Watering Plants After Watching Philando Castile’s Killing

Planet Natural

Yesterday, I finally watched the dashcam footage of Philando Castille’s death.

This morning, as part of my house-sitting promise to my mother, I watered her plants.

I turned the faucet until it could turn no more and felt the water immediately pump through the extendable hose at full blast. I heaved the heavy load over the porch, unraveled the hose from its tangles, and walked to the first bed. I changed the setting to “Shower” and remembered to depress the lever slightly, because even a heavy shower can be too much for those tiny buds.

As I wandered through the beds of mulch and among their scatterings of green, pink, and blue, showering the delicate buds and small leaves, I prayed this small offering of water would be enough. I prayed the light shower would keep them hydrated when the hot summer sun mercilessly beat down on them later in the day. I prayed my neglect of the past couple days would be amended through this sprinkling, that it would be enough to keep them going in the time between my departure and Mom’s return.

I remembered I was not their real gardener. I was not at work under the soil soaking up nutrients to send up the roots, through the stems, and to the leaves and buds. I was not their planter or their keeper. Heck, I wasn’t even going to continue this work after Saturday.

And still, I watered each plant, each green that stretched out of the mulch and flower pots, each colorful bud closed up but expectant of the day it would open again.

I guided the small showers lovingly over each plant, and I wondered if God does the same with the tears shed over each unjustified killing, over each act of hatred and animosity towards the “Other.” I wondered if God uses those tears to water the hearts of the brokenhearted, that they may have comfort. I wondered if God uses those tears to water the hard hearts of those who do not understand the reasons for this pain, that they may soften and open. I wondered if God waters us with those tears so we do not remain numb but continue to be sensitive enough to soak them up and keep moving forward, to remind us that we cannot just let ourselves and our siblings continue to die and be killed.

And I wonder if God also sheds tears over our sorry, pitiful, divided state, and I wonder if God waters us with those tears, too. I wonder if in the midst of being showered, unknowingly or otherwise, with the tears of the oppressed and marginalized, we are also being showered by the tears of God.

And then I wonder where one’s tears stop and God’s begin.

*****

After I finished watering, I returned to the house and tidied a few things up. By the time I finished, the pitter-patter of a gentle rain shower sounded on the roof.

Maybe my small offering was accepted and met with another. Maybe God is still listening to and responding to our small acts of faithfulness.

Maybe that’s enough for me to believe right now.

Reception Venues and Representatives

My to-do lists as of late are intense.

They include wedding planning, job hunting, and representative calls, and they all take up big chunks of my day.

My weeks include calls to reception venues, my representative and senators, and at one point even the Department of Homeland Security.

reception

Called a representative for this house (possible reception venue) and my representative in The House on the same day. Guess which one was less stressful?

I send messages to my parents, future-in-laws, maid of honor, and bridesmaids about dresses and decorations, and I share regular political happenings with my online community, encouraging them to stay up to date and accurate concerning their media intake and output.

I had no idea my life would turn out this way.

And here I am, writing, posting, calling, and planning, looking for reception venues, dresses, rings, petitions, and protests, living life in a way I never thought possible.

As I approached graduation, I expected to work with a church or faith community in a prominent role, maybe with youth or young adults, or even the whole congregation. I figured the political climate would stabilize within the year, and I wouldn’t be checking my news feed everyday to find some mind-numbingly awful sound clip from a politician. I knew Bryce and I would be getting engaged and planning a wedding, and I wanted work which would allow said planning to move forward.

So when I asked a professor for some help and advice in choosing a post-graduate career, and he asked if I had considered being an activist, I barely stifled a laugh (although I’m unsure as to whether I completely suppressed my look of fear). I thought to myself “Are you kidding? I’m too much of a nervous wreck as it is. I couldn’t be that involved without having several breakdowns.”

Less than a year later, 45 is in office, most of our representatives are throwing out everything instead of actually making anything new, and people (myself included) are taking to the streets and the phone lines to voice their discontent.

And in the midst of it all, I am planning a wedding.

I am planning for one golden day of love, hope, and peace in the midst of division, anger, and fear, a day for me, my husband-to-be, our families and friends to celebrate and remember.

This isn’t the climate in which I expected to plan such an event, but maybe it’s necessary. I hope it reminds me and those helping me that love, not frilly and sugar-sweet but tough and enduring, has the final say in who we are and what we will be.

I hope everyone has something, a wedding or otherwise, to remind them of this important lesson in these trying times.

Wednesday Wisdom: Christena Cleveland

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christenacleveland.com

“Advent is an invitation to plunge into the deep, dark waters of our worst world, knowing that when we re-surface for air we will encounter the hopeful, hovering Spirit of God. For when we dive into the depths of our worst world, we reach a critical point at which our chocolate and pageants no longer satiate our longing for hope – and we are liberated by this realization. Indeed, the light of true hope is found in the midst of darkness.”

-Christena Cleveland, from Advent/Darkness.

Will we be bold and brave enough to venture into the darkness this season? Do we have hope that there will be something to hold onto when we reemerge?

What are you waiting for?

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I wrote this post during Holy Week 2013. I figured the theme of waiting and hope was appropriate for the Advent season, too. Enjoy this blast from the past!

Today is Palm Sunday. Today is the day I check off one of the risks I said I’d do long ago and finally made a commitment to when Donald Miller dared us all to do 5 things we were afraid to fail this week: start my own blog.

So on this day, when we remember as a church when Jesus made his “triumphant” (or anti-triumphant, if you really think about it) entry into Jerusalem, and we begin to journey through the pain and tension of Holy Week, we also ponder this question: What are we waiting for?

I pondered this between 9 and 9:30 this morning, after we had set up for worship at Court Square Theater, and as the band practiced their songs for the morning. I’m not gonna lie; my ponderings weren’t on dreams of ending hunger, achieving world peace, or anything focused outwardly.

I was thinking about my own pain, my own fears, and the deep dark depths of my soul.

Anxiety can be crippling to live with on a day to day basis. Some days are great, others are just ok, and a few reduce me to a vegetative state in which TV, music, and movies are needed to numb my mind from the white noise of worries that run through all day. Since writing is among my favorite forms of therapy and self-soothing, I grabbed a RISE bulletin and wrote what weighed down my heart and mind today. And here’s what I came up with:

I’m waiting for peace, patience, joy, confidence, identity. I’m waiting for me to come back. I’m waiting for transition to turn into character, to a sense of self. I’m waiting for calm and quiet and excitement and growth. I’m waiting to be happy to be me, whoever she is. I’m waiting to be heard and seen for who I am, all I am. I’m waiting for my fear to make way for my life, for hope, love, joy, and peace, to make way for me to burst forth. I’m waiting for the voices of guilt, shame, fear, and mistrust to quiet down, so the voices that are really me can speak up and be heard, listened to, understood, acted on. I’m waiting to be born again into hope, so I can die to my own strangling fears. 

In short, I’m waiting for…my soul to break through my fear.

As a faith community, RISE is wrestling with this question this week as part of The Ellipsis Experiment (http://storiesandvoices.com/post/45893346395/the-ellipsis-experiment). As a community, we are learning together what we are waiting for as we journey through this week of tension, pain, and eventually resurrection. We are not just skipping to Resurrection Sunday; we are walking with Jesus through service, pain, the tension of waiting, and the joy in the hope that death is not the end.

Friends, will you also join me? What are you waiting for?

Why This Story?

As I’ve shared before, there have been times in which participating in the Church is difficult. There have been times in which I am less engaged due to everything from boredom to fear of being and expressing myself. But through engagement with theater, TV shows, and comic books, I’ve discovered my desire for a connection with God and others through story.

An instrumental story in this process is The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman.

sandman

http://comicsalliance.com/

In September 2014, I began reading The Sandman at the recommendation of a fellow comic lover and survivor of the Bridgewater College Philosophy and Religion department. I bought the first issue online and lost myself in the world of Morpheus, the lord of dreaming.

One of my favorite Sandman stories is in issue 4. After an occult leader imprisons him for 70 years (as depicted in issue #1), Morpheus/Dream escapes and begins searching the world for his lost totems of power. One of these totems is a helmet, which a demon is Hell withholds from him. Dream enters hell and finds the demon, and the demon agrees to hand over the helmet only if Dream defeats him in a battle of wits, or what they call the “oldest game.” They start with small forms (hunter defeats wolf, hunter defeated by horsefly which harms his horse, etc.) and begin building until the demon declares himself as the form Anti-Life, “the dark at the end of everything.”

Everyone in hell thinks Dream is beaten. After all, what can defeat the Beast of Judgment, “the end of universes, gods, worlds…of everything?”

After a brief pause, in which all the demons of hell wait with baited breath, Dream replies, “I am hope.”

And the demon has no retort.

Dream leaves Hell with his helmet and a little more power, and I move on with the flicker of faith within me burning a bit stronger than before.

This small line has saved my faith more times than I can count. I am anxious and pessimistic about the world around me and the Church to which I pledge my allegiance. It is easy for me to look at world and Church and lose hope in them. In these times, I tell myself to look into the Story which I  say I am a part of, but all I see are stories retold so often and in such dry ways that I see little life remaining in them.

Yet this one line, this tiny sentence, written by a man who many in the Body of Christ would claim is not “one of us,” is sometimes the spark which keeps my faith alive.

Why, when I claim to be part of the Greatest Story Ever, is this story the one which keeps me going? What has happened to our Story, and how can it come back to life?