Tuesday, December 16, 2014

From Deepest Darkness there Came Great Light

From Deepest Darkness there Came Great Light

It matters where the light falls

A manger is a trough from which horses and cattle are fed. Once a manger was padded with hay that a baby might rest upon it and the world be fed. Gentle hands laid him to rest upon a bed of straw and a great light from deepest darkness fell upon him.

They did not know that it matters where the light falls, that if it falls upon a heart so open, it will find there not just a home, but a mirror to reflect it back. When they looked upon him they saw the great light shining back through his heart, his smile, his touch, his words. But it matters where the light falls. For some, the reflected light from deepest darkness warmed and illuminated them and they felt great and abiding joy. For others the light was blinding, and they could not look directly at it. They feared it because they knew that to look at the sun could do great harm. They didn’t know that this son meant them no harm.

It matters where the light falls. Some saw the light from afar and knew it was a beacon that could guide them. They let the light fall upon their hearts and found it would lead them across vast expanses and bring them at last to the source of the light. And so it did. It brought them to a tiny manger from which they were fed, one small heart reflecting the light for all to see. For that is what he was from the moment he was laid in the manger, simply a reflector of the great light from deepest darkness.

It matters where the light falls. If it falls upon the doors of an inn that are closed, the light will warm and illuminate only the door, not able to enter across the threshold.

That night long ago, it fell upon a stable whose doors were swung wide and whose creatures were welcoming. That night it found an open manger, a receptive place, for the light to be laid with gentleness upon a soft bed created with love. That night the great light that sprung from deepest darkness came to rest upon the heart of a child. His heart, which was so great in one so small, welcomed the light and there was immeasurable joy.

His heart shone forth with the light. His heart was the light. His heart is each heart.

The great light from deepest darkness ever shines and ever touches all, it matters only whether it falls upon a closed door or upon a place with doors open and a manger waiting where the light can rest and feed all.

Lynda Allen
December 17, 2011

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's about us

The noise is so loud, it’s all I can do to tune it out, for just a moment. For just long enough to remember. To remember that this isn’t about you or about me, it’s about us. It’s about family. It’s not about black or white. It’s not about male or female. It’s not about rich or poor. It’s not about nationality or religion. It’s about family, it’s about our humanity. And we are on the brink.

It’s so loud now that everyone can feel it in some way, even if they don’t recognize it. Long established ways of being are disintegrating, they are falling apart and falling away. Rules of privilege and power are shifting.  All we really need to do is let them shift, let them fall away. But there are many who simply can’t let it happen. They are too afraid of what they don’t know.

That’s what all the noise really gets down to, fear of what we don’t know. And if we don’t know each other, we are told to be afraid. So the obvious solution is get to know each other. Reach out and shake a hand, introduce yourself, carry a sign that says Free Hugs. You never know what might happen.

But what’s happening now makes me feel sad inside. In one ear I hear from a beloved father that accusations of rape are a hoax. While in the other I hear from friends their stories of surviving very real assaults. In one ear I hear it’s her fault for not leaving him. While in the other I hear, I had no where to go and no means to start again. In one ear I hear he attacked me and tried to take my gun, then ran. While in the other I hear hands up don’t shoot.

The cacophony is deafening. That is the goal though isn’t it, of those who would resist the change? If we make it loud enough, confusing enough, scary enough they won’t see the simple answer that we are moving toward. Family. We are all one family. You don’t have to get along with everyone in your family to be a family. And really whether you believe in Biblical beginnings or primordial goo, either way the answer is the same. We all descended from the same beginnings. There it is. There is actually common ground even between creationists and evolutionists! Only very few in power wants us to find our common ground, our humanity.

Yet it is there, and it is the only thing that can save us. Getting to know each other. If you look around  you will find that more people are already on that path than the news would have you believe. They are reaching out across borders, across aisles, across oceans, across pews, across streets, across railroad tracks and across protest lines. They are reaching out from their heart to yours, to mine. It’s the only answer. It’s the only way to reclaim our humanity.

I know it’s true because I had to reclaim my own. I found myself looking around at all the strife and pain and violence and thinking, “Who are these people? Who are these people who think this behavior is ok?” In those thoughts I lost touch with my own humanity. Those people, all of them, are me. Not only the victims, but the perpetrators. Not only the protestors, but the police officers. Not only. There is no more room for only.

I can’t only love you or you or you. I have to expand my heart enough to love all my family, as challenging as that can be. I don’t have to love your choices or your actions or your behaviors and if you go astray and hurt others, then I will peacefully prevent you from continuing on that path and still love you until you can find your way back home.

For each heart that turns away from the light dims the light for all. But each heart that reaches out, shining brightly increases the light for all. So when your light dims, we will shine upon your path. When your song fades, we will sing your unique melody. When you forget who you are, we will call you by name. When you have been hurt, we will remind you of your wholeness until you feel it again. When you grieve, we will share your grief and your memories of your beloved. When you rejoice, we will celebrate with you.  When you are lost, we will light your way home. When you are hungry, we will feed you. When you are cold, we will warm you. When you need shelter, we will invite you in. When you are afraid, we will hold you. When you succeed, we will cheer for you. When you learn, we will welcome your wisdom. When you hurt another, we will forgive you. When you hate, we will help you see yourself in the other. When you stumble, we will offer you a hand. When you laugh, we will laugh with you. When you weep, we will offer our shoulder. When you can’t remember your family, we will remind you with each one of our smiles.  When you move on from this life, we will grieve and celebrate you because we knew you as family.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I Will Not Be Quiet

I, like so many, am outraged by the article in Rolling Stone about the University of Virginia and the culture of sexual violence that exists "on grounds" and that is not adequately addressed by the university administration. If you haven't read it, it's a very difficult but important read. You can find it here. Sadly, it is a problem that exists on many college campuses. It's time to raise our voices. 

I Will Not Be Quiet 
Lynda Allen

I will not be quiet.
I will keep shouting,
“They are all our daughters.”
Every one.
Each girl that is raped on a college campus in Virginia,
or on a bus in India,
or as an act of war in Africa,
or in her home by a relative,
or by a professional athlete,
or by a teacher,
or by a celebrity.
Every one of them,
They are all our daughters.

Shaking our heads and being angry will not suffice.

I will not be quiet.
My voice will be raised in opposition.
My voice will be raised for safety.
My voice will be raised for justice.
My voice will be raised for respect.
My voice will be raised for education.
My voice will be raised for solidarity.
My voice will be raised for peace.
But make no mistake,
My voice will be raised.

I will not be quiet to protect your reputation.
I will not be quiet to protect your good name.
I will not be quiet while you sweep it under the rug.
I will not be quiet while you look the other way.
When you look the other way, you will find me standing there.
When you pick up your broom, I will take away the rug.
When you look to your reputation, I will hold up a mirror.
When you speak your good name, I will speak truth.

I will not be quiet.
Our daughters deserve better.
And they are all our daughters.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Loss and Holy Ground

I will warn you that these two pieces are sad, and if heaven forbid, you have lost a child, you might want to think twice about reading them. Thankfully, I have not had to endure that pain. However, recently a student at a nearby university was abducted and killed. It hit close to home for me and I struggled with a lot of different emotions in the weeks following her disappearance and the subsequent discovery of her. The strongest emotions I felt were for the young lady's parents. It is through my empathy for them that I was able to open my heart to these words. I admit I resisted for a while for obvious reasons, but my heart would not be still until I allowed the words to move. What struck me, which you will see in the writings, is when I heard that her parents went to the site where they found her. I was so moved and saddened by that. My heart still aches for their unimaginable loss. 

The first piece is sort of stream of consciousness as I was opening to empathy and feeling the loss, pain, anger and confusion of any parent moving through this kind of loss and so it alternates between he and she. The second grew out of the first and has a more organized flow. They are offered with much love, sympathy and compassion. 

Would it help to stand where she stood? Would it help to walk the same path that he walked? I have no way of knowing, I have no frame of reference for this. There was no preparation I could have been given to imagine what her last breath might have been like. There is no one who could train me to deal with the haunting of the words, “Was she scared? Or did it hurt?” If only there was some type of surgery that could be done to extract the words, “What if,” from my mind so they wouldn’t repeat over and over until the end of my own days. My own days, which should have come to their natural end long before his. He should’ve been standing beside my grave talking about what a long and full life I had. Now no one will be able to do that, because my life is no longer full. There is an empty place that will always remain vacant. Yes, there will be love and laughter again, life will continue with sunrises and sunsets, or so they say, but it will always be just a little bit different. There will always be a slightly different tune to the harmony of my universe because her laughter won’t accompany my own. I don’t know what to do with all the comfort that I want to offer her that will go ever unoffered. I can’t offer it to myself. How could I live with that, knowing he had none? If I could at least have been there to put my arms around her, that might have been enough. Probably not, but surely it would be better than this nothingness, this inadequacy, this burning anger because I was not there, because I could not save her, because there was and is nothing I can do to reverse it, to ease it, to erase it, to protect him. Nothing. And strangely, that is what I feel. Who knew that if you mixed intense sorrow, anger, fear, loss, heartbreak and despair, you would get nothing? A strange recipe indeed, with a bitter after taste. If I could taste, that is. There doesn’t seem to be much point in flavor or pleasure. They tell me there will be one day. But how can there be when I would feel such guilt at ever experiencing joy or pleasure again? If she cannot, then why should I be able to? I have given up raging about it because I have no one to rage against and even when I did it provided no relief, no resolve, nothing. They tell me it will fade. They tell me he would want me to go on living. But I’m so afraid to. I’m terrified to live if living means letting go. We had so little time to share, just the blink of an eye really. It’s not fair. We deserved more. We were going to have more. We need more time. I can’t breathe. The awful irony is that now each minute seems a year. Each week an eternity. How the days can drag so glacially on now, I have no idea. If only I could go back. How very many things I would do differently. If only. That has become my phrase of choice, my mantra. I think it hundreds of times a day, a minute probably, without consciously doing it. It seems to come unbidden from the stratosphere, drifting down like millions of snowflakes; if only, if only, if only. I stand silently within the blizzard of if onlys. I catch a few of them on my tongue and so give them voice, while millions of others drift quietly to the corners of my mind, creating drifts here and there for me to plow through later. I sometimes wish for a snow blower to come through in my dreams and blast them all away. I simultaneously wonder if I will ever fall asleep again without seeing her face and then fear that I will and what that will mean when I do, if I do. If you can really call it sleep. Mostly I toss and turn until I pass out from exhaustion and then wake up with a start at the slightest sound. I can’t tell anyone any of this. They seem to think work will get me through this, will take my mind off it. What they don’t know is that I don’t want to take my mind off it, off her. They say time heals all wounds. But it’s not true. It won’t heal his. I want to scream in the face of their platitudes, yet I know they are trying to offer comfort however they can. They have no frame of reference either. No one ever taught them how to comfort a friend who is grieving the loss of a child. Let me tell you now, there is no comfort you can possibly offer. You are better off not trying. Instead, let your quiet presence be what you offer. It will be enough to have company through the long, blinding blizzard. 

Holy Ground
Lynda Allen

To the human eye, it seems just a lonely patch of land,
deserted and quiet.
A few animals pass by and the plants grow in peace.
I wonder if any of them were witness to it,
if I would even want to know what they saw if they could tell me.

To my eye, this lonely spot
is sacred, holy ground.
Not because a miracle happened here,
but because it did not.
I hadn’t known that the absence of a miracle
could create the holy.
I wish with all that I am
that I had not learned that particular lesson,
in this particular way.
I hope one day to have the courage
to believe in miracles again.
But today I do not.

Today I walk in silence
listening for echoes
and finding only loss.

How do I stand here where they found her,
and still go on breathing?
Too many unanswerable questions scream out
in my far from silent mind.

So I turn my attention to this place.
Somehow, despite what happened here,
it is able to hold the sacredness,
express the fragility,
witness the loss and the pain.
If only I could learn from it, how to hold all those things,
and still give forth life, beauty, light.

Instead I do the only thing I can do in this moment,
I sit on a rock and weep.
I weep as if weeping is the only thing I have ever known.
I weep every tear of joy or pain that would have been offered
throughout her life, that I will now never get to offer.
I weep for every first and last never to be lived.
I weep for each breath lost, every idea unborn, every laugh not heard,
every heartbeat not felt.

I weep without ceasing,
with only this place as my witness.
My tears fall upon the quiet earth 
in search of a miracle.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Love You

I love you.
What if, I love you, was all we could say?

What if our tongues were bound by a spell that would only allow us to speak those three words?
And we had to mean them to be able to speak them.

How many of us would go through life

How many of us would lose our voices and have to learn to speak all over again?

What would our days be like if all we heard was, I love you,
and in hearing those words, we knew the sentiment was true?

I love you.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Energy Travels

It is appropriate that as I sit here writing, I’m listening to the wind blowing outside. For a while now I have been thinking about storms and energy. Then the other night we had some powerful thunderstorms that brought the thoughts back to me.

We were sitting on our porch watching and listening to the storm. The lightning flashed and we counted; one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand and on.

I don’t know how accurate that measurement system is for judging the distance of a thunderstorm but it makes me think. A thunderstorm can be miles away and still I can see the flashes of light. That light, though miles away, lights up the sky where I sit watching. Even though the clap of thunder originates miles away, still that sound travels all the way to my waiting ears where I react to it.

Then as the storm gets closer, my experience of the light and the sound intensifies. Later that night with a storm directly overhead the streaks of lightning that lit up the sky made me shut my eyes because of the brightness and the explosive sound of the thunder directly overhead made us all jump and made our hearts beat faster!

Once in my life I saw lightning strike a palm tree across the street from where I stood. It was like experiencing an explosion. There was a huge percussion and the palm tree burst into flame. It was frightening to witness the power of the storm and its potential for destruction from that close and from an exposed spot under a metal canopy at a gas station! Not only could I see and hear the lightning, but at that point you could also feel the electricity in the air.

As I have been pondering all this I have been looking at it from the perspective of energy. The energy of the storm can be seen and heard and felt, as the windows rattle, from miles away and what you see, hear and feel intensifies the closer you are to the storm. Or from the larger perspective, the energy of the sun can be felt from millions of miles away and can even burn your skin depending on how close we are too it at any given moment.

What all this made me wonder about is the energy of human emotions and how they touch our lives.

I’m sure we have all experienced the energy of someone’s anger. Have you seen a child cringe in the face of someone’s anger, as if shrinking from the clap of thunder or flash of lightning? Have you witnessed a fight from a distance but still could feel the intensity of emotion? As your own storm of emotions has risen have you seen how it impacts those around you?

We have all seen the power of the storm and we have all seen the power of anger. What then about the power of love? That’s what all this set me to wondering about. What if I allow the energy of love within me to expand and grow in intensity? How far out would that love reach? Is there no limit to how far it can travel, to how many hearts it could touch? What if the source of love within me could be seen for miles, like a flash of lightning? What if the sound of unconditional love was loud enough to reach your ears in the next town or to be heard across the universe?

The natural world is such a wonderful and clear teacher for me. As so aptly demonstrated by the storms I have been witnessing, energy travels. And with just a glimpse of our sun after a storm I was reminded that energy can travel across great distances. All of this has left me with the question; knowing its ability to travel, what energy am I allowing to travel from me? And better yet, what will I do with this incredible opportunity and responsibility that being alive offers me?