the art of transitions

There are some images that just resonate so deeply, they never fade. This 3 and 1/2 minute video is one such image. Once the senses move past the the scantily clad woman, the stunning cityscape, and the soft sultry music, what is left is asana that is so captivating…it steals the breath.

On my mat, I want to move like this woman. Not (just) because she is sleek and strong, but because there is not a singular pose visible in any of this. Rather it is a river of transformations, inhales and exhales that do not just move the body from one position to the next, but rather–and more importantly–keep it present to the moment at hand. Present to the change. Present to the transition. Present to the subtle and magnitudinous shifts. As a yoga instructor once said:

The transitions between poses are poses themselves.

Last week, I shared this concept with my seniors, who are in the midst of a large transition of their own. We just finished reading Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko, a novel which sanctifies the space of shifting. I related to them the story of the video and its beauty. I stressed that we’re so busy thinking about our next pose (graduation, college, job, marriage, parenting, etc.), that we miss the glory IN the change.

The transitions in between poses are poses themselves.

I would be a fool to admit my own transition doesn’t weigh heavily on me. Changing job titles. Changing curriculum. Changing schools. Leaving behind friends with whom I’ve learned and students in whom I’ve invested–that’s a lot of love to leave in a pose. And it’s easy to be bound in thought by the next pose. How will I stand? How will I look? How will I relax into it? How will I ground myself? But in doing this, I’m already forgetting the most important part: the here and now, the present, the transition.

The transitions in between poses are poses themselves.

It takes enormous strength to change with grace,

leaving behind something that glows.

It takes deep rooting to transform with ease,

leaning into something that grows.

It takes daring courage to transition with honor,

so that on my mat, and off, it shows.

 

The Bible, the Whole Bible and Nothing but the Bible

Valuable words on the Word and the words.

Done with Religion

If you are like my wife and me, you can remember from your first day in church being taught that the Bible was God’s holy word. The Bible was perfect and without mistake or any contradictions.

We felt the Bible was personally written by the hand of God through chosen men, and all the answers were contained therein. I truthfully think a lot of us Christian people have come to see the Bible as the fourth member of the God-head.

In fact, to even question if the Bible is inerrant was sacrilegious. It was like the familiar quote in the court system when being sworn in, do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. We have come to believe the Bible is the truth, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible. Everything is contained within the written word, and God can do…

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the soul’s greatest threat: ADD

This little disease epidemic is popping up everywhere. In disgruntled hearts. In ungrateful mouths. In slanderous conversations. In the broken public education system. Beneath the broken hearts of Christians.  On job (dis)satisfaction surveys. At restaurants. In my soul.

ADD: Attentive to Deficit Disorder.

I first learned about ADD–though not known by that name yet, well, because I didn’t invent it yet :)–when getting my Master’s in Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Education. For students in our system who are emerging bilinguals, it is common to focus on what they lack (a foundation in English, parents who speak English, comfort navigating the American schooling principles, background knowledge, etc) rather than what they offer (flexible cognition, tenacity, diversity, varied background knowledge, a 21st century skill, etc). This deficit lens immediately and perpetually harms their potential–both for heart and mind learning in the classroom.

But ADD reaches into the adult hallways as well. Lingering in the air of my school lately is a heavy tension surrounding feedback. Teachers–me included–feel like there shouldn’t always have to be a next step. Can we just celebrate the good that’s going on in our classrooms? Just once? Of course, this stifling air is pouring in from beyond the walls of our building–a critical society of politicians and businessmen who in their ADD see fit to criticize our profession and demean our judgment. (Can I get a next step for them!?)

I saw and felt ADD in my Mom too. No matter what my Dad did, it wasn’t enough for her. No one at work could live up to her standards. We, her kids, strained to breath in the shadow of her martyrdom-to-negativity, encapsulated by her rally cry: “When it rains, it pours.”

Until she got breast cancer. The disease stopped her in her tracks, rewrote her map, and rerouted her direction. Did she become perfect? No, but her rally cry changed to “Well, I can’t complain; I’ve been blessed.” This will forever be one of the traits I admire most in my Mom: what should have proved to her that “when it rains, it pours” became a transition into a heart and life of thanksgiving. Even when she got cancer again, and then again, she declared her life as blessed.

Her prescription for ADD? Gratitude.

And this is without her earmarking The Secret or subscribing to “The Law of Attraction” or reading Ernest Holmes, who writes in This Thing Called You:

The barriers between you and your greater good are not barriers in themselves. They are things of thoughts. It is because of this that all things are possible to faith. Jesus summed up the whole proposition when he said, “It is done unto you as you believe.” In interpreting this saying, however, you must pause after the word as. Think about its meaning and you will discover that he was saying that life not only responds to your belief, it responds after the manner of your believing, as you believe. It is like a mirror reflecting the image of your belief.

As you believe.

Without using such succinct language, I’ve long pondered this with those closest to me. We’ve witnessed people in our lives with ADD: they never see good; they’re always complaining; their smiles are never deep; every good story has a “but” or an “if;” they seek commiseration from those around them; they are martyrs; they complain without changing; their conversations are tainted with passive-aggressiveness; they tear others down so they can feel better about their lives; they always play the victim but then conclude, deep-sighing “but, I’m okay.”

And as they believe, they just can’t catch a break, the sh** just keeps hitting the fan, spinning wildly above their heads on high, splintering the crap into tiny germs of toxic thinking that attracts more toxicity.

As they believe.

As you believe.

As I believe. This could be me. On my worst days, it is me, suffering from and for ADD. But I refuse to stay in this minefield-mindplace.

And just like my Mom learned and lived, I take my ADD medicine: gratitude.

My prescription as of late involves the delicious and divine words of of Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts:

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At the deepest diagnostic level of ADD is the distinction made by Tim O’Brien between the happening-truth and the story-truth. The events in my life are the truth, the happening-truth, the facts. But how I view them, how I count them and name them and interpret them, that’s the story-truth. Regardless of the events, I can tell the story however I want. I have that power, that choice, that authorship. Do I tell my story slanted with sorrow, burdened by ADD’s symptoms? Or do I tell my story, sanctified by sincere gratitude?

My Mom died last year. That is the happening-truth. But how do I tell that story? My Mom died too suddenly and how dare God do that?! or My Mom got what she wished, to end her life with her dignity in tact, dependent on no one, so thank you God! I choose the latter. Thank you. Again and again I choose the latter. Thank you. I refuse to succumb to the powerful hold of ADD.

My story-truths will be of gratitude, of thanksgiving, of blessing, as I believe.

Disclaimer: It would be negligent of me to conclude without a warning about the side-effects of ADD’s treatment plan of thanksgiving: DDD– denial of deficit disorder. There is a subtle but significant difference between positivity and faithfulness, between denial and gratitude. Positivity and denial leave a person consumed with “having to be happy” regardless of the happening-truth. They painfully push on (of course never on the surface, where there is always a smile) without the deep reflection and story-telling necessary to treat ADD. On the other hand, faithful and grateful people understand the severity of their happening-truths, while still instead scripting a story-truth of thanksgiving.

GOD–the Almighty Racist and Misogynist: a laywoman wrestles with how to interpret the Bible

The original witch hunt.

Women on a laundry list of “plunder”–well, only virgins. The sexually experienced were just massacred. 

Territorial racism.

Institutionalized slavery.

Unjust punishment.  

These are the footprints in the sand of an Old Testament God who is temperamental, severe…and let’s just say, not a God I want to be like or serve. Is this my God?

Or is this a god as revealed through the cultural, historical, and economical lens of the times?

I have been slowly working my way through the Bible this year. Many mornings I listen to an audio version in the car on the way to work. Stories of slaughter, sacrifice, sexism, slavery, severity swing in the car’s space like a noose.

I have been taught to hold high on a pedestal the idea that all Scripture is God-breathed. The Bible is the faultless word of God. His Spirit has protected its delivery. I am not a Bible scholar, but I just can’t buy this. I cannot bring to the center of my commoner’s faith the conviction that God is cruel; I. just. can’t. Or I won’t.

One of my favorite books to teach is The Things They Carried. Through it, I can stress to my students–and to myself–the importance of story-truth versus happening-truth.

I want you to know why story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth.

A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.

And this is what I hold onto as I wrestle with the way God is portrayed through Scripture. Ultimately, it is not about facts or events or data… it is about the truth behind the story. And this truth can exist even in a lie. Just as Grace told her Mom on The Good Wife:

I think of it like poetry… it doesn’t have to be literally accurate, but it’s true.

So, then, what is the story-truth?

  • God is what we need:
    • When the Israelites were in danger of disease: let there be laws about sanitation, eating, purification, etc.
    • When the Israelites were frustrated with Pharaoh: let it be said that God hardened his heart.
    • When the Israelites needed to expand and enlarge their territory and progeny: let there be many wives and concubines as well as savage war.
    • When the people needed motivation: let there be a harsh Judge for sinners and their successors.
    • When the people needed a second-chance: let there be Mercy.
  • God’s story (HISstory) is told through the lens and with the language of the current culture:
    • In the Old Testament, there is sexism, racism, savagery, slavery, and cold-blooded murder. This reflects the culture of the BCE Biblical Middle East.
    • In the New Testament, there is sexism, racism, savagery, slavery, and cold-blooded murder. This reflects the culture of the CE Biblical Middle East.
  • Jesus, hallelujah, dismantles both aforementioned points entirely.
    • The Old Testament books and the New Testament books reveal a God who is what we need as reflected in our current culture. However, gloriously, Jesus the renegade comes along and simultaneously nullifies and fulfills these obligations.
      • Jesus spends his time with the sinners, not the elite.
      • Jesus surrounds himself with women.
      • Jesus takes time on those society has deemed unworthy–the foreigners, the sick, the unclean.
      • Jesus unravels the idea that God perpetually punishes the posterity.
      • Jesus challenges the leaders who represent the dominant culture.
      • Jesus counters the cultural norm that as the Messiah he was to overthrow the government with violent revolution. Instead, he loves–subversively.
    • Jesus is neither Old Testament or New Testament. He is THE testament, the truest testimony of a God who all along has just wanted an authentic relationship with His people. A relationship that means He will mirror the culture to find a way in, but also that He will supersede the culture to show the better relationship that He offers.

sharing poems, sharing stories, sharing lives

For a community builder this year, I tried something new by teaching a model text (“Where I’m From“) that students had to analyze and replicate. This was first and foremost a way for us all to share our stories and build connections with each other; the year’s learning will be built on those connections. It was also a way for me to pre-assess students’ poetry knowledge and introduce some important vocabulary for the year. Today we shared our poems in Circle–a Council practice we’re incorporating school-wide. Here’s mine.

“Where I’m From”

By Mrs. Davenport

 

I am from ivy wallpaper climbing up yellowed walls

From smoky fingers of cigarette haze and pungent Old Spice.

I am from the asymmetrical boxy house on the corner with the endless-to-be-

Mowed yard,

Where all my friends gathered for salty chips and high-fructose-corn-syrup-cookies.

I am from the spiraling green helicopters dancing to their rebirth

In the earth

And the liquored-fragrance of the blooming lilac bush.

 

I’m from Christmas Eve appetizer buffets in the corner of the cramped kitchen,

Served with the bitter taste of repressed anger,

From John David and Molly Aletha Mike,

From martyrdom and submission,

And from peacemaking the in-betweens.

 

I’m from “a watermelon will grow in your belly if you swallow that seed”

And “when it rains it pours” and “go apologize to your mother”

And from the low sway of “Locomotive.”

 

I’m from the children’s table—not the adult’s table—

At Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I’m from Chicago’s public schools then redeeming suburban schools,

And West Virgininian hills of Ireland,

Deviled eggs sprinkled with paprika and Mom’s famous peanut butter balls,

From sad Dad looking at his diseased and dying Mom through a metal fence

And barefoot strong Mom walking the hills of hidden mountain lions to school—

Barefoot.

I’m from 31 Flavors of ice cream and swing sets,

And from the postcards of a thousand unmet dream vacations.

mind your sacrifices: looking at Leviticus through the lens of mindfulness

Mindfulness is all a buzz lately. Mindfulness can improve your health, improve decision making-skills, help cope with trauma, prevent succumbing to cravings, and even capitalize the O in your orgasm (dare I say mindfulness puts the O in your OM; ha! …couldn’t resist). Mindfulness is on the football field, in the medicine cabinets of vets, on my blog, and within classrooms. Mindfulness is so pervasive I found all these articles in a matter of minutes.

But mindfulness in Leviticus? Come on, no way. I mean Buddha wasn’t even around then (wink, wink). But this weekend in my camping chair, as I trudged through the decrees of cleanliness and uncleanliness, inclusion and exclusion, and lions, tigers, and bears, oh my, the list of sacrificial animals, I found myself as usual asking: Why? What would be God’s intention in making so many harsh rules? Especially, when in the end, Jesus fulfilled them all (amen to that mystery!) and criticized the people for offering empty sacrifices, “honoring God with their lips, but not with their hearts” (paraphrase of Matthew 15 mine). I know some of the responses to this question: hygiene, health, separation from the “others,” etc. But always those attempted-answers do not assuage the shock in my heart as I read a book like Leviticus.

But, as I wrestled with the idea that all this was for His people and not for Himself, my mind rested on a few key Scriptures:

You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean (10: 10)…

For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy (11:44).

To consecrate means to set apart, to distinguish as other, to separate and elevate. And is that not mindfulness? When I pause and mindfully eat, my food becomes sacred and not just calories. When I pause and set my intention on my mat, it becomes a sanctuary. When in a conversation and I mindfully stop, then respond, I am elevating my relationship with that person. When I settle into stillness on my swing, I invite God into that space. To consecrate, one must be mindful.

I’d venture this is part of what God intended. That when the leper was healed and came back to the camp, instead of just diving right back in, he would have to find the appropriate sacrifices, then offer them. This intentional, time-tasking, budget-demanding act was a transition back into community, a chance to be mindful about what has occurred in his/her life. While the anointing oil ran down the head, then neck, then shoulders of the priests, it was a chance to be mindful about their holy positions, as well as for the people watching. All these decrees forced His people to slow down, be present, and engage with what mattered most…an awareness of the Divine.

This, of course, does not answer all my questions about Leviticus and the law. But, I’m quite okay with that…

the questions are more invitations to be mindful.

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Hosea 6:6

 

The Single Biggest Problem Facing Christianity

deep thoughts on the power of perspective. “…we will NEVER find agreement on such issues because we are, in effect, reading different bibles.”

Something Deeper: On Teaching with Heart and the Poetry of Teaching

Amen, declares my teaching soul.

AFFECTIVE LIVING

Teaching is poetry.

It’s the creation of something deeper, something sleeping below a classroom structure.  Its meaning is buried underneath flash cards and Power Points, grade checks and rubrics.  The surface seems simple and direct — we see the quizzes and cold-calls as clearly as pure rhymes.  The bells ring and the lines break and we prepare for the next stanza to take a seat quietly and get to work.

But hanging underneath is something deeper, something unique, something pure to the individual.

Teaching breathes and stretches and transcends like poetry.  No two learners can interpret the verse of teaching the same, just as no two teachers can write the same verse.  No matter what the rhyme scheme or theme, it is the process of learning that makes education poetry.  It is the delicate and personal interaction between two humans sharing a space in mind and body and trying to transfer meaning to…

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releasing regret: an open letter to my parents

What did I know, what did I know of love’s austere and lonely offices? (Hayden

20443_239317132812_2302655_nDear Dad,

I write asking for your forgiveness for a deep regret that haunts me.

When I was young, when I was stupid and selfish, I use to watch TV as a way to unwind. And you would come into the family room, sit in your green leather recliner, and then fold your long, muscular fingers dotted with patches of wiry hair up to your lips in a triangle-temple grip. A gentle gesture of internal prayer, perhaps.

And you would start to ask me questions. Questions about my day. School. Work. My friends.

And I was so annoyed. After all, I had had a very taxing day and I deserved to have some time to sit in peace, without thought or conversation. And I snipped at you. “Dad, I just want to watch TV. Do we have to do this now?”

Deflated, but never angry with me, you would sink into yourself, away from me, and eventually out of the room.

And then you got sick. Then you couldn’t carry on a conversation with me. Then, eventually, you didn’t even know who I was.

And I would sit with you in desperation to connect with the old, healthy, remembering you, asking you questions. You would answer with distracted and lost retorts, clearly buried so far in your diseased self that you could not find your way out.

And now I mourn. I linger in regret for all the conversations I missed with you because I was too tired, too consumed with TV.

Forgive me Dad. Release me.

I love you and miss you terribly,

Your daughter.

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Dear Mom,

I write to you asking for forgiveness for something I regret.

You beat breast cancer. Then it came back in your lungs. Then you beat that. You quit smoking. I was so proud of you. But I was also grateful, because I thought this meant you had chosen your family–you had chosen me–over your addiction, and that choice meant we would have more time to spend and more memories to make.

But you started smoking again. And you didn’t even tell me.

I was so angry. I held it against you. I withdrew, as I always do when hurt. But I also withdrew, because I surrendered to your choice to not be healthy, to not do everything in your power to extend your life. Withdrawing meant that our impending separation would be easier, didn’t it?

How foolish was I. By being bitter at your choice to smoke again, I wasted precious time–sand tumbling so quickly to the bottom of the hourglass I didn’t realize was so ephemeral–I could have had with you. Alone, I made meager memories of anger when I could have been making memories of laughter with you.

Forgive me Mom. Release me.

I love you and miss you terribly,

Your daughter.

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Kathy Mattea

The Liebster Award

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Just as the kind blogger who awarded me, when I received this nomination for the first time, I wasn’t even aware of what it meant. She did some research though:

The Liebster Award is given to upcoming bloggers who have less than 200 followers. So, what is a Liebster? It is a German word and it simply means sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome.

Official rules for the Liebster award are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
2. You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you.
3. Nominate 10 of your favourite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.
4. Come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

These are the questions/action points I was given:

1. List three favorite items you would carry on your journey to Mars.

My Kindle, my journal, and my camera

2. Name a favorite blog post you have written. Please share the link.

I started this blog years ago, but it in the busyness of life it disappeared into my mind and the internet-sphere. But when my Mom died, I returned one night after feeling the call to write this about my childhood home. Since then, I have found healing comfort, reflection, memory, joy and voice through writing. In many ways, writing has become my broken heart’s salvation since the loss of my Mom.

3. How would you greet St. Peter at the gates of heaven? Only three words please. :)

You too, huh?

4. Name your favorite post you have read on someone else’s blog. Please share the link.

This is beyond difficult to pick just one. So I’m going to cheat… the writing that has been balm to my heart has been from kathy escobar

5. Name one scientist hero stating why in 1-2 lines.

God, the Original Scientist who never fears inquiry or discovery and is always bigger than what man comes up with.

6. If you had to vote for at least one blog post from Precious Awakening, then which one would it be? Please share the link. Please use three words to explain why you like that post.

I appreciated this challenge, because I was able to spend some time on a blog that I would not have normally found. I feel most drawn to The journey thus far. Why? Journey. Butterfly. Awaiting.  

7. Which is the best way to convey your blog message: Text or Image? Why?

Depends on the message. Sometimes an image, sometimes text, sometimes both

8. Use five adjectives to describe your experience with Precious Awakening.

New. Spiritual. Seeking. International? Grateful.

9. What kind of blog posts interest you? Comical, health, facts, fiction, short stories? Please share links if possible.

Blogs about the soul. Blogs about the high school classroom. 

10. State three key feedback/comments for Precious Awakening.

1-Include more in your About…it was tough to find out about you. 2-Congratulations on the Liebster award. 3-Thanks for nominating me!

Tag, you’re it:

My wonderings for those nominated:

  1. Describe, in detail, your favorite beverage.
  2. What’s your pet peeve?
  3. Tell us the book that has most impacted what matters most in your life.
  4. How do you take care of your soul?
  5. Favorite quote or Scripture?
  6. What’s your favorite post you’ve written and why? Include a link.
  7. What’s your favorite post of mine and why? Include a link.
  8. What is the greatest joy of blogging?
  9. What is the greatest anxiety of blogging?
  10. Which blog speaks most poignantly to you? Why? Include a link.
  11. Bonus question, if you’re so inclined: give my some feedback on my blog.

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