Blessed are…

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called…” the masculine children of divinity, depending on which version of the Bible you may read. And yet many are those of varying gender identifications who make peace by the way they live their lives. Some stay real with themselves about their growth processes, seeking out accountability and listening to those who can constructively school them on their need for change, their toxic exceptionalism and passive/aggressive denial of systemic oppression. Some simply live it out, opening their hearts and minds to the viewpoints and lives of those who will expand their minds to move beyond the status quo, the status quo that lulls us all to sleep when our wakefulness is most needed. We are a many-varied and colorful tribe of humans hoping towards fulfillment on different levels as we struggle to recover from the oppressive backlash of centuries of authoritarianism and the resulting mindset. Some of us seek our recovery by means conducive to capturing truth, fostering freedom and encouraging growth and prosperity for everyone as we confront our demons, the darkness we all wrestle when egos clash and righteous rage collides with denial and judgement. And we wonder, “is it righteous, really?”. Apparently, according to the wise ones, we are all acting out in the wake of trauma. Some of us embody the traumatizers, and some of us war against them, but we all began in the oppressive authoritarianism that ultimately seeks to destroy soul. No one with even just a modicum of awareness will deny that abusers have been abused and neither will they deny that some who’ve been abused manage to avoid the abuser’s program through hard, painfully aware work.

The problem I have with identifying us all as victims of trauma is that such an identification could be seen as a uniting truth when there are those of the grand us who are not wanting actual unity or truth. (Truth like, love is what we do and not simply what we feel. And truth like, we’re all valuable, precious human beings. Not “truth” like, there is one God and one way and those who don’t believe will burn. Not “truth” like, we say so and so it is so.) So, sure, we’re all victims of trauma, participants in reactions against the power-over model of authority. But we’re not all growing and we’re not all seeking accountability, and on the other side of it all, we’re not all perpetuating violent and destructive acts that divide us. These distinctions deserve regard because they distinguish between those who seek to empower others and those who seek power over others, even if only vicariously.

While it’s likely true that those who are openly seeking dominion over others are victims of trauma, my experience in moving from a place of forgiveness and understanding with this slice of the population has only netted me betrayal, slander, loss, isolation and more trauma. I literally unknowingly signed up, in the name of forgiveness, unity and hope, for another round of soul-bruising loss. I thought my faith in love would prevail. It did not. I’ve learned that you can’t afford to smile and approach abused abusers with the assumption they want to actually be anything other than what they are. You can’t project your own hope for a truly noble, truly valuable, truly life-affirming legacy onto those who are “in the same boat” with you. It’s just not that simple. It’s like inviting Leviathan to tea and hoping the beast won’t be a beast. Sure, we all came from the same sea but some of us are walking on two legs and hoping to not regress to more beastly behavior while others of us are glorifying the beast by way of denial-based, narrative-skewing belief systems. The perversion of truth and rationality is unprecedented. Shift blame, redirect focus and make the victim pay. But hey, we’re all in this together? As much as we may technically be in this together, trauma bonds as they are, we are at least as much not in this together in unity, and we are not going to experience true unity with each other when anyone in the boat is eagerly perpetuating the power-over authoritarian model of “community”. The best we can do is sit on the other side of the boat and pray that our work to end generational carnage actually takes while hoping those on the other side finally wake up and join us in the work for emancipation from oppression.

And writers and historians like Rebecca Solnit help me solidify and give voice to what I see and feel during this epic time of both loss and hopeful growth here in the US. Solnit’s following expression fills up the gaps made real by a confusion of intentions on a boat adrift in the wild sea of meaning.

“The middle ground is not halfway between Nazis and antiracists. The reasonable position is not a compromise between rapists and feminists, slaveowners and abolitionists, Natives and General Crook. The truth is not midway between the liar and the truthteller. That has to be a factor in all those calls for reaching out and unity. The murderer and his intended victim don’t have to agree on what’s right. The people who were harmed don’t have to reach out to those who did the harming. The people who told the truth don’t need to make liars feel better about themselves or what they said. Those who were targeted by this war don’t have to do all the peacemaking. If reaching out and finding unity is good, the haters and liars can go find some olive branches and apologies and do the work to leave their will to destroy the rest of us behind. Then it begins. The party of hate never had a mandate; they lost the popular vote last time and this time; they may think of themselves as the real American and the gatekeepers but we don’t have to, and we don’t have to enter their gates or play by their rules. We don’t have to hate them either, but we don’t have to protect them from the consequences of their choices or sell out our principles for their comfort. When you stand on the ground of truth and justice, let others find their way to you. If you stand firm, many will in the end. Not everyone will; that does not change what truth and justice are.” Rebecca Solnit

sandshine

oh, transport my soul
to semi-round smoothness rest,
ocean’s nest of gems.

oh, come the tides to
these shores within; downward seep
flood the ancient keep.

oh, rest me wet, sunned
against earth mother steady
where wholeness resides.

oh, bring balm sandshine,
stunning grandeur blasting stoles.
waves baptizing, sublime.

photo by j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved

Power Over

“What posturing and performance share in common is a deep disconnect between the inspired heart and our gut instincts, between rising up and sensing ground where all life dissolves into the rich humus of earth. Make no mistake white bodies are capable of sensing deeply and can become conscious of the insidious ways that colonization is held within our flesh and blood. We may squirm and distract ourselves, but we have what it takes to dissolve these century-old impulses to cage, control and power over body. With awareness, we can begin to recognize our conditioning and through attention we can allow our primal impulses to grow a capacity to dissolve the distortions and claim life-supportive gestures and expressions.” Liz Koch, excerpted from the post on her website, Core Awareness, titled “White Bodies, Psoas, & Gesturing Power Over”

We colonized the land and the people of the land we now call the United States of America and we colonized our own bodies. Power over is the rabid beast created when we divorce ourselves from being soft, hairy animal human. We infused our religious beliefs with power over. We insisted on obedience like we insisted on this land, raping and violating the bodies of children in the name of discipline and good behavior and, for some, godliness. I can say that my daughter and two sons have birthed me because they broke my heart open and opened me up to my own tenderness and the validity of the wild human. I could not fathom how the sort of discipline inflicted on me, and on my sisters, in the name of Jesus was anything remotely connected to love and that realization occurred when a baby girl came out of my body. Everything changed. Who was this sacred creature? How could you thump her on the forehead for speaking her mind or challenging you at the dinner table? How? You must be divorced from your own body, colonized from head to toe to soul if you do this and you must be addicted to power over. Dethroning the inner tyrant anchored on the seat of the heart and placed there by fear, that is a work on which to commit a life. Enshrining love as a fully-muscled set of doings and thinkings and makings of solid evidence of love and value decolonizes the body, rids the mind of toxins long dormant. And the work never ends. There is no arrival. I don’t know what I’d do without people like James Baldwin who lives though he’s gone and Liz Koch who is here and now shining light on needful truths.

Here’s to freedom from power over and losing all the baggage that goes with it.

Prayer #3 (for protesters)

Each step taken, every chant and cry,
every movement for justice,
every insistence on equal rights,
every standard and arm raised for safety,
for the end to brutality and racism at the hands of…

police, government, the system,

each one land home, right to the heart
of what brings true change, what sets aright
the system set in motion against humanity itself.

Revolutionize hope, radicalize grace.

Every effort met with heaven’s support,
earth’s nurturance and the flesh and blood strength
of all who embody truth and justice.

Each one held safely by love.

Prayer #2

Mother earth, Father sky, Creator, Love,
draw me out of grief’s clasp,
loose my fingers’ grasp ‘round the ways I failed,
the things I can’t unsay or unfeel,
the hapless, arrogant beliefs I held
about love, about people, about hope,
about value, about life itself,
the fool, the naked fool I so often was, and can be even now.

Strengthen my arms after decades-long holding
to love unrequited and unforgotten and eventually unknown.
Lift my eyes beyond the carnage, the years lost believing he/she/they
cared as I cared, felt as I felt, valued as I valued.
Help me to see the worth of the time as it clarified
who I am, who I am not and what I live for.

And what I do not.

Help me to embrace the inspiration those days were and may still be.
Help me to reclaim them in forgiveness and acceptance.
Deepen my capacity to love regardless,
to love fearlessly and to love wisely.

Open my arms wider to encircle my growing path,
to embiggen the reach of my grasp
and to dance for new joy with keener vision, and measured hope.

Prayer #1 (For Michael)

May your whole body/soul/spirit shift in alliance with the well-being
of eternal and perpetual grace, renewal and wholeness.

May you breathe deeply into your worth and know the love that upholds your life
and has held you close all of your days, even when you least felt that comfort.

May you stretch your arms out wide, reaching far and further still out to places
you feel most inhibited, afraid to reach for fear of rejection, for fear of vulnerability,
for fear of your own beauty being more than you can contain.

May every corpuscle, muscle, vein, artery, organ, system,
neural impulse, heartbeat, rumble of your being vibe with the jive of clarity,
unobstructed, unhindered, blossoming wellness.

May you soak up the sun of healing.

May you know the love that upholds us all as a bliss-force flowing
through every fiber of your being
as you breathe in, breathe out,
breathe deeply the life force sustaining us all.

j. ruth kelly, 2020, all rights reserved

Righteous Rebellion

“The world needs your rebellion and the true song of your exile. In what has been banned from your life, you find a medicine to heal all that has been kept from our world. We must find the place within where things have been muted and give that a voice. Until those things are spoken, no truth can find its way forward. The world needs your unbelonging. It needs your disagreements, your exclusion, your ache to tear the false constructions down, to find the world behind this one.” Toko-Pa Turner

There Are Times When…

I hear someone pouring out her heart about a wrenching upset,
something burdening her whole being,
something precious to her,
it may be as simple as a slight,
or an all out attack on her honor.

Or she may be troubled about something like a relationship struggle,
or a time when someone treated her rudely,
or she stubbed her toe and it brought out all of her frustrations.

And I catch my breath.
Because it strikes me to my core
in that moment,
that I have to push past the old programming
shoved at me perpetually, daily, hourly
stating that nothing matters save giving up
yourself and your concerns to Christ’s love.
There’s no need to overflow, to spill,
to let it show because it can all just rest at the cross.

I remember this in a flash, a moment when my heart
instantly feels deeply with and for another
all while the program’s smashing attempts to haunt,
to strip, to devalue value itself clashes
with the natural flow.

We are not our own, see, we belong to Jesus.
As long as you can bring it all to him,
corral it into submission to how he has solved everything
(though good folks die and honorable names are smeared),
then you can rest knowing all is well even if it doesn’t look well,
or feel swell, or even feel at all.

It hits me in the solar plexus.

Oh how that program shatters the value,
the soul, the heart of what it is
to. be. human.

And I am achingly grateful to feel,
to be moved by the biggest and the smallest
concerns of those who are changed by what life is.

Think of what it might be like to have that cut off,
to be only allowed to feel deeply into what someone else supposedly did for you,
something that negates any reason to grieve, cutting short,
masectomizing, castrating the heart of being human.

I sit with the realization and allow it to flood
any lingering hardened fields,
places where I smashed my humanity flat,
suffocating breath and pulse.
I sit and watch the water work its way in
and past the resistance to being flesh and blood real.

I am beyond grateful to know the depths,
the feelings from the stubbed toes to the unspeakable losses,
to the quiet joys and splashy promises bearing hope
and to know that I can treasure them all until time to pass them along,
sacrificing nothing but the lie that we are not truly beautifully whole
as we let go of our crutches and learn to walk our stories
amongst ancient witnesses who have learned there is love,
there is divinely radical grace in losing the Jesus no one should know.

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2020