Thursday, October 6, 2011

"What we have most in common is not religion, but humanity"

"What we have most in common is not religion, but humanity.

I learned this from my religion, which also teaches me that encountering another human being is as close to God as I may ever get– in the eye-to-eye thing, the person-to-person thing–which is where God's Beloved has promised to show up.

Paradoxically, the point is not to see God.

The point is to see the person standing right in front of me, who has no substitute, who can never be replaced, whose heart holds things for which there is no other language, whose life is an unsolved mystery.

The moment I turn that person into a character in my own story, the encounter is over.

I have stopped being a human being and have become a fiction writer instead."

~From Barbara Brown Taylor in An Altar in the World

(ps- If you haven't read this book you should move immediately from this blog to Amazon and order it right now!)

How often do I turn the people I encounter into characters in my own little story?

How often in our hurried world to I pass by the person on the street and fail to acknowledge their humanity with even a glance in their eyes?

How often to I take my groceries and my receipt without noticing the human being who hands me the bag?

Today, may we see the full humanity, mystery, depth, and life in each particular and unique person we meet.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tell me a Story....

Every once in a while... on one of those rare Saturday mornings when we aren't rushing out the door to get to an early soccer game or swim meet...

The kids wake us up by climbing in bed and snuggling in under the covers. Ryan wiggles his way into my arms and inevitably says, "Mom! Tell me a story!"

He knows exactly the story I will tell... it's the story I always tell him in one fashion or another...

A story of a little boy who has magical powers.
No one knows but him.
One day, when he is playing out in the yard he hears a puppies crying...
He bursts into the air and flies to the rescue, saves the baby pup, and returns home- with his parents none the wiser.

He loves this story. Sometimes he tells it to me- but in his version I'm the hero with secret powers.


A couple weeks ago we were driving to school and I hear from the back of the car, "Mom, tell me the story of when Grammie chased that kid who hurt you"...

This is one of our family favorites over the years.

A story of my 'super Mom' who saw another child wait for a six-year-old-me after school, and then pick me up and throw me on the ground. My Mom saw this from her car, which was parked across a soccer field from my classroom. I've never seen my Mom move so quickly. She sprinted across the field, through the school campus, and followed the kid onto his bus where she let him know he was never to touch her daughter again...

The kids love this story. They love hearing about their Mom being a vulnerable child, and about their Grammie being so tough and protective.


I've recently been reading Daughters of Anowa: African Women & Patriarchy by Mercy Amba Oduyoye. Central to this book is an examination of the folk stories of Mercy's culture, the Yoruba culture of southern Nigeria. Mercy examines the stories which have been passed on from one generation to another over hundreds of years in order to both name myths that serve to propagate oppression, and myths which serve to bring freedom, life and creativity to the current African context. Mercy examines the stories of her culture, and the stories which have been brought to Africa in the colonial project, with a hermeneutic of trust and a hermeneutic of suspicion.

This means that she reflects on the way stories which are passed down shape us. She seeks to name the way the stories we tell can be damaging, and the ways in which they bring life. Mercy encourages African women to reach into their own stories to find resources for healing and transformation.


I wish I had more stories to tell my kids.

Honestly, I feel so disconnected from the stories of my ancestors.
I see the way my kids faces light up upon hearing the scant stories that I do tell.

Still, I know they are receiving all kinds of stories in their lives.

And I know that one day they will have to sift through them to name the stories that are oppressive, and to claim and reach into the stories that bring life.