Peace Together, Ups and Downs

Peace mandala finished

It always makes me feel weird when life’s highs and lows occur really close together.

On Sunday afternoon, I had this amazing experience producing the mandala (pictured above; time lapse video the hour and a half event condensed into 2 minutes) for the Peace Together event – bringing people of different faiths, ethnicities and cultures together for conversation and reconciliation. Basically, it was a big celebration of being inclusive, compassionate and open.

On Tuesday morning, the Board of Ordained Ministry deferred my ordination. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but it appears to be that I am too inclusive. My language is too accessible to people of various faiths (or non-faith). My hospitality extends space for others to feel safe, protected, and valued even if and when we do not agree on theological framework. I do not insist that others come around to my way of seeing things, nor require them to use the language of my own faith system. In short, I’m not bringing them to my church. I’m not promoting the institution.

It is not my intent to get into a rant on what’s wrong or how to fix the system. We all know it’s broken. All we have to do is look around. Frankly, I’m tired of complaining about what’s wrong, about whose on whose side, or spouting any of the other exhausted bumper sticker platitudes that are so prevalent in our world today.

My reflection is rather on highs and lows. Perhaps I’ve learned a lot about being a good winner or a good loser, about how to accept circumstances with grace. Paul talks about being content in all things. To some extent, I am not surprised that my emotional roller coaster should take me just as high on the positive experiences as the lows take me on the negative ones. The question I ask myself is: what do I do with this? It seems to be as important to refrain from becoming smug as it is to maintain self confidence.

On a side note – and I find that often those side notes become the real issue –  I have a friend who passed the Board, who was reluctant to express personal satisfaction or happiness in my presence. I felt the need to reassure that person that it was ok to be happy for his own accomplishment. His good news does not make my bad news worse, nor was my misfortune necessary for his fortune to come to be. It doesn’t even out like that.

And I have to admit that when I look back on my life, I have always asked God to be really direct with me because I am a bit stubborn and sometimes it takes a figurative 2×4 to the head to get my attention turned. I’ve had my share of disappointments and miserable circumstances, but those closed doors have always turned me toward something new: new self-awareness, new vocational understanding, new relationships, new communities, new knowledge…. So I don’t know where this one is pushing me, or if it is pushing me at all – perhaps it is merely a delay; that still remains to be seen.

This song is rising to the surface for me at this moment and I try to listen in those moments. Tears will come. “Hold On” from The Secret Garden.  Brief synopsis: Mary Lennox, who was orphaned by a cholera outbreak, becomes the ward of her widowed uncle Archibald Craven, who has a son that has been crippled his whole life, and himself is crippled by depression after the death of his wife (he roams Europe aimlessly in an attempt to escape his pain and isn’t at home much). Craven’s brother (I don’t remember this sideline in the book, but it is played up in the musical) has been the boy’s primary doctor and stands to inherit when the sickly boy (Colin) and his depressive father die. Mary discovers that Colin’s illness is merely psychosomatic and she is able to secretly teach him to walk in the garden in which his mother had her fatal accident (the garden had been closed off since her death and is therefore “the secret garden”). In this scene, she accuses her uncle of malicious intent, which he denies, and counter accuses her of mistreatment of her cousin. He intends to punish her by send her to a boarding school, where she will be out of the way.  Mary goes to her nursery maid (Martha) for advice and Martha sings this song to encourage her.

We all know what happens when the small voice of truth stands up to power.

So what’s my point? I’m not entirely sure. Everything is still swirling around for me at this time. But I imagine it has something to do with holding on regardless of whether I’m hitting a high point or a low one. There will be days I will feel on top of the world and days I will be sorry I got out of bed. Either way, I offer up who and what I am, for whatever that’s worth, to the Universe and to the transformation of the world. Either way, I hold on. It’s going to be a wild ride.

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