensMarch #WhyIMarch #PussyHat #PussyGrabsBack #MarchOn