“I am a Recovering Racist”

After the Mother Emmanuel shooting, I posted a sign-up sheet in my church explaining how I am a recovering racist; I was born in deeply segregated Charleston, SC, and was raised to see “colored people” as less than ‘us.’ I have worked hard to reverse that perspective. The sign-up sheet was to give others an opportunity to promise, “I Don’t Do Hate.”

I am now 62 years old and my job is to demonstrate every day, every opportunity, to every person different from me that there is more for them in this life than hate from people like me.

My fervent prayer is that we can soon stop all need to talk about ‘us’ and ‘them.’ It’s just ‘we.’

I responded to a Sojourner article not long ago that any suggestion to reverse trends or make the pendulum swing back the other way is misguided; the pendulum must stop. We are all on the same side…the side of humanity seeking fulfillment of its purpose. Jesus told us how to do that: Love God. Love your neighbor… because your neighbor IS yourself.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who met recently with the president, apparently found a President Trump who has thought better of his initial comments concerning Charlottesville. Senator Scott made some sober and important suggestions to the president (like get to know some black people) and I feel we should give prayerful support because prophets are the only ones effective in making change because they are speaking from within. Tim Scott is a respected member of the Senate and he also knows what it feels like to be summarily discredited for irrelevant reasons… i.e., skin shade.

Those of us who believe in and follow Christ can be the ambassadors we are called to be by behaving as He did:  When the crowd wished to stone the woman found in adultery, Jesus did Not have her throw stones back at them; He diffused the anger completely by pointing out how we are ALL guilty. All of us have hated; None of us is guiltless.

Those of us with faith and the strength of spiritual conviction can find love in our hearts for those who claim allegiance with a hate group; we can love those who hate. If we do not love those who are fearful and are resorting to hurting others, what example do we set? What are we asking them to do if we cannot do it ourselves? Racists, neo-Nazis, Antifas, etc., are acting out of fear. We are to hold them in love until their fear subsides. That is what is meant by loving our enemies. That is how we follow Jesus.

 

Racism by any other name is Fear.

I live in a community (neighborhood, county, state,…) where closed-mindedness is the norm.  I would say racism is the norm but the attitudes and fiercely-held beliefs are not limited to preferences in the shade of skin or ethnic group or even ancestry…although those are very strongly separated classifications.

People around here are deeply resistant to changing how they think but then so are people all over the world.  If it is not what they grew up with, if it is not what they are familiar with, if he is not like me in (you name it: dialect, clothing style, vehicle type, licence plate, food preference,…) then it is wrong and therefore to be condemned, resisted, and (if possible) destroyed.

Two years ago, Lawrence Krauss, “Humanist of 2015,” was quoted as saying Organized religion, wielding power over the community, is antithetical to the process of what modern democracy should define as liberty. The sooner we are without it, the better.”  I won’t venture (right now) into all that is scary with that sentiment, but he demonstrates my point beautifully; Lawrence Krauss rejects everything about organized religion because it is not what he knows, is not what he is familiar with, and people who participate in organized religion don’t sound like the people he associates with…or him.

My own beloved college-educated, successful business-man brother threw out hundreds of dollars worth of organic food from my sister’s house because he “didn’t recognize any of it; I don’t eat that stuff.”

The short-cut suggestion to remedy this issue is ‘education.’  Doctors in hospitals all over the world struggle with patients’ refusals to follow prescribed improvements in diet and lifestyle and have thought the solution was education.  Pamphlets and discharge instructions with pictures and pleas have done little.  Helps and therapies seem to have no sizable impact.  My next door neighbor was hospitalized for 10 weeks last year for complications from surgery.  During this time he was given patches and drugs to help him withdraw from his addiction to smoking.  He lived smoke free among others who were smoke free for several weeks and he even admitted he felt great off the cigarrettes. On the drive home he stopped and bought a carton and lit up before he got to the front door.

These people are not willing to face their fears of the unknown.  “You sound wierd!”  “I don’t eat that stuff!”  “I don’t think my nerves could take it.”

Some fears are huge.  “What if there is not enough to go around?  Somebody has to go without.  Why does it have to be me?”  “If we let them have their way, they are going to take over!”  “One day they are going to rise up and kill every white person they see!”

It’s fear.  That’s all it is…fear.  Fear of deprivation; fear of the unknown; fear of unbearable whatever.  But it’s just fear.

So what’s the solution?  How do you help people who have unreasonable fear?  You must help them one person at a time.  In the way a parent helps a child who is fearful of the monster under the bed, you show them over and over that there is nothing there to be afraid of.  You show the person different from you that there is nothing for them to fear from you.  You demonstrate that there is more for them from people like you than hate. You demonstrate that different is okay…and safe…and sometimes good.

I have two neighbors…brothers…who were both raised in this closed-minded community.  One went into the Navy and worked beside people of a different color and national origin.  His brother did not leave home and has never worked beside people different from himself.  One is not fearful of people who are different; the other one is …but it looks like hate, not fear.

There are specific things we can do that help get through to people who have closed minds, fierce preferences, and fear.  First, be gentle with them; they will not listen if you are forceful or you are yelling.  Second, get to a point where you see things at their level …so that you can understand why they are fearful.  Third, allow them to vent.  Hold them in a safe environment so that they will be open to revealing what causes them to be fearful,  (Sometimes, that’s all they need.)  Their venting might be scary for you but you are the stronger one here.  They need to know…to see proof…that the resolution is stronger than their fear.  In other words, you need to love them.

If you have ever been a parent and you were faced with a child who cried out, “I HATE YOU!” then you know the dynamic I am describing:  you allowed the child to cry out the unthinkable…and then you assured the child that everything between you was still okay; you still love the child ‘the whole thing…all of it…without end.’  (Yes, I’ve been there.)

One more suggestion:  use words that are not usually used in these discussions.  Avoid the cliches and button words; you know what they are.

This is how loving is done.  This is how healing begins.  This is the work of Jesus.

 

By the way, I commend Senator Tim Scott in the way he met with President Trump; Scott introduced Trump to himself….in all of the aspects with which Trump is unfamiliar and that is what is necessary for a change of thinking…

Suffering and Need – the Mothers of Spiritual Evolution

Irma has reached South Carolina and we lost power an hour ago. (I’m composing on my cell phone…by candle light.)  My first thought when the power went out was that it would be back on soon because we live so close to the source… the dam. But then I remembered the prediction of wide-spread power outages.  Such a prediction is a good one because, electrical grid-wise, we are all connected.  That’s how and why brown-outs and black-outs occur…one city knocking down another.

Some people feel that images of disasters and heart-breaking stories from around the globe are too much to handle (“I can’t do anything about it.”)  However, in reaction to the news reports concerning the people in Texas and Florida, and even in Bangladesh, some internet friends and I have been writing about how we feel compelled to expand our compassion and concern out beyond our usual circle of friends and family.   One dear friend in Ireland said that it has changed the way she prays for people.  I’m inclined to agree with her because I believe in prayer.  I also believe that this is a new era…a time for increased global awareness, accompanied by an increased capacity for global compassion.

In the same way that technology has enabled power companies to interconnect and support and back up each other, we are getting better at doing the same spiritually. On a very small scale, when I struggle emotionally, my close friends step up and fill in with comfort and encouragement until my ‘transformers’ are running again. Healthy extended families and support groups like AA have been working like this for generations but now our awareness of suffering and need is global. How can our compassion cover it all?

Inventors of technology will attest to the truth that necessity is the mother of invention. Our increased awareness of the needs and struggles of others has necessitated a greater need for deeper and larger compassion and, spiritually, I believe we are being granted that greater capacity… almost as if we are able now to turn the light switch on in a previously secret room. Whether mankind has always had the capacity to hold the whole world in its heart…but just didn’t use it much…or whether we have evolved to be able to hold the globe in compassion, I believe we are discovering that it can be done.

Writers like Krista Tippett, Jim Marion, and Cynthia Bourgeault address how we as a civilization are evolving in consciousness.  Capabilities like nondual thinking, holding opposing views in a safe mediative space, and praying for the awakened consciousness of others are taking ‘helping others’ to a new level.

One of my friends cautioned me not long ago that I cannot heal the whole world…and she is correct… but I think we are getting closer to loving the whole world in compassion, all the time.

Art and Climate Photos

Art Polanski was difficult to ignore. I was all about diversity and even I had difficulty with his acting out and belligerence. But he was a poet, a sensitive soul, and a fucking brilliant programmer. And this is a tribute to him.

Art smelled bad and looked bizarre. He wore zebra-striped pajama pants, printed tee-shirts over his barrel chest, and sandals. His hair was long and flowing, reminiscent of Sunday school pictures of Jesus, except Art’s hair was usually damp and probably greasy.

Art couldn’t sit still, especially in conversation, and would make grunting noises and seemingly uncontrollable editorial blurts.

I was told that after his first meeting with management, the deputy director erupted out of his office red faced,”Who the hell hired that guy?!?” Art had been hired, over the phone, by the chief scientist; Art was a graduate of MIT and knew the material.

His biggest crime was that he was gay. He wasn’t flamboyant; that would have been more acceptable. Art was just authentically Art. I never saw him more blissful and content than when he returned to work after the rainbow festival. But when that euphoria wore off he was back to acting out.

Art was lonely. The only family I heard him speak of was his sister; he said she suffered the same illness but hers was worse. Later, when he was arrested, the marshals found him living in squalor with cat feces on the floor.

But Art was also very intelligent. His disorder, or the medication for it, made him hot. When they screwed his window shut, he wedged a seed under the head of the screw and watered the seed. The judge at Art’s hearing, nearly a year later, said he would have done the same thing had he been smart enough to think up the seed trick.

Ultimately, Art was arrested for endangering the lives of others; he had a nose bleed and wiped blood onto the window in front of the exercise bike in the fitness room and he was gay. That made his bloody snot a ‘lethal weapon.’

Art was first put on administrative leave. I was given his project to finish. He called me late one day and he was quiet and subdued and said he didn’t blame the director; Art admitted that he had brought it on himself.

They held Art in federal prison for six months before giving him a hearing. He was charged with a misdemeanor and ‘time served.’ It was months later that he was found dead in his home.

While Art was in prison, he sent me a poem. I wish I still had it. He would stand at the window of his cell looking out at the field of yellow flowers…and watch as they were being mowed.

I took these photos of the draft climate report. My favorite photo is the one above. I first made the graph on the left in November 1997 when I finished the coding that was started by Art. My name then was Catherine S. Godfrey.

Art Polansky, this is for you.

Addendum: As a sworn civil servant, I took an oath, and because of that oath I feel bound by it to not “copy, cite, or distribute”. But I am also a photographer and writer. The draft says nothing about those activities. This is me, sticking it to the man.

 

On Being: I am mutable

All my former ‘I am’s’ no longer hold.

I am an INFP
I am a single mom
I am bipolar
I am a Federal Employee, a scientist, a programmer
I am an artist, a writer, a photographer
I am young, old, fat, thin, blonde, outspoken, intense, impulsive

I have done all those things. I have worn all those clothes. But underneath, I simple ‘be’ and am capable of slipping into something more comfortable.

“What do people do, who don’t have Jesus?”

Last week; my daughter was stopped at a light and was hit from behind hard enough to propel her and the car through the intersection into another car. My daughter was not badly hurt but the little red car was totaled…bless him.

I am re-posting this piece in honor of the little car that gave his life to save my daughter’s, and because the truth revealed in these stories is …well…truth.

The View from 5022

This is my daughter’s car, Nino, after 8 hours at the dealership (Benson Fiat in Greer, South Carolina).  (I wonder how long it will take them to put Humpty Dumpty, or rather, Nino, back together again?)  Of course, I, too, spent 8 hours at the dealership, or nearby at McDonald’s across the street.  But it was an amazing day.  (There’s that word, again.  I need a bigger vocabulary.)

(This piece is rather long, but then it was a long, very full, day.  If, after you read it, you would like to leave a comment, click on the title and scroll to the bottom.  You will not have to identify yourself; just remember, God don’t like ugly.)

After two and a half hours in the guest ‘lounge’ of the dealership, I decided to go to McDonald’s for lunch.  There I met Peter; he was having an animated discussion with a McDonald’s…

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Jesus as GPS

Still true…

The View from 5022

Many years ago I regularly attended a mega-church out past the airport.  They had a band and the large projected images and text that helped the congregation sing along to mostly contemporary Christian music.  Singing the contemporary songs often released emotions or stirred them up; certain chord changes along with meaningful phrases of love and praise would encourage inspiration and sometimes tears.  Some of the people around me would hold their hands out as if feeling the soft falling of spiritual rain, their hands like small parabolic dishes receiving spiritual energy from above.

I did not hold my hands out as they did, even if I wanted to.  I knew then that I would not receive what they did through no fault of God’s; I knew I had too many emotional and mental obstacles preventing me from receiving whatever God may be sending me and that made me sad.

Since…

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Sitting on the Sidelines

“Is no one willing to take a stand anymore for public decency? For truth?” I am, dearest. I am.

Susan Irene Fox

©susanirenefox

Last week, a United States Representative of Congress tweeted, and then doubled down on Sunday in several interviews about the supremacy of the white race, and that white folks need to have more babies in order to surpass the growing population of the non-white citizenry. This same congressman last July also said that white Christians have contributed more to Western civilization than any other “subgroup.”

Where were the voices of Congress denouncing this man? The only voices of public dissent I heard were those of the mainstream media, the so-called “enemy of the people.” Where is the courage, integrity and heroism we used to expect from our leaders? And why didn’t the House the Representatives issue a censure or, at the very least, a reprimand?

We have a President who lies the way other people breathe, and promotes himself as though he is still running for office. His own…

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All I Need to Do is Show Up (Reprise)

Well, this is fate! …What do they call it when everything intersects?”   “The Bermuda Triangle.”  (wonderful lines written by the late Nora Ephron and spoken by Jay and Sam in the movie, Sleepless in Seattle)

A favorite fellow blogger wrote recently about letting God be God.  I responded that she was absolutely right and that all I needed to do was show up.  (I keep stealing her best words.  Sorry, Donald, I don’t think you do have the best words, but I won’t get into that now.)

While I was in North Carolina, recently, I encountered several people who already had their ‘dukes up’ when I entered the room:  sales clerks, buyer’s agents, and even a beloved friend.  Driving home with the top down on my little blue wonder car, I felt like I was “getting the hell out of Dodge.”  As I breathed deep and emptied my mind of the bits of discordant conversations, the scripture words “shake the dust off your feet,” came to mind.

Now, I am aware of the potential punishment due one who alters or disagrees with scripture, but when I look at the whole text,

If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city…

…I am disturbed.  These words are from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus sends out the twelve apostles “with the following instructions: ‘Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.’”  Now, maybe it is because they are to try to reach out to the Jews; but this does not sound like the Jesus I know.  I am reminded of the parable of the shepherd who goes out looking for the one lost sheep.  Jesus does not tell me to judge someone as “not worthy” and therefore to “take back my blessing of peace.”  Sure, there are swine who are not going to appreciate pearls but convincing them, much less judging them as unworthy, just isn’t my job.  Let me explain what I mean…

In the verse, “Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet,” I see that as wisdom for my psychological health.  In a previous essay, I wrote about the techniques used to keep oneself safe when attempting to help others; I wrote about how healing ministers have a special prayer they pray to cleanse themselves of residual attachment to the pain, evil spirits, or even pride in having helped Jesus to heal someone.

However, I believe the process of acting as ambassadors for Christ does not end just because I have not been well-received; God’s work is far from over.  If I give to someone a blessing of peace, I have planted a seed or embedded a grain of sand.  I may walk away, but circumstances outside of my knowledge can, and likely will, cause that seed to germinate and, maybe years from now, will grow into belief and faith.  I think of the seeds in the desert that lie dormant until the rains come.  The image at the top of this essay was published in October 2015, in the Daily Mail .  The picture is of the Atacama desert in Chile, “the worlds driest desert,” in late spring after heavy storms took place in March.  In the words of the writer, “a magical transformation brings the area to life.”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/travel/travel_news/article-3294865/Blooming-marvellous-rain-falls-world-s-driest-desert-jaw-dropping-phenomenon-takes-place-year-s-display-spectacular-18-years.html#ixzz42z6FNd6z

Atacama desert dry

This image above may be what I encounter on a daily basis, but my blessings are like a seed tossed out into that sand.  Sure, I will shake the dust from my feet because I do not want to dwell on the rejection or seeming lack of acceptance of God’s love, but my job is done.  Now, it is up to God…who will be God.

I would like to add that sometimes I am met with true rancor; I usually have no idea what is the reason behind it or the source of it, but I can bet I have touched on something that needs God’s healing touch.  Again, it is usually none of my business and, therefore, it is not my job to try to fix it.  Furthermore, in cases such as that, I have likely planted a grain of sand that, God willing, will irritate the hearer until a pearl of wisdom is formed…but this can take years, just like within an oyster; I don’t need to see it happen.  I believe and have faith; I move on.  What happens over time is God business.

A young blogger recently indicated that he was concerned about the state of the salvation of his friends as they were facing college; my advice to him was to remember that their souls were in God’s hands and that his job was to love them, be kind to them, be there to answer questions, but to try to not judge or criticize them; God is not done with them and paths of their lives will be as diverse as the flowers of the world.

This same blogger, only weeks before, had expressed dismay over his own doubts and waverings of faith.  When I replied with some of my personal experiences and with teachings and practices that have helped me, he responded with much self-righteous criticism and condemnation; he said some of my beliefs and practices were”Satanic.”  Before I lashed out in self-defense, I had to remind myself that he is probably no more than 20 years old and, certainly, God is not done with him, yet, either.  However, it would be prudent for me to give the topics mentioned in his attacks at least a cursory look… Balaam’s ass and all that.

When something like that niggles my soul, I am wise to reflect on the situation.  I am not exempt from receiving seeds and sand from others who are unknowingly (or knowingly) acting on behalf of God.  My beloved friend’s screaming at me that “Now, you’re just being contrary!” has merit; I am by no means a saint.  I can be contrary.  I can be mean-spirited.  How do you think I recognize so well the mean-spirited ways of others ?!?  I can only thank God, and my friends and family, that there are such things as forgiveness and understanding.

The point I started out with is simply this: my job is to show up.  Jesus is not physically here to plant seeds and sand; I am.  I am not equipped, or emotionally or spiritually healthy enough, to give appropriate correction to others.  However, I can obey Jesus’ commandments to love God and to love my neighbor.  The only way I know how to love my neighbor is to show up, be kind to them, to set a good example of what ‘love of God and neighbor’ look like, to not judge or criticize them, to allow them to be where they are spiritually, and to forgive them and have faith that God is not done with them, yet.

Addendum:  As I learn more about the Law of Three, it occurs to me that as I ‘show up’ with seeds and sand, I may, in fact, be acting as Third Force…just a thought.

To God be the Glory

 

 

This is Why (Reprise)

All of my life, I have carried rhetorical questions around on my shoulders like a yoke:

Why did my parents resent that I was not a boy and repeatedly set me up for shame and rejection when I was young?

Why was I born with bipolar disorder?

Why did my husband not love me?

Why have I not been able to support myself with my God-given talents?

Why was I not appreciated by my co-workers and managers during my 22-year career and forced to retire in disgrace?

I now know why.

Had I not been raised with neglect and abuse, I would not have learned to watch the signs and I would not have needed the kind of spiritual healing that has enabled me to release wounds, scars, and resentments and be open to God.

Had I not suffered with mental illness, I would not have the patience and understanding I now have for others who suffer in such a way…nor would I have an appreciation for the gifts of such an illness.

Had I not been left to raise two babies on my own, I would not be as strong as I am now or as compassionate toward other single mothers.  Had I remained married, I would probably not have sought reconciliation with God.  Had I built the dream we shared, I would be selling a business now, not living alone, writing, praying, blessing, and consoling others.

Had I been successful selling my photography, paintings, and writing, I would not have had to sell my home and move into a 60-year-old house trailer and be able to see life on ground level with other people who struggle day in and day out, figuring out ways to buy gas and feed the animals.

Had I been supported and encouraged by others in my career, I would probably hold a high level government position now…not doing ‘God work’ and helping others figure out how to tell the truth about climate change and to serve the poor and needy when and if the bureaucracy is destroyed.

I know what it is like to be abused and neglected…and to abuse and neglect. I know what it is like to look back on my life with guilt and horror.  I know what it is like to be lost, confused, and full of anger, doubt, and resentment.  I know what it is like to fail.  I know what it is like to look to God and imagine Him turning His back…looking remarkably like someone else I knew when I was a child.  I know what it is like to want to die by my own hand.

I know what it is like…to live this life…

…and that is why.