"I am playing with myself,
I am playing with the world's soul,
I am the dialogue between myself and el espiritu del mundo.
I change myself, I change the world."

Gloria AnzaldĂșa

28 August, 2016

The Learner's Mind

 
"Learning to Walk" David Fabricius Aaby

I’m learning to walk.

As most people who know me know, I fell and broke my knee-cap this summer. When I was healed, and my doctor blessed me and said, “you may go,” I asked him for a referral to physical therapy.  I had recently learned that my knock knees, and the arthritis they created, could be improved through exercise. The doctor said yes, that although it would not take away any deformation, it would strengthen and stabilize my knees.

I walk funny. 

I’ve always thought I walk funny because my knees are deformed. Come to find out, my knees are deformed because I walk funny.

So I am learning to walk. And to stand. And to strengthen muscles that are atrophied.

When my therapist first watched me walk, he said I need to start out with my heels when I walk. And he stood me in front of a mirror. “You’re standing on your toes,” he said. “Put your feet down.” Those first days were rough.

When you first come to AA, they tell you, “It’s okay. You only need to change one thing. Everything.”

That’s what it feels like learning to stand and to walk again. I walk down the steps at my house and say, “Put your heel down. Is your whole foot on the step? Okay, step down now.” I’m slower and more deliberate. I do that with stepping up, too. And with walking.
It feels very different, and sometimes at the end of the day, I’m just sore. But it feels grounded. Safe. Stable.

I ran into a friend from church at the grocery store and she asked about my knee. I told her about changing one thing, and how I was doing it again, and she said, “Good. Keep the learner’s mind.”

This semester, I’m teaching hybrid classes for the first time. I’ve wanted to flip my classes for a long time—to put most of the lecture online and do group work and discussion in the classroom. Well, teaching a hybrid class is teaching me how to teach all over again. The only thing I have to change is everything.

So this morning I awakened at four, as I have all week, and I began working on a lecture for a class a few weeks down the road. First the Power Point, then the audio, then turn it into a video. “Put your heel down. Are you stable? Keep going.”


It’s all very Zen, folks. 

24 July, 2016

Faith, Familia, Trabajo


My last post on this blog was about the death of San Antonio's beloved Fr. Eddie. I learned of Eddie's death the day this photo was taken. I was one of the people being ordained and commissioned to serve my church as elders and deacons. On the far left, you can see my pastor, Kelly Allen.

I have put off writing about this day, and the week that followed, for some time, but as I showered and prepared for going to church this morning, these words echoed in my head: "faith, familia, trabajo." I heard them yesterday in a speech by the man I hope is our next VP. (More about that later).

Those words are embraced by people of faith everywhere, and they certainly exemplify the life of Kelly Allen.

On the Friday following my ordination, Kelly suffered a major stroke. That Sunday, her family released her body from life support, and gave her organs to save other lives. It was fitting that her last act on life was to save others. Greater love has no one.

I cannot express what a great woman Kelly was. I can say that she was a wife and mother, a foster mother, and an adoptive mother. I can say that she fought for LGBTQ rights within the church and in society. I can say that she fought for the women and children of central and south America who came here as refugees. I can say that she rekindled my faith and called me back to my family at UPC. And I know she did that for others in our community.

Here's a link to a video that tells you a bit about Kelly.

A few weeks before I was ordained, Kelly asked me (and the others) to write a statement of faith. She gave us a list of questions to serve as a writing prompt. One of the questions was, "What is your understanding of the Trinity?" The statement I wrote in response to that question surprised me. "Dang, I'm really a Christian!," I realized when I read it. I'm talking about this because one of the responses to my statement (an earlier post on this blog) is from Kelly. She said, "Can I just say I'm proud to be your pastor!" I have tears in my eyes as I type this. I am so proud that Kelly was my pastor, so blessed to have known her. And I will try to practice what she taught me: faith, familia, trabajo.

When I started my blog back in the early 2000's, it never occurred to me that I'd go through a period of posting about faith more than anything else. But here we are.

I go today to hear my friend Nancy List Pridgen preach with a text of the poems, letters, and life of Emily Dickinson--one of my first teachers of the Spirit.

These are difficult times. The world feels on edge. But we are called to love, to make the world better through love. In life and in death, we belong to God.



30 May, 2016

Fr. Eddie

Fr. Eddie Bernal
 photo, Lisa Krantz

Last night, after a day full of worship, fellowship, and happiness, I turned on the 10:00 news to hear that Fr. Eddie Bernal, a beloved priest here in San Antonio, has died. 

I wanted to share a story he once told at a SOL center class many years ago.

Fr. Eddie was doing some service work with the youth group from his congregation. Afterward, they all went out to IHOP for dinner.  There was a homeless man by the door of the restaurant, and one of the girls in the group engaged the man in conversation. Then, to Fr. Eddie's surprise (and, he admitted, fear), the girl invited the homeless man to eat with them.

They all had a good dinner and a good conversation with the homeless man. As they were walking out of the restaurant and the man was walking away, Fr. Eddie called out to him, "We never got your name." 

The man turned and said, "Chuy, I'm Chuy."

For those of you not from San Antonio, it might help to know that Chuy is the nickname for Jesus. 

Thank you Fr. Eddie for your work with your congregations, the poor people of San Antonio, and your advocacy for the LGBTQI community. 

"I was hungry, and you fed me."  

Rest in peace. Rest in power. Thank you.

18 May, 2016

Statement of Faith

I needed to write a statement of faith. Here's what I came up with:

I believe in God the creator
Who made the sparrow and the hawk--
Who made Enchanted Rock and Grand Canyon--
Who made Life—in its infinite variety.
I believe in God the savior
Who suffers with and for us.
Who teaches.
Who heals.
I believe in God of the still, small voice
Who speaks to me in the woods
Who says, "Look," or "Love."
I believe in my human frailty --
My sinful nature that causes me to walk away--
And in the God who walks with me and waits for me.
I believe in the God who calls us to community--
To service.
To love.
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The Pharisees asked him, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus answered "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22: 36-40).
----------------------------------------------------------
I believe my life is about learning how to walk back to God, to love him and his creation, and to love and serve my neighbor.  I believe that individualism is a false god, an idol, and the true God calls us to live and worship and serve in community. The church, His body, is that community for me.  The church is a place of refuge and a place to face that from which we seek refuge. The church is called to be an agent of change in our world. 
Through the grace of God, I am sober and alive and in this place with these people, who are also called to be in community. Through serving God and loving my neighbor to the best of my ability, I am healed and made whole.
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As Anne Lamott once said, "I'm just shy of fish bumper sticker." 


29 February, 2016

I'm in the Right Place

Yesterday I went to church and I saw this in the parking lot. I can think up several different stories for this, but I love it.

Other things happened.

I saw my friend Lenna sitting across the isle, and went to join her. We chatted for awhile, and then I saw that my former pastor Lib McGregor Simmons was sitting in front of me. That was a nice surprise.

Here she is (on the right) with my current pastor Kelly Allen

Then, sometime during the sermon, which was about letting go of control as a Sabbath practice, Kelly was talking about letting go of control of your children.
Oh yeah, and there's more.
Yesterday was the 12th anniversary of my Mother's death.  Talk about letting go of control--or having control wrestled from your clutching hands -- And I looked in front of me and there was Lib. Lib was my pastor at the time of Mama's death. In fact, she came to see us and pray with me in the hospital about a half an hour before Mama died. And she counseled me through the crippling grief.

I remember showing up at her home one day. She answered the door, and I collapsed in ugly sobs. It was probably her day off. I do not know if I would have survived without Lib. And without some of the other people at church, like my friend Shirley, who died a few years later. That is not hyperbole. 

More.
One of the readings for the day would have pissed Mama off. 
"Look at the birds of the air, they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them." I can hear her now. "Have you ever noticed how hard the life of a bird is? And God loves us like that? Not enough!"

I got a kick out of hearing her whisper that in my ear during the reading. And I was affirmed that I was in the right place. With my friend Lenna, who never knew Mom. With other people who remember her well. With Lib. With Kelly. 
Two weeks ago I entered the narthex at church, and a woman I've known for years said, "Hello Mary." I'm in the right place.