A Prayer for Spacious Places

When hard pressed, I cried to God;  they brought me into a spacious place.–Psalm 118:5

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This is a prayer for those spacious places where we find peace, love, and freedom. These places are both physical and metaphysical. They are urban, suburbia, rural; they are the homes of our friends, the tents of our lovers, the blankets of stars.

Oh universe of all things great and small,

I have seen the wonders of this world, and my heart.

I have been split open by the view from the tallest mountain, by the stars shining from the tallest building, by climbing the tallest tree.

These places have broken the broken parts of me,
where grief and pain have made me small and petty.

I have seen so many places where anger has made everything small,
where tiny pebbles of hate burn without fire.

I wish to live only in places where I can be my biggest self.

Places of risk, possibility, enormity, and freedom.
Places that are so immense they terrify and inspire me.

Yet, out of all the spacious and immense places I have been,
from the tallest tree that I have ever climbed
to the view from a building trying to reach the heights of Babel,
the most spacious place I have ever known is love.

Let me live there always.

Amen.

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Desire and Identity

By: Jenni Taylor

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. –Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

My heart is full of desires. Chiefly, in this moment, my desire is to be a strong and beautiful woman.

My grandmom, who died long before I was born, was the matriarch of the family. She was strong, and she was beautiful. Life was not kind, but she held her family together. I see her strength in my aunts and uncles, her prayers reflected in their lives, and I know her legacy lives on.

I am a teacher. A traveler. An actress. A daughter, a friend, a writer, an adventurer. I am full of titles, striving to live a life of meaning, a life that won’t be forgotten or lost in the void. But maybe the void is where I need to be.

I was lost in the woods of north Wisconsin once, with mosquitoes and ticks and aching arms. I looked around at the forest surrounding me and thought, I want to be nameless. I just want to be. I want to be my imperfect body with my soul swirling around the tree tops; I want to be naked and free, connected, and bigger somehow. I want to lose myself so I can become something more.

I say that, but the honest truth is my identity is everything to me. Letting go and becoming that person I was in the woods takes effort now. It takes intention, it takes prayer, it takes believing in something bigger and better than myself and my dreams.

I’m sitting in a cafe in Vietnam right now, watching the chaos of motorbikes and noodles and movable markets. I am blessed, and I am humbled. Yes, I want to be strong and beautiful, but by God do I also want to be connected to the lives surrounding me, the millions and billions of lives searching for peace and meaning and strength, just as I am. So I pray:

Thank you for being bigger and better than I am. Thank you for the desires of my heart. Thank you for life, opportunities, and choices. Help me to love. Help me to give. Help me to become less of my titles and more of my heart.

Thank you for this beautiful country, it’s strength, it’s women, it’s optimism.

Amen.

Asking for Strength

Today, we have the honor of posting a piece from the amazing writer and journalist Alex McAnarney. Alex is a native of El Salvador and former resident of Mexico City. Her work focuses on migration, youth, gangs, and health and can be found at perishmotherland.tumblr.com.

Her post today, though longer than what we usually publish, is a testament to strength, wisdom, and love. We ask you all to take a little extra time over the weekend and experience all the beauty and honesty this post has to offer. We ask you all to recognize your own triggers, and take care of yourselves while reading, and as always, we ask you all to honor the wisdom we are blessed to share with you today.

When Friederich Nietzsche wrote Thus Spoke Zarathustra, he developed the idea of the “Overman” (übermensch). While the concept of the Overman remains up for debate, several interpretations fall along the following: guided by individually crafted values, the Overman lives with purpose, possessing the power to impact others around him (or, I controversially interject, her). The Overman attempts to go above and beyond the human

In stark opposition to a strength that surges from the individual will to transcend humanness, morality, and likely— given Nietszche’s struggles with migraines and neurosyphillitic infections— illness, I’ll quote Psalm 46:1-3: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

I can’t say I know what the meaning of strength really is. To ground yourself in the absurd, greyness of life and live with a measure of creative dynamism to carve out your own rugged path independent of others—a life of perpetual overcoming— is a type of strength. Yet, to relinquish yourself and your trust to someone else when the cacophony of “mountains falling into the sea” becomes too deafening, that too is a type of strength. One thing about strength is clear: I ask for it. A lot.

June 1994
Abue, my great-grandmother, is dead. I find out three days after they bury her. They didn’t want me to see her when she was in the coffin because they thought I wasn’t strong enough. I think it would have been nice to kiss her forehead and say bye like I did when she was going to sleep. I get mad at mom for deciding for me. From the back seat of the Toyota, I see that Tita, my grandma and Abue’s daughter, is sad. Her chin whiskers quiver but no tears come out. When my mom pulls at my hair when she brushes it I think of Abue and how she brushed my hair, expertly, gently. It makes me sad, but I think of Tita’s quivering chin whiskers and tearless eyes to suppress the waterworks. When she comes to visit us, I ask her why she doesn’t cry.

“Tears are how bad things stain you. They’re hard to wash out and forget,” she says.

I shroud myself in this. When the other girls at school pick on me because my hair is like a beehive, I try hard not to cry and get mad instead, catching bees in empty butter containers and letting them roast in the Mexican sun. When I get in trouble for telling made up stories about sleeping in a dungeon to my classmates, I really, really try not to cry. But my parents are really, really mad. When I get an egg accidentally thrown in my eye at a party, I don’t cry. I just scream and scream and scream and try to punch the boy who did it.

June 1997
When Dad leaves, I try my hardest to only cry once. It’s really hard because mom is crying and the kids at school suck, especially the boys. Daddy doesn’t cry. I know he feels bad, but I guess he’s strong? We always say Dads are strong at school. I want to be strong and not cry because I’m sad or because mom cries. I grab my little prayer book which I read every night and squeeze it in my hands trying to draw out a few drops of meaning. I only get half burnt flakes of pages. The book belonged to my mom, and before her, Tita. I don’t know if I should ask the fading doodle of a girly boy with a yellow hat on his blonde head. I ask him anyway, “Give me the strength to never cry.”

June 2003
I don’t tell anyone because I was passed out, drunk and possibly drugged. I hide the bruises. I don’t mention his attempts to keep me in the room after, calling me his Latina Lolita. I claim him as a notch of conquest achieved on a fun weekend in Key West. I don’t need to be a victim, I can keep saying what I’m saying: He was a 25 year old Marine my 16-year old self managed to seduce. I shove every shred of despair into a tightly sealed jar and lock it away in a mental cabinet, never to be explored again. Individual responsibility is strength, after all. In the meantime, I ask the 500 mg of ibuprofen I just swallowed “Give me strength to walk straight tonight.”

January 4, 2005
There is pain. There are rivulets of blood pouring from somewhere that I cannot locate. My vision is a pinhole of post-Grand Mal seizure confusion that envelops the world in a blissfully anesthetized miasma save for one little opening through which I can see blood, a stretcher, a worried fat man.
“-hit you?”

The pinhole is slowly stretched by halogen lights into a gaping, heaving asshole of reality I’m not ready to enter. My arm lifts heavily to wipe some drool that feels embarrassingly chunky. Through the asshole I see: bloody chunks of teeth and lip clustered on my hand.

“Did somebody hit you?”

“I had a seizure,” I mutter.

My shoes are off. My hand is holding an empty pillbox. My shoulders are shrouded in a brown EMT blanket. My mouth is red, dripping, and toothless.

I must have collapsed in the parking lot. I press my nose. Not broken. No plastic surgery freebie for me. It’s funny. I laugh with a blood choked gurgle.

A male EMT looks at me funny. I keep laughing and trace the remaining bits of canine and fronts with my index finger. Jagged stalactites hanging in anticipation of the next earthquake, because the aftershocks always happened. Little bastards, won’t get the pleasure I begin to try pulling out the bits with my own hands.

“Don’t do that!” the resident advisor sitting next to me swats away my offending hand.

You don’t understand. I think to myself, they need to go. They were weak!

I don’t cry. I try my hardest to be hilarious even though I have no idea how or where I am. As I do that, I keep trying to pull my bits of teeth out. To my fingers, I plea “Give me the strength to pull this weakness out of my body.” Continue reading

Awakening to the Unity of Grief on Easter

 

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“Record my misery; list my tears on your scroll” –Psalm 56:8 NIV

By: Autumn Elizabeth

This is the first Easter that I won’t call my grandmother. I won’t update her on the sermon I heard, or tell her about which language I said the Our Father. I won’t describe the city I am in, the old church I found, or the breathtaking celebration of Easter I discovered. After years of celebrating Easter all over the globe, this year I will tell my Easter story to no one.

Except, I am not alone in my loneliness. Holidays after losing a loved one are always the hardest. The pain of their absence is keenly felt when we see their empty chair at the decorated table, their empty pew at high mass, the empty entry in our contact log.  This is the part of humanity that becomes general, global, universal. Whether it is Passover or Easter, Eid al-Fitr or Holi, the missing presence of a lost loved one is palpable.

As some point most spiritual quests must deal with death, with loss, with grief. In this way, we as humans are united. Not one of us can live forever, not one of us can avoid loss. As we grieve we must awaken to new possibilities, new life. As we celebrate holidays, we must awaken to our unity despite our differences.

This year as I awaken to a glorious Easter morning, as I attend a beautiful Easter mass in an ancient church, I will grieve the loss of my grandmother, and that grief will unite me with strangers I haven’t met yet, and I will find me someone new with whom I can share my Easter story.

Loose Threads: Bible Passages

Loose Threads is a place were we all can discuss a topic and share wisdom. So here is today question:

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

Jenni: :

To you O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God.

Psalms 25: 1-2

This question was way harder than it should have been, but I finally picked this one because faith is hard. It’s not something I necessarily feel or understand all the time. This verse, for me, is like a deal with God. If I lift up my soul, if I pray and focus on him, I can trust him to come through. Verse 3 continues by saying, “no one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame.” By doing my part, he will do his. By having faith even when it’s difficult and doesn’t make sense, by trusting him and putting my hope in him, he promises that I will not regret it. That’s something worth believing in.

Autumn:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

I love this passage because I believe I am loved by God, and that nothing can make God stop loving me. This passage not only confirms that, but challenges me to believe the same about every other person and creature. Even the people who make me angry, even the people who preach hate, even people who disagree with everything I believe–they are all loved by God no matter what. Sometimes this is unfathomable to me. How can a love exist that cannot be broken? However, this is the God I believe in–a love that is unbreakable, for me and for everyone else.

Now it is your turn!

Where do you find wisdom, love, …and lint in the bible?