A word here is long overdue. I’ve been writing and publishing, just in other forums. A Poetry of the Day series appeared on Facebook in the later half of April, along with some images and reflections about baptism, nature, and the nature of recovery on Instagram. I’ve also been working on a series of talks about spirituality and parenting, faith and community. Those won’t be out for a little while yet, but when they appear, I will definitely put the links out here.
Since it has been so long, I wanted to write something really good, really original and profound. A long absence should lead to a remarkable presence, right? At least in my mind that’s how it works, but it has also lead me to acknowledge the great truth:
Perfection is the enemy of the good.
With that in mind, I decided to write something and share a couple of really good things I have encountered this past week. I won’t overanalyze them, or even find a perfect thread to run between them. They are good in and of themselves and I wanted to make sure you came across them at least once.
The first is a speech from New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu. As you may know, New Orleans is in the process of removing and relocating four Confederate monuments and is facing intense criticism and resistance to this action. As a result, they have had to take extreme measures to do so safely, such as working in the middle of the night, and using the police force to protect their employees. I listened to Mayor Landrieu’s leadership on this action, his insight and the awakening of his consciousness (not conscience) on this issue and thought, “I hope this man stays in politics.” It is rather lengthy, but Tim and I were riveted.
His final words, quoted from Abraham Lincoln, are perhaps a clarion call to all of us at this point in our nation’s history. No matter where we find ourselves on the political spectrum, we all have a call to act:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to do all which may achieve and cherish: a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
The second video is from Notre Dame’s commencement exercises this past week, but it’s not Vice President Mike Pence’s address. The real speech of the day came from Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder of Homeboy Industries and author of Tattoos on the Heart. Fr. Greg is one of the great teachers, storytellers and prophets of our day. If you like the work of Brene Brown, you will hear echoes of it here, in the embodied flesh of former gang members, felons, and addicts, who have embraced the power of vulnerability and use their own wounds to help others heal theirs.
My favorite line?
You know, what Martin Luther King says about church… “It’s not the place you’ve come to, it’s the place you go from,” and you go from here to create a community of kinship such that God, in fact, might recognize it. You imagine with God a circle of compassion and then you imagine nobody standing outside that circle. You go from here to dismantle the barriers that exclude.
If you ever get a chance to see Greg speak life, or to go to a Homeboy event, I highly recommend it. He radiates holiness. If you can’t see him in person, read Tattoos on the Heart and there’s a good chance you will become more whole and holy yourself. If you are open to it, it will change you forever.
A week ago, Tim and I saw U2 at the Rose Bowl with about 90k other people. It wasn’t intimate, but it was awe-inspiring. Before the music began, they had poems from people on the margins, scrolling across the screen – voices sharing their pain and suffering and sometimes also the beauty, love and joy they found amidst those things. I finally recognized one poem and one name: “Kindness” by Naomi Shabib Nye, a poem that has haunted me for the last couple years. Coincidentally, or not (sometimes it seems there are no such things as coincidences), I ran across this poem of hers, just a few days later. It struck me with its humility and good advice.
“I Feel Sorry for Jesus” by Naomi Shabib Nye
People won’t leave Him alone.
I know He said, wherever two or more
are gathered in my name…
But I bet some days He regrets it.
Cozily they tell you what he wants
and doesn’t want
as if they just got an e-mail.
Remember “Telephone,” that pass-it-on game
where the message changed dramatically
by the time it rounded the circle?
People blame terrible pieties on Jesus.
They want to be his special pet.
Jesus deserves better.
I think He’s been exhausted
for a very long time.
He went into the desert, friends.
He didn’t go into the pomp.
He didn’t go into
the golden chandeliers
and say, the truth tastes better here.
See? I’m talking like I know.
It’s dangerous talking for Jesus.
You get carried away almost immediately.
I stood in the spot where He was born.
I closed my eyes where He died and didn’t die.
Every twist of the Via Dolorosa
was written on my skin.
And that makes me feel like being silent
for Him, you know? A secret pouch
of listening. You won’t hear me
mention this again.
Like the poet and the people she mentions, I probably talk too much for Jesus and listen less than I should.
Amen friends, I hope you’ve found something good in this missive, worth your time on this long and lovely holiday weekend here in the States.