Enough or not

I live on the cusp of enough and dreamy desires; in the liminal land of paradox.

I am always trying to make do with my limits, to authentically live my vow of poverty and get re-rooted in simple living.

Yet. I am always longing for more.

Desire, dreams, faith and hope fuel my energy. Even when I am overwhelmed or exhausted, a vision of justice-prevailing and the Kingdom of God coming into full fruition remains my impetus for laboring and loving. I believe that the peace Jesus proclaimed is possible.

 

Honestly, my yearning for more-than-is/more-than-I-have-right-now isn’t always about the ideals I hold close to me. Some of my dreams are embarrassingly superficial, completely basic and ordinary. Like Oh, how I wish I had a panini maker to cook this sandwich or This hairdryer is too loud and clunky, I should get a new one. I am regularly creating mental lists of objects that I think will create more convenience and efficiency in my busy life, just because I too fall for the lies of American commercialism and capitalism. I have to catch myself. When I find myself thinking that more stuff will be a solution, I must gain new consciousness. I must recommit myself to my vow of spiritual and material poverty, to my “Yes” to trusting that God has always given me enough. I really know how to make-do with what I have, I just have to remind myself of this frequently.

Every day, every moment, I have enough. I have enough time. Enough materials. I have all that I need. I have passion and potential. I am loved and supported. God’s abundance is infinite and as a child of God, I have access to the graces and strength and power and love that is enough for me. We all are children of God and we all have access.

Some days–in some moments–this means I must truly honor my limitations and needs. I am tired, I need to rest or I will kill myself if I try to meet this deadline, I must ask for an extension. This is an element of honoring my own dignity as sacred, of caring for the vessel of the Holy Spirit that I aim to be.

I am limited. I am weak. And, amazingly, by God’s grace when it comes to what matters most, I totally have enough. I must trust and allow myself to remain in God’s loving hands.

 

But then.

God calls me to continual growth, to be a steward and foster the gifts I have been given. Just like the rest of you, I am invited to expand the reign of God and contribute to a better society, to a more just and peaceful humanity.

I really am heartbroken about the ways that we don’t honor every human life as sacred in our culture. Unborn babies are killed and criminals are executed. Street shootings are common. Prisons practice torture and remain open and funded. Drones are still flying and people are still starving to death.

I have a responsibility to contribute to positive social change. I can develop my own talents and abilities so to better glorify God through all my choices.

 

Do I have enough or not? I don’t know. I do know that I don’t want to be greedy.  I want to be a person who creates, not consumes. I do know that I am on the edge of satisfaction and healthy discontentment. A Gospel tension is alive within me, a Spirited realization that the world is not the way God intended, because we truly are sinful creatures.

I am slowly learning that this tension is holy ground. It turns out that this dilemma of desire is actually our God-given nature. Though limited, we all are on a journey of growth and self-improvement. By God’s design satisfaction and contentment are fleeting; we constantly yearn to know, feel and experience more.

Ultimately though, when we yearn in the in-between space of Hope for a better world and This is enough, we are yearning for God; for the simple, loving Way of Jesus. We desire God–for the source of all the justice and goodness that we believe in–to prevail and reign. May it be so, Amen, Indeed!

 

"Changing" Photo by Julia Walsh FSPA
“Changing edges” by Julia Walsh, FSPA

 

Craving a countercultural Christmas

My Christmas Every Day experiment is starting to get awkward.

Advent hasn’t even started yet, but Christmas’ crazed and over-weight relative Consumerism is already in town, on the news, and wasting your gasoline and money as he drives all around town shopping.

Meanwhile, I’m crowding with others in the cozy chapel, savoring peace and quiet and adoring God’s goodness while we pray for wisdom about how to revive radical Gospel living.

My Christmas ever day experiment is not about Santas, shopping, or catchy commercials. Yet, while these things become more prevalent, I am becoming afraid that any uttering of “Merry Christmas” that I make might be mistaken for an approval of the petty parts of the holiday happening prematurely. The truth is that I really do not approve of any Christmas consumerism or other commotion that distracts from Jesus Christ.

Last week one one of my students innocently asked me a very normal question.  He poked his head through my classroom door while he waited for his bus after school.  “Sister,” he said “are you going shopping on Black Friday?”  He was probably trying to spark a conversation.

I was impolite. “Ha, that might be one of the funniest questions I have been asked all year! Why would you ever think I would do that!?”  I honestly thought he was joking.

Of course, it only occurred to me much later that the student was asking a very ordinary, culturally appropriate question.  And, I realized, my response may have seemed a bit uncultured, bizarre or down-right rude. (God have mercy!)

I shuddered with shame as I realized my insensitivity.  The thing is, the kid pushed my button. I assumed the student knew me and that I am trying to live a counter-cultural life, understood all my values, and in spite of his youth, he was already dissecting the cultural norms that conflict with Christianity.  He’s a smart kid— so, fair mistake, right?!

All of the emphasis on materialism this time of year really does make me squirm.  I am pretty sure I saw my first Christmas commercial that reminded people about layaway back in September.  I probably could have given out Christmas candy for Halloween, if only I had I asked a shopkeeper for some, since candy canes appeared on the shelves right on November 1st.  And now, even though we’re still in November, jolly Christmas carols seem to be chiming through speakers all around town trying to get us in the mood to shop, shop, shop.  I even heard a radio show host joking about how Christmas already came and went, since it happens around Veteran’s Day now.

If holiday seasons are supposed to stick to a schedule, we have reasons to be disturbed.

Or, more importantly, when we remember what Christmas is really all about, we have reasons to resist.

Christmas everyday, and Christmas in general, is all about celebrating the Incarnation.  Love was made manifest in human flesh. Jesus Christ is God and God came to earth in the most humble and simple of ways. There’s generosity, joy, community, peace, trust, lots of love and pure, human fun wrapped up in the real meaning of  the ancient story of Christ’s coming:

This is the type of Christmas I am craving and I am committed to carrying out through the end of 2013: a counter-cultural and communal Christ-centered celebration! I hope you would join me, even though I’ll admit it’s much easier to talk about these ideas than to do them, when consumerism’s temptations are around every corner.

Here’s how:

  • Collecting donations for anyone who needs anything: some of my students hosted a food drive last week and will host another one in December.
  • Honoring children: I am eager to spend time with my godchildren and if anyone asks me what I want for Christmas I’m ready to tell them that I want donations to Tubman House for Christmas.
  • Praying for peace: several times a day, especially during my assigned adoration hours.
  • Connecting to the tough parts in the Christmas story: advocating for immigration reform and standing up for anyone who is oppressed by violence.
  • Spreading the Love: telling teens that they matter and I care about them, writing letters and cards, and being intentional about how I spend time with others.
  • Hosting some celebrations : a Christmas party in my classroom on behalf of the orphans at Casa Hogar and hopefully hosting a gathering with other friends.
  • Getting creative about how I give presents: re-gifting, buying things at thrift stores, making DIY crafts  out of stuff I have around home, utilizing some of the resources from “Buy Nothing Christmas” and baking goodies to share.
  • Resisting Black Friday: I shall instead celebrate Buy Nothing Day and I’m thinking about joining in on a protest, fast, or at least I’ll send a message of support to those who protest for just wages.

What will you do to resist Christmas’ consumerism and focus on the real reasons for the season?

Zenta 2013, Buy Nothing Day, Adbusters

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Downward Mobility

Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/261735
Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/261735

by Guest Blogger Emily Dawson

I am writing this in a laundromat. I used to have my own wash machine and dryer, house and garage and lots and lots of counter space too–used to. Basically, life happened. And I will say that while washing, drying and folding your intimates in the privacy of your own home is a luxury, you do learn to adapt and perhaps even cherish downward mobility.

Experiencing it is not exciting. There are very few honorable people who willingly choose this: to move their social status down a notch. Most of the time this happens against our will and it becomes a personal test of strength and surrender. Old habits and routines are broken as we hesitantly release our comfort and sometimes end up feeling unfortunate.

It is, however, also a time of freedom. A time to release possession from our possessions. I don’t have a washing machine anymore, but I also don’t have any responsibility if it breaks.

I do not own property and my living space is drastically smaller, but I don’t need to shovel snow, mow the lawn, clean or organize much–if at all. And I don’t have that weird compulsion to compete with my neighbors over how successful I am anymore. Blech.

What I get in return for this drastic change, this perception of “loss,” is more of me. I get more time to focus less on things I had and more on experiences I want to have; ideas I want to create; and conversations I want to share. I end up giving more too–more time and even money to my community and to those who need me. I’m finding my life much more enriching these days.

But I won’t sugarcoat downward mobility. It’s rough, especially if unplanned. I miss the plans I used to have for my stuff (as ridiculous as that sounds, but watch any Home Depot commercial and you’ll know what I mean). Yet now I can appreciate that even a mundane activity, like laundry, becomes an event: a time I can’t do anything but have for myself.

You should be so lucky. 

thanks for giving, not buying

I am grateful.  It’s thanksgiving weekend, and I am blessed.  These days, gratitude and thanksgiving are in season.  After a harvest and a celebratory feast it’s easy to cozy up to a sacred sensation of appreciation.  It’s good and important, and I could become very long-winded about how grateful I am.

The truth is, though, I am not purely grateful. A few other feelings are mixed into this heart of mine that makes this season a little more complicated.

Yesterday at my family’s Thanksgiving meal there were several conversations about the dangers of consumerism and the goodness of simplicity.  My heart was filled with thanks for the fact that these are the values that have been instilled in me.  Simplicity and thriftiness shall help us survive, I’ve learned.  Consumerism creates more problems than solutions.  Happiness has nothing to do with the stuff you have.  Instead, joy comes from a relationship grounded in God.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” –Matthew 6:19-21

Jesus seemed to say so himself: It’s not the stuff of shopping that matters, but the stuff of heaven.

The danger and the challenge, however, is that it’s a heaven thing to have a pure heart.  Pure hearts are nonjudgmental and free of pride and self-righteousness.

It’s easy to become self-satisfied when I hear murmurings with negative tones about shopping crusades and I agree.  The truth is, I know many people whose joy on this day are the deals that they discovered on their shopping frenzies.  For many, it seems that the hype, lines, crowds and stampedes of this day are fun and exciting like sports events.  It’s hard to appreciate all this, instead I become grateful for Buy Nothing Day campaigns.  I can become angry about how people choose insanity.  When anger enters in, though, love seems to leave.

In my classroom there is a sign: “If you must have an attitude, have an attitude of gratitude.”  In reality, gratitude is tough.  The problems of the world glare at me, and it becomes hard to have a grateful heart.  When I notice people doing things wrong, I can quickly become judgmental, crabby, and angry.  When consumerism and materialism seem to be creating spiritual and social disasters, I have trouble appreciating any type of craze that supports it.  When oppression corrodes at the dignity of those whom I love, my heart rarely has room left for gratitude.

A wise sister in my community has told me that when there is a temptation to be judgmental, gratitude is the quickest remedy.  Once gratitude enters in, she says, all else has to go out.

Once gratitude enters in, I’ll have no choice but to know love.  That love can’t be bought or sold.  I’ll have to give it away, and with that it’s the gift that just keeps giving.