A Time To Lament…

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I know that I am not alone with this. I know that you also feel it too. As far apart in distance as we span in this nation…so many of us are collectively feeling this burden. Collectively holding hands. But my sadness and exasperation of these tragedies is nothing more than a glimpse of empathy… the pain I feel is real, my empathy is real, my desire to want to do something to show that I care is REAL… but it doesn’t hold a candle to the sorrow that so many families are engulfed in; living all of the nightmares in the reality of their loss.

Last week was one tragedy after another. Pain upon pain on top of pain. Hurt on hurt. Hate on hate…FEAR on FEAR… This is FRESH…but only a few weeks ago we had more of it… and months ago and years ago… it is not new…it is HERE; it is NOW; and it is PAST and the fallibility of the human condition is still trembling with pain.

Last weeks tragedies shocked, enraged, and stirred up the nation. And as it so often goes, the social media posts began pumping out “answers”, opinions, gun control banters and gun freedom banter. blue lives vs. black lives, polarizing comments full of exclusive nature… Confusing statements of judgement and demobilization of progression, and of course questions… so many questions… questions of how can we speak up for the injustice? How can we bring change? How can we make resolve … so that it is not our FUTURE…

I have always been the kind of person that sees a problem and wants to fix it. Sometimes to a point of being so confident in my self proclaimed ability to come up with solutions or make sense of things that I forget the bigger picture and I forget how little I really am. — When tragedy hits the news media and everyone and their cat wants to banter a little or push some point to be made…and mind you, many people are incredibly well meaning!! I am guilty of it. I most certainly want to say things that I think would make some sense of a situation, I am as contemplative and deep thinking as the rest of us…but sometimes it is better to simply stand back and soak in the reality of what it is that is actually happening…and to give time for lament.

Lives were lost because of deeply rooted issues…Issues of exclusion. Issues of elitism. Issues of segregation. Issues of supremacy. Issues of hate. Issues of fear…   stories from the past that are still rumbling to this day. The cords of our past stories have not been cut off… If we pretend that our history doesn’t influence our future, if we forget about the past because it is simply “long ago”, then we have the ability to pretend that the now is OK… but that kind of mental pretending can catch up to us all when the tremors of the past rise back up… Sometimes we have to face the past to address the pain that was never healed… Our Nation holds a lot of pain that has never been properly faced, and the darkness of these stories of our past are still living in action today…there is much work to be done. Healing takes time and healing takes care and healing takes change.

When I heard the news last week I wanted to say a lot of things…I did say a little, and I even re-posted a few things that I thought were so good at the moment, but then admittedly I deleted them after realizing that maybe there were aspects of this that I still need to understand. I know that I need go deeper. We need to dig deeper as a nation. Dig into our history and really take a truth look at how far we have come and also to see how much we still must push towards…Every time I feel like I have found good perspective, solid understanding…Every time, I am turned and twisted upside down, baffled by my own thinking…realizing time and time again how much MORE I need to listen and how much MORE I need to learn…it will be an always process. If we think that we know it all…or if we think that we have come to a place where we have the answers…then maybe we are the very people that need to shut up! 

At the moment, I have no answers except for this: I think I (we) need to LISTEN MORE and I think that I (we) need to PRAY MORE… here is the thing about prayer: prayer really doesn’t stay right there in a physical stance of prayer, but prayer really is action. To become what we pray for .

We pray for peace…then BE PEACE.

We pray for more love in this world…then BE LOVE.

We pray for grace…then BE GRACE.

We pray for understanding…then BE A LISTENER.

We pray for healing…then BE A HEALER.

We pray for freedom of injustice…THEN BE JUSTICE.

We pray for change…THEN BE CHANGE.

if We pray for black lives to matter…THEN SHOW THAT THEY MATTER. 

if We pray for native lives to matter…THEN SHOW THAT THEY MATTER.

We pray for all lives to matter…THEN SHOW THAT THEY MATTER…

… starting with the “least of these” …

(that runs deep in so many directions if you let that settle a bit).

A simple band-aid answer simply says… “God cares about all Lives…Jesus is our answer”. Whilst I believe this to be essentially true; I would hope that I am not guilty of simply throwing some Bible verses at the pain and assuming I DID something to help with the injustice. As a believer of the the faith of The Way of Jesus Christ, I have great admiration for how Jesus lived… and what he did that impressed me so much is that HE DID what he said, and he lived out his PRAYERS...he lived out his love and died for the ultimate LOVE… he didn’t slap a label — A hash tag — A bible verse — A Love or Peace sign — a quote — a word of “wisdom” onto the pain of this world…no…he LIVED IT! His LIVING IT, is what was REVOLUTIONIZING and is the very thing that HEALED. LOVE IS LIVING and moving and breathing. LOVE IS ALIVE. LOVE IS MOVING. LOVE IS EMBRACE. LOVE IS EYES OF VALUE.

So before we speak too much… may we quiet our mouths for a moment and lament…

Saying the names of last weeks loss…

Brent Thompson.

Patrick Zamarripa.

Michael Krol.

Lorne Ahrens.

Michael Smith.

Alton Sterling.

Philando Castile.

To those that lost your lives last week I lament. I light a candle and I will say your names. You are deeply valued. Oh there are so many more names to call out. Name of scattered throughout history…names; valued names.

And in this moment I know there is much work to be done. There are so many ways that we can stand with one another…but I am not going to spout or banter solutions right now… I am going to do my best to live out understanding, respect and love in my personal realm of influence that I am given, that is a place to carry out what you live. May I be a person that shows value to every person that my life encounters… that is my prayer that I deeply desire to live and become… and may I never shy away from the hard questions. From the hard topics and from speaking up for injustice.

In this moment may we pause then, with all of these thoughts and light a candle to lament…

 

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Out of the Ashes

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Out of the ashes we will rise; with beauty, grace, and life. 

It is the summer of adventure! Every year we dub the summer with that title as if it was a new thought, but as each summer rolls around we valiantly raise our declarative hands into the air and shout with just as much vigor as before, “It is the summer of adventure!”

…And we go. We slim down our schedules, we prioritize our lives, we protect our weekends like vultures and politely ask the rest of the world’s expectations to back off…and we head out to where the wild leads our spirits to a place where we find rest and renewal;  a healing realm which brings oil to our tired gears.

It was a Sunday morning and I turned to my husband in bed and asked him, “What do you have in mind for today?” That question is always the beginning of many adventures in our family. An open ended, “Let’s get outta here!”

Thus a hiking day began to brew. We blasted the morning music, usually Buena Vista Social Club or Karsh Kale on our weekend mornings… I simultaneously shoveled down some breakfast while gathering what we needed and my husband Josh prepared a pack lunch. The house can be left a mess, the dust can mingle, when there are adventures to be had we must go.

When I look back on my life lived, I want to see all of the great things we did, all of the moments we enjoyed, I don’t want to wonder where the time went as I worried about the house…let the dust sit. There is always another day to take care of that and it will always come back.

Off we went to the mountains, to the fresh air, to the pine trees, to the freedom!

It is the exiting of our vehicle and the first glimpse of a trail; the sounds of the birds and the way the sun feels in the great forest that makes me feel like I am home.

This trail was new to us; we began with a walk through a thin spindly forest at the Blue Lake trail head. I looked around and where were my beloved green ferns? My giant trees? My soft earthen moss patches? A desolation of ash still remained in this area so close to the mountain, overpowering the soil, creating silt and fluffy grey ground cover. Porous rocks were everywhere, winter carved waterways, now mostly empty and dry with small creeping springs still seeping through.

Mt. St. Helen’s stood tall above the scene; strong and mighty forced to look down, in his solitary position on the mess that he had made.

Mt. St. Helen’s was named after a British ambassador called Alleyne Fitzherbert, whom was also dubbed “Baron St. Helens”.  However, the mountain was already given a name by the pacific-northwest Native Americans who were living in that area. They referred to the beast as “Louwala-Clough,” or “smoking mountain.”

In 1980, it blew its roof top and covered the age old land with the boiling contents stewing within its cauldron.  The land was scarred and life turned into death in an instant.

We hiked through this dusty mire, oddly admiring the striking contrast of beauty in this barren land; the monochromatic relics with lackluster trees against the blue sky.

Glory is everywhere that we look, if we CHOOSE to have eyes to see it.

We continued forward and I expected this trail of ruins to lead me to the beckoning forest which oddly stood side by side next to the wasteland. Heading north on this trail, when I turned my eyes towards the east I saw nothing but grey, then looking westward there was only a stream that separated the dessert of dull-tones from the live presentation of forest land,  thick and old and vibrant.

How is this possible? I was stunned by the placement of everything. How did the roar of St. Helen’s cover the land for miles with the bursting of the belly of the smoking mountain?… Yet, somehow this old growth wild-wood thriving across the stream was untouched.

Side by side there stood a tangible, visual, distinct example of death and life in a panoramic view unfolding right before our eyes. 

We gravitated to the stream, to the life-side of the forest.  We drew ourselves nearer to the cord-veins of the water and there we discovered heaps and heaps of huckleberries ripe and sweet, all along the water-line.

blueberriesHuckleberries love to be near the water, their taste is sweeter and the berries are filled with juice when they are next to it.

“Isn’t this early for huckleberries, this high up in the mountains?” I asked Josh.   “That is what I was thinking!” He replied. We have always picked them in August and September, so it seemed odd to have such a plentiful display of fresh berries already ripe for the taking.

Our hiking came to a halt, a long halt, as we picked and filled our bellies with the first wild berries of the season. After a while though I began to feel anxious, I wanted so badly to get into the thick of the woods.

Onward we traveled…until we came to a beautiful lake.  Purely haunting, it gave off a sense of mystical mystery.  It symbolized to me a sector of hallowed ground between the two visual worlds of death and life.

misty lake

If I kept my eyes steady on the lake and the mirror images of trees reflecting on the water I felt the kind of magic that I feel when I get out into the wilderness…but whenever I would gaze back into the barren mess, I began to grow tired of it and I wanted to travel away from it all together.

I suddenly remembered that I forgot to put our forest pass on the rear view mirror, panicking because I did not want to pay a fine for parking there without it,  I told Josh that I HAD to run back to the car or we might have a hefty fee to pay.

So I ran, I ran 1.5 miles down the path of sooty nothingness, dust rising all around me, Moonshine the dog leaping with me. I got to the car, gulped down some water, shared some with Moonie, and rectified the situation. Then with a breath in and back out again, I jogged the 1.5 miles through and through until I reached the lake.  The serene silence was so loud, my kids and my husband were gone! The quietness was eerie, the volcanic wasteland hovering behind me, the tranquility of the lake before me… I was alone, I wanted my family. I wanted to find my forest thick and free…

I hollered for their names… no answer.  Again and again and again…still no answer. I sat down on a rock and figured they would return.

After a while I heard the giggles of children and the clacking of rocks as they climbed up into view; they waved at me to come.

They had found a stream full of clay and were building a dam to create a pool. I sat down and ate lunch on a rock, reviving myself from all the running.

I finished eating. They began eating. We talked about fish, dams, spiders, squirrels, we talked about the mountain and at one point our dog entangled his arm inside of his collar and wobbled around on 3-legs, which brought us all to the ground with laughter.

The kids would have kept playing in the mud all day, covering their bodies with the grey composted ash…but I had to get away and into the forest, and during my run to the car I spotted an off trail that took you up into the woods. That’s the ticket!

So we went… I felt so much relief with each step deeper into the web of the forest. I could breathe in and taste and smell the earth around me. More huckleberries were growing up there, but very tart and had flavors of the forest that danced in your mouth, far different than the water-side ones. We found enormous conks growing on trees, we let them be, they have been working hard on their growth.

Then as we turned the corner of the trail, my husband rushed forward and reached his long arms around the girth of an ancient tree trunk, his arms could hardly wrap around even a 3rd of her circumference. I felt teary at the sight of this big man warm against the tree like a little boy.

I then had to have my moment with her, that wise old tree… and when I did I felt the sun’s heat on her bark, and I held onto her sides as much as my arms could grasp…it took a while before I could let go.

My daughter and I said thank you to our creator for such a tree as this… and I kissed it before we carried on with our hike.

My heart ached, my throat was all bunched up feeling like I needed to just sit down and sob… Cry because I am so thankful that I could see a beautiful beast of a tree such as this, but also sad at so many that have been lost.

Yet, we use wood to make our homes, we use wood to burn our fires, it is the patterns of give and take, but how does one not mourn the loss of something so grand…

I believe we are responsible to give back to the forests so that balance is at hand. I didn’t cry though, I held it in my belly…maybe I should have let it all out…It might have been really healthy.

We were only able to travel along that path for a little while longer on because the city clock of responsibility was calling us home to take care of a few things that night. On our way back down the trail we sat on the edge of a perfect look-out perch, a divine spot where we could view the ruins of the ash world below us, and we could see both the mountain and the lake while we sat within the safe sanctuary of the old growth paradise.

At that spot we had church. My husband, my son, my daughter and I, we gave thanks to our Creator for the magnificence and mysteries of life.  We sat together for a while and each of us shared what God had displayed to us during our time out there and we gave thanks.

For starters, my son talked about how the mountain farts and he explained to us all, with certainty that it had really bad gas so it just had to explode. So he learned that mountains fart just like people. I am pretty sure he got that one from his dad… My boy was thankful for lunch and Moonshine (our dog) and the flatulent mountain.

My daughter shared how she learned about the health of huckleberries and how they are nutritious for our bodies. She expressed how God displayed to her how much plants need water. My daughter was thankful for water and plants that we can eat.

My husband talked about the trees in the old growth forest. He has a love affair with trees.  He shared with us how the trees have always been a symbol to him of how wondrous our creator is. My husband was thankful for the dam he built with the kids, the time spent away from work and of course for the trees.

I shared with my family how I struggled to see the beauty in the soot land below, how the entire time part of me was just waiting to get out of it. I was reminded of the cleansing that takes place out of the ashes, I was reminded of the new life forming all around me. I gave thanks for the ash… I gave thanks for the pain.

Those spindly baby trees down below were making their way out of the purified soil and the former land, post eruption, was now decomposing in the form of ash; the soil will grow rich because of this. The cleansing of the forest will allow new light to shine through so that baby trees can travel tall and new flora and fauna can flourish. One day the emptiness will be alive and full; a great forest once again. 

Our creator gives and takes away, and this is an example of what that give and take is all about, and how nature, God’s most perfect worshipers will always continue to loyally say, “blessed be the Lord!” … “Even the rocks cry out…”

Sometimes it is hard to see the beauty when you are the one in the ashes. Life in the ashes can be blinding… blind to the new growth that is taking place. 

Sometimes we have to feel the pain in order to grow…

Sometimes, it takes the rising actions of change in order to lift our heads out of the dirt and rise…rise to see life from a different perspective.

Yes, out of the ashes there will rise beauty, grace and life!

It wasn’t until we sat in that spot with that window view of the grey below, that I saw the new perspective… it wasn’t until then that I was reminded of the beauty that was and is and is to come.  “There is beauty in the dirt.”

“I am mountain, I am dust
Constellations made of us
There’s glory in the dirt
The universe within the sand
Eternity within a man

We are ocean, we are mist
Brilliant fools who ruled and kiss
There’s beauty in the dirt
Wandering in skin and soul
Searching, longing for a whole”

– Gungor “I Am Mountain”

(A song worth listening to)