Dixie Darr

Archive for June, 2017|Monthly archive page

Truth or Consequences

In spirituality on June 30, 2017 at 6:21 am


This doesn’t show me in a good light.
I was already mad from our previous discussion about the Orange Monster when she said this, and I blew up.
She was telling me about her friend with a severely disabled son whose insurance was ending. Instead of doing anything about it, the friend shrugged and said, “Jesus will provide.”
My friend said, “I know that’s true if people really believe,” and I said,
“Bullshit.”
I warned you I come off looking bad.
This is the kind of pious passivity that makes me crazy.
You think that when people lose their jobs or lose their health or lose their fu**ing lives it’s because they didn’t believe in Jesus enough? Or didn’t pray hard enough? Or didn’t live a Christian enough life (whatever that means).What about people from other religions? Are they just out of luck because Jesus only helps his own? Where is that in the Bible?
No, really, I wonder about these things.
It reminds me of the old story about a devout man caught in a flood. A rescue boat came and offered to row him to safety, but he sent them away saying, “I have faith in God. I trust God will care for me.” So the rowboat left. Soon the floodwaters were up to his neck. A second rowboat came to rescue him and again he dismissed it. Finally, the water got so high that the man could barely breathe through his mouth and nose. A helicopter flew over and let down a ladder to rescue him. “Come up,” they said, “we will take you to safety.” “No,” he cried. “God will save me,” and sent the helicopter away. However, it continued to rain, the waters rose, and finally, he drowned.
He went to heaven and stood before God. “I had so much faith in you,” he said. “I believed in you so fully. I prayed and tried to follow your will. I just don’t understand.” At this point, God scratched his head and said, “I don’t understand either! I sent you two rowboats and a helicopter.”
The God I believe in expects us to use our brains, expects us to help ourselves. My faith provides comfort when bad things happen, but doesn’t prevent bad things from happening. Maybe I’m doing it wrong.

I always liked Harrison Ford’s response to “May the Force be with you.” He said, “Force yourself.”

Hope Will Never Be Silent

In Learning, spirituality on June 29, 2017 at 6:00 am

In 1984, I saw the tragic documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, (now available on YouTube) and was heartbroken at the story of his triumph and assassination.
A few years later, the movie returned to a local theater and I recommended it to my friend, Joe, a political junkie who had worked tirelessly in the Chicano rights movement and had even seen friends murdered for the cause. It seemed right up his alley.
“No,” he said, almost physically recoiling at my suggestion. “No way.”
His reaction confused me, but I came to realize that to Joe, it was a movie about a gay man. That’s all. I will never know why that frightened him so much because I don’t have friends like him anymore.
My sorrow over the documentary kept me from seeing Milk when it came out in 2008. I just didn’t think I could watch those devastating events again.
Now, thirty-plus years after the documentary, I decided maybe I could handle the movie in the comfort of my own home with a box of Kleenex nearby and the ability to hit pause whenever I needed to stop and breathe for a while.
I watched it last night. While the documentary showed a factual overview of the events, the movie gave a more intimate perspective. I felt excitement and exhilaration as the campaigns grew more successful although my anxiety increased as it drew to the end because I knew what was coming.
It is shocking to realize how little the arguments of the religious right have changed in forty years. How many more innocent people will become martyrs for the “sin” of loving someone?
The joy-filled Pride celebrations all over the country this month give me hope that at the very least we’re making progress. In the words of Harvey Milk, “Hope will never be silent.” It isn’t enough, but it’s something.

These Two

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2017 at 10:02 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Griffin was born nine years ago, he was the first baby in our family since his mother was born 37 years before that, and I became a great aunt (well, I was always a great aunt). His sister, Harper, came three years later.

They live in Phoenix, so I only get to see them once or twice a year when they come to stay with their grandparents. While I wish they lived closer so I could see them more frequently, three or four hours at a time is about all I can take of these perpetual motion machines. After their grandparents move to Tucson in a couple of years, I’ll see them less than that.

Last night was my chance to get caught up with them this year. Both are smart and sweet and profoundly silly. I’ve heard that kids laugh about 300 times a day while adults laugh only five times. Spending time with them puts me several weeks ahead on my fun quota.

Griffin likes science and social studies. His science project this year imagined a tour through our solar system including visits to Jupiter’s moons and surfing (!) the rings of Saturn. He still counts Pluto as a planet no matter what Neil deGrasse Tyson says.

Harper’s favorite subjects are art and math, although at heart she is a performer who says she “never” gets stage fright. She recently had eight inches cut off her never before shorn hair so she’d look more like Taylor Swift.

Both love sports. They swim every day and run. Harper takes gymnastics and Griffin likes baseball and basketball. They may go to a sports camp this summer to learn archery.

My brother said an aunt’s job is to rile them up and then go home. He thinks I do it very well.

I think my job as their great aunt is simply to love them to distraction. I do that very well, too.

On Call

In Finding Your Calling, spirituality on June 27, 2017 at 5:14 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You might think that by age 69, I would have either discovered my mission in life or given up searching. Nope, I’m still trying to figure it out. Over the years, I’ve read dozens of books on the subject and even took an online course that promised results.
I may have gotten better results from that tee-shirt that says, “That’s what I do. I read and I know things.”
An old friend from high school once asked me if I wished I had studied something instead of sociology in college. “Not instead of,” I replied. “In addition to. I want to know everything.”
She turned to her husband and raised an eyebrow saying, “See? That’s why we’re friends.”
I identify with another popular meme, too: “A day without reading is . . . just kidding. I have no idea.”
Last week I reread for the Nth time, How to Find Your Mission In Life by Richard N. Bolles. He outlines three steps to finding your calling.
1. love God
2. choose good
3. develop your talent
I don’t talk much about God because that seems pretty private to me. I will say that I don’t believe God is some old white guy with a long beard sitting on a cloud somewhere. In fact, the God I believe in isn’t separate from us earthly creatures at all.
Bolles, who was an Episcopal minister, points out that if you believe you have a mission, a calling, a vocation, there must be somebody doing the calling. Makes sense.
The second step is that with every small choice we make each day, we choose the option that brings “more gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, honesty, and love into the world.” I admit that when I read this, I think, “You must have me confused with someone else.” I’m more a screaming obscenities at people who annoy me kind of person. Maybe I can work on that.
We tend to think of our mission as one big answer that comes to us on a highway billboard like in L.A. Story or in the booming voice of James Earl Jones or even on a tee shirt. Bolles suggests instead that it’s a series of small steps we take each day to bring more good into the world.
The final step is simply to develop whatever talent God gave us. As my pastor, Brad Laurvick said, “who you are is God’s greatest gift to you.” Ultimately, it’s also our greatest gift to the world.
We cannot retire from this and go sit on a beach or play Bingo to while away our days. As Richard Bach said, “Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.”

Say Goodbye

In Church, spirituality on June 26, 2017 at 7:17 am

Although it had only been two weeks, it seemed like a long time since everyone had been together. Last week, we deployed all over the city with messages of love and pride. That was important work. Still, I was happy to see everybody back in our sanctuary yesterday.

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to two gentle souls. Jeff and Nhi, quiet, powerful presences who have been a beloved part of our church family, have to leave us.

Nhi is a tiny little person who tears it up on the piano. She could have been the inspiration for Shakespeare when he said, “though she be but little, she is fierce.” She showed us that all music is sacred by often playing secular music instead of hymns. Her choices ranged from George Gershwin (Rhapsody in Blue) to Franz Liszt (Grandes etudes de Paganini, S. 141). On Christmas Day she gave us a mad jazz rendition of Go Tell it On the Mountain (my personal favorite). Fierce. She’s moving to New York to pursue doctoral studies.

Reverend Jeff told us that he was discouraged many years ago from seeking ordination after divinity school because he wanted to work in the community instead of in a church. When he found our church, he found encouragement from our previous pastor and the congregation, and he decided to pursue ordination as a deacon, which he completed two years ago. In the United Methodist Church, a deacon is an ordained clergyperson called to serve people in ministries of compassion, justice, and service in the world. Perfect.

Earlier this year he took over as CEO of the Boulder Community Foundation where his leadership will shine. Boulder’s gain is our loss, however, as the position requires that he move to Boulder County.
We also bid farewell to Pride month. We wish it could go on because we still have so much work to do, and we like wearing rainbows.
Now we need to turn to the future. Pastor Brad told us what’s coming up in the next few months, including our always anticipated movie sermon series in August, our tent service (potluck, yes, hellfire and brimstone, no) in September, and the 125th anniversary of our church in October.
Still I feel some reluctance to move on. You know when you read a book you love so much you don’t want it to end, even when you know you have to turn the page? Like that.

Not Always Pretty

In creativity, writing on June 23, 2017 at 6:58 am

Something remarkable happened this morning. I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I could say that. It didn’t last. The next time I glanced up, that person was gone. Mostly, I don’t know the woman in the mirror, and I don’t recognize myself in photographs, except old ones from a time when I did regularly look in the mirror.

I don’t give much thought to what I look like anymore, which should be obvious to anyone looking at me. (Stop that!) I haven’t worn makeup for twenty years. I forget to check and make sure that my hair isn’t sticking out at odd angles. When that inevitably happens, I hope you’ll think I’m being deliberately edgy and not just negligent.

Many years ago a colleague asked me what I thought was my best feature. I guess he wanted me to say something like my eyes or my smile because he seemed annoyed when I answered, “My mind.”

I was actually rephrasing an old song from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention that hardly anybody would remember called What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body – “I think it’s your mind.”

People tell me I think too much, and I definitely live inside my head. It’s different in here and kind of a mess. I don’t always know what I think about things until I work it out here on the page.

Think of these daily posts as a peek inside my mind, unquestionably my best feature.

It isn’t always pretty and it doesn’t show up in mirrors, but it did let me use that silly picture to give you a giggle on Friday morning.

Meet Market

In solitude on June 22, 2017 at 7:29 am

I am not a people person, as I’ve said before, although I probably like you quite a bit. It’s those masses of strangers, especially in big crowds, that make me want to run home and hide, locking the door behind me. My nieces used to call me Auntie Social.

I spend about 94% of my time alone (I did the math), yet I almost never feel lonely. Time spent with friends at church or the gym or occasional meals and meetings are times I look forward to, but I also look forward to going home to my sanctuary, my solitude.

I know most people don’t feel the same. Some people can’t stand being alone. Worse, just the thought of going to a restaurant or a movie or a concert alone scares the bejeebers out of them. I don’t know why. Maybe they don’t read.

I always have a book with me – actually 600+ books on my Kindle – and with a book, I always have companionship.

Rebecca Solnit, author of The Lonely City, describes loneliness as feeling “unhappy as a result of being without the companionship of others.” And Paul Tillich said, “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” I’ll take the glory, please.

I’ve been thinking about this since Amazon announced its plan to deliver groceries. I belong to Amazon Prime, but the grocery store is one of the few places I still go. With few exceptions, I do almost all my shopping online. I even conduct my library business online, only going to the library to pick up and return books.

Isaac Asimov wrote a novel, The Naked Sun, part of his robot series, about people who never came into contact with other people physically because they were too afraid of germs. I don’t want to live in that world, if only because I would have to give up hugs.

I understand that grocery delivery offers a welcome convenience to some people and some circumstances. For me, though, I’ll continue to mingle in real life at King Soopers and Sprouts and choose my own provisions.

I can’t spend ALL my time alone.

Stop Wasting Time

In Learning on June 21, 2017 at 6:47 am

That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back. At my age that means something.
It was the mansplainer (I have a few other names for him, too) in the audience who pissed me off. A woman asked a question, and before the speaker could respond, this middle-aged white guy said, “Before you answer that—-blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” He went on for 3-4 minutes yammering about several different topics and never did ask a question.
When he finally (!) took a breath, I spoke up and told the speaker, “I’d like to hear you answer her question first.”
But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I went to the viewing of a film about the crisis in Syria to educate myself because like most Americans I am woefully ignorant about the Middle East. The film was okay, focusing mostly on the desperate lack of medical care for refugees.

The speaker, who chairs the local chapter of a Syrian American organization was knowledgeable, passionate and completely disorganized. His rambling, stream of consciousness style of speaking lost me about a minute in—and he went on for well over an hour. He described feeling overwhelmed by the “fire hose” of information coming from his parents’ native country and then proceeded to turn the fire hose on us.

To be fair, I did learn something about Syria, so mission accomplished, I guess. When you have that much thrown at you, something’s bound to stick.

The one question I wanted answered, which the woman in the audience asked and I suspect we all wanted to know, was “What can we do to help?”

He had a hard time answering that. First, he said the US military had to get involved and then rambled on for 10-15 minutes veering off into several tangents. Another audience member tried again to focus the speaker on what the 15 or so of us there last night could do, and he finally, FINALLY answered the question. We can educate ourselves (the Syrian American Council is a good resource) and post about it on Facebook. He pointed out that among us we had thousands of Facebook friends, so our little group had more reach and influence than we probably realized.

So there you have it. My first effort to help is simply to implore the speaker to learn how to focus his message into a coherent presentation. People are not as “heartless” as he seems to believe, but he has to do his part, too.

Church is a Verb

In Church on June 20, 2017 at 9:54 am

Photo by Mollie Pfeiffer

When I left church on Sunday, I went to Carl’s, a little hole in the wall Italian restaurant that’s been a North Denver institution for more than 60 years. I have lunch there after church most weeks. I go alone to eat my sausage sandwich, read, write, and think.

I was wearing my Pride tee shirt, which mirrors the small banners on our church tower, “We are PROUD that God loves all people.” My favorite waitress said she had seen the banners on our church and “they give me chills because I know you’re representing God.” That caught me by surprise.

As the inimitable Laverne Cox said, “When you put love out in the world it travels, and it can touch people and reach people in ways that we never even expected.” Clearly, Ms. Cox knows whereof she speaks.

We’ve all seen in the last six months how much havoc one man can wreak on our country and our world, and we know it will take droves of good people years to heal that damage. Yet we can’t let the immensity of the harm done paralyze us. We have to find ways to bring more goodness into the world. That’s why my church:

–installed a bicycle repair station for the neighborhood

–distributed free vegetable seeds at the street fair and asked people to return part of their harvest to feed the homeless

–houses a homeless family while they wait for permanent housing

–provides low-cost office and studio space for local nonprofit organizations

–raises money and assembles relief kits for victims of disaster
It’s why our little kids collect our spare change every month to fight HIV/AIDS or malaria or to help the homeless.

While none of these things will make a dent in solving the major problems of our time, we have “to do what (we) can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place,” according to Richard Bolles, the late author of What Color is Your Parachute? That’s our mission on earth.

Slowly, I’m learning that church isn’t merely a place we go on Sunday morning; it’s something we do.

Amateur Hour

In spirituality on June 19, 2017 at 6:17 am

My church was stretched a little thin yesterday morning as we tried to cover activities on three fronts. We have a growing congregation with only one minister.

Pastor Brad is young, gifted, and energetic, but even he can’t be in three places at once.

He went to the church’s annual conference not only because his attendance is required, but also to see a close friend be ordained.

At the Pride parade, we had a large contingent, including our music director and children’s director. We always want to support our beloved LGBTQ members, and this year, we also needed to show the world how much we adore our Bishop Karen Oliveto, whose election caused much hand-wringing in conservative United Methodist churches.

That left a group of amateurs, including me, in charge of our worship service. We had some glitches.

Nobody knew how to turn on the lights in the vestibule.

One altar candle wouldn’t light, probably because nobody knew to check that it had oil.

One mic didn’t work, then it did work.

Carolyn, who led children’s time, didn’t know if we were having Sunday school.

Nobody was assigned to count the offering after the service.

We all pulled together and figured things out. We always do.

I used a prayer by Rev. Jude Geiger that contained these words “In this month, where our nation celebrates the lives and the struggles of Transgender, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people, help us to find a path forward, where each of us may live our lives, honest to who we are, with grace and empathy for one another.” Yes.

We had some good, old-fashioned music. Linda, accompanied by Nhi on piano, sang “Whispering Hope.” During our hymn sing, William led us through “I’ll Fly Away” (my favorite), “Amazing Grace,” and “Morning has Broken,” among others.

Afterward, William and I high-fived because we made it through and had some fun.

The word amateur typically means inept, and we were probably not as ept (it’s a word!) as we would have liked. But it comes from the Latin “to love” and also means a person who does something purely for love.

That fits, too.