Lean into the Sadness: thoughts on rage, despair and healing

Remember the other day when I was listening to Bruce Hornsby and writing about happiness? Today it’s Glen Campbell, because when I have the blues, I always go back to my roots. Classic country and cowboy music is about as good as it gets in my book. I’ve been tapping in my love of music this year in a way I haven’t in quite some time. Just another tool in the recovery toolbox, one I let get rusty for awhile. Sadness is dogging me this week, despite my happiness declarations (which I still believe, by the way).

This week the world seems heavy. Heavy, hard and mean. Issues threaten to swallow me in their vast terrible brokenness. Racial Injustice. Democracy. Polarization. Terrorism. How do we even stand against evil systems like this, systems which have reigned for thousands of years?

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I feel a ball of rage in my gut for things I feel helpless to change. Even though I use the tools I know will help: meditation, avoiding social media, self-care, I still feel stuck. Stuck or trapped or isolated. While these feelings may not be entirely reliable, they tell me about the state of my soul. They move me to empathy, to explore other perspectives, to lean into confusion and pain. They also warn me against becoming trapped in patterns which only lead to self-destruction. These feelings push me to connect with loving people, beautiful places and peaceful practices.

I want to do something but rage is not the fuel for this fire. Love is. Love is. But I damn sure don’t feel loving right now. Normally this is where I withdraw and practice all my escapism and distraction rituals. But I’m not going to do that. Not this time. I’m learning new ways to engage with the world, in love, as it is. Even on tough days, like today.

Maybe it’s a cop-out to make this confession and then send you elsewhere, but if you are like me, feeling impotent, faceless rage and not sure how to dispel the overwhelming despair, then you need to read these words from Brian Zahnd as much as I did.

It’s ok to cry while you read it. Sometimes it helps.

“When the risen Christ appeared to his disciples, with the wounds of his suffering still visible, he did not say, “Let us rage against Rome and the Sanhedrin.” No, Jesus spoke a word from elsewhere. He spoke the first word of the new world. He said, “Peace be with you.” And in due course these earliest of disciples turned the Roman world upside down by embodying the Pax Christi, a transcendent peace that exposed the Pax Romana for the empty propaganda that it was.

So here is my advice for those of us who inhabit this age of rage.”

Read the rest of this beautiful message here.

Loving the world as it is, no matter the news cycle

I never used to care about the news. Granted, this is a pretty short sighted way of living in the world. But I vaguely remember a time when I assumed most things would continue working as they are always have. This was before I became aware of a larger world view (I know this is privilege at its finest, but the best we can do is admit our weaknesses and mistakes and move forward). Suffice it to say, I lived blissfully unaware of so many things for a long time.

Perhaps, for some of us, this is the trade we make when we are in the trenches of parenting. When our family needs demand our attention for most of our waking hours – and many of our sleeping ones – there simply isn’t time or room or strength to face the world as it is. So we build mental constructs of how it should be so we can feel comfortable, and we live as though those things were true. Maybe that’s privilege speaking as well, I cannot say for certain. It has been my experience, anyway.

Last year arrived like a landslide, children becoming adults, and going off to school. Politics became…what they are now. And I? I found myself facing a whole reality which I hadn’t realized was keeping pace with my tidy little family life. my fairly uncomplicated existence.

Enter despair, uncertainty and, with a flare of trumpets, my codependency. When I can’t count on anything else she will fix, change or justify by any means necessary to make the world a peaceful place again. Honestly, I’ve spent most of my life trying to tidy things up so they look pretty in a box – with a bow. I practically have a PhD in dysfunction.

Fortunately, I’m learning to be more whole-hearted now, which means codependency has to take a back seat. She’s not so great at fixing broken world systems anyhow. It’s easy to cover up a few bad personal choices, but genocide and hate crimes are harder to explain away.

So here I am, looking at this great, big, beautiful world and all the people in it. I can’t fix it, these systems, the climate, the violence and hatred and war. I can’t explain away the despots and warlords, the nationalistic rhetoric of a handful of power hungry madmen – and a few mad women- who would shape this fragile globe according to their nightmare vision.

As much as I want to, I can’t check out either. I can’t pretend this isn’t happening. My eyes are open now. I can’t close them again and remain true to my soul. So the question I ask myself every day is this: how do I love the world without fixing it?

The Kingdom of God will come – not everywhere at once, not suddenly, but gradually, like a seed growing in a field, like yeast spreading in a lump of bread dough, like light spreading across the sky at dawn. – Brian McLaren

We can’t fix the world. But we can make it better. Each of us in small and not-so-small ways. This week do your part for love, truth and beauty. – Diane Butler Bass

Both of these quotes entered my life this morning in different ways and right on time. Maybe I can’t stay away from the news. And I’ll probably have to keep meditating on account of my rage. I’ll definitely keep contacting my representatives on the daily. But I am not powerless to enact change. Perhaps not on a global scale, but on an even more intimate level.

I can create change in the world face-to-face. I can give birth to mercy, kindness, compassion and inclusion here, on the very ground where I stand. The Divine in me can bleed out of my fingertips and off of my tongue into a world desperate for something beautiful.

Even if no one sees it, especially if no one sees it.

I can rewrite the curse of original sin with a reminder of deeper, more permanent truth: original blessing. Starting here. Starting now. Today.

Lovely things: Something Fun Sunday Ep. 5

Today is the last day of birthday week (it is, however, only day 4 of birthday month). Many things about this week have been wonderful and lovely. I’m prone to introspection as it is, but this week always adds an extra measure. Introspection can be a double edged sword, though, and some of this week has been wrestling with unlovely things as well. Wrestling isn’t a bad thing, as long as you know when to set it down and walk away. This is a skill I am improving.

I wrestled with what to share this week. “Fun” seems as though it, perhaps, should be a giggle-fest, but this week’s thoughts are more gentle and healing than entertaining. However, they bring me joy and joy is fun, after a fashion. Most importantly, I get to define fun in my own space, so these things are fun for me.

I’ve been playing with various forms of bullet journaling for the last six months with varying degrees of success. I love the freedom of writing what I want, where I want, however I want, but my inner perfectionist struggles with the more rigid pages like calendars and daily schedules. For my birthday, my husband gave me a Nomatic Planner. It has all the freedom of the bullet journal, with pre-formatted pages for the more rigid planning. I love it. LOOOOOOOOVE it.

To accompany my planner, I signed up for an online journaling class (thanks some of my birthday money from mom) from one of my favorite bloggers. Write to Flourish registration closes today, but it’s a good price for a short class. I’m a hit or miss , but I’d like to be more hit, and more focused when I do. I consider this class an investment in myself, something I need to do more often.

I also received the pocket copy of Shane Claiborne’s Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. I’ve had the digital copy for a bit, but I find with my prayer books and Bible, I really want a book to hold in my hand. I’ve already made much use of this Prayer for life Transition:

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life, to organize myself in the direction of simplicity. Lord, teach me to listen to my heart; teach me to welcome change instead of fearing it. Lord, I give you these stirrings inside me. I give you my discontent. Igive you my restlessness. I give you my doubt. I give you my despair. I give you all the longings I hold inside. Helps me to listen to those signs of change, of growth; help me to listen seriously and follow where they lead through the breathtaking space of an open door.

Isn’t that lovely? It certainly gives words to my scattered thoughts lately.

I also read a lot of books this week, all of them lovely in their own way. You can read about that here.

Finally, I am in the process of setting up a bi-weekly, or monthly email. I’m still working out the details. Previously, when I did this, it was simply a digest of the past week’s posts, but this won’t be formatted that way. It will be sort of newsy and personal. A way to communicate without throwing everything out into the social media sphere. Heck, it will be an adventure for us all. If you think you want to actually hear more words from me, you can sign up below. It will be about ten days before I send out my first email.

Have a lovely week filled with fun things, friends! I am so grateful for you.

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MWF seeks spiritual community outside denomination

I was on Facebook today, you know, perfecting the fine art of procrastination. I saw some friends posting the results of a silly quiz, “What denomination are you?” Because I fit in no religious box lately, I decided to take it too. The results didn’t actually surprise me, Quaker. I mean, I am a pacifist who prefers a quieter, more introspective service. Then again, I’m not entirely comfortable with that label either. I’m a misfit who’s not sure how to undenominate herself, or how to find a new way to express faith in community when you do.

Maybe it’s easier to walk away when you’re disgusted by the religion show, but I this isn’t how I feel. Despite all my deconstruction, I still have a deep, abiding faith. I still believe in the importance of living faith in community. In fact, of all the things I am unsure about, these are the two things I can express with some degree of certainty.

I have faith, or faith has me, or both mixed together.

I’m in search of a community to give and receive support, encouragement, dinner, conversation, disagreement, accountability, joy, laughter, pain, tears, life and death.

I also need a community that’s comfortable with questions, doubts and difference of opinion, is more focused on the Kingdom than heaven and hell and practices radical acceptance.

I find glimpses of it here and there, friends who I know are searching too. But we seem to be all spread out, across cities and even across countries.  It’s a comfort to know they’re there, but it’s also difficult to deliver dinner when life is unkind.

Also, I don’t actually know any Quakers.

They don’t really make want-ads for this sort of thing: MWF recovering from trauma seeks spiritual community. Must have an open mind about vegetarianism, recovery, sexuality, politics and books – especially books. Liturgy preferred, kindness essential.

It doesn’t even fit on a t-shirt.

By the way, as a recovering codependent, I like to add to this sense of disconnect a layer of guilt for being too much, too difficult, too discontent, too picky and too unworthy to hope for this sort of community. Better for everyone if I just learn to get along with the moral majority instead of rocking the boat with my heretical opinions.

Ah, recovery: taking one day at a time, living one moment at a time, accepting that this is the pathway to peace…

So what will we do? We who wander and wonder, who cry when we meet a kindred spirit in unexpected places? How do we find each other without want-ads or t-shirts to identify us?

If I had easy answers, I wouldn’t need to blog.

I guess we watch, and listen. We extend as much grace as we hope to receive, and then a little extra just in case. I always end up needing more grace than I planned for, anyway.  And just for good measure, feel free to reply to my want-ad. There’s always room in the “we don’t fit anywhere” pew for one more.

Liturgy for an Anxious Heart

I’m mentally composing a blog about how liturgy has been an anchor for my faith. But today I am emotional soup for a thousand different reasons. My heart is anxious, and I’m emotionally dry. So instead of writing about liturgy, I’m writing actual prayers instead.  So, I give you, liturgy for an anxious heart.

Lord of peace and mercy,
We ask for peace which passes understanding,
For paths beside still waters,
For the restoration of the soul which only you provide.
We ask for eyes to see your goodness and mercy following us
All the days of our lives.

Abba, give us peace to be still,
Wisdom to disregard the propaganda and the rumors of war,
Grace and joy overflowing to share
Through the halls of our workplaces and the rooms of our homes.

Sustainer of creation, you are the one who brings hope
Who turns our stony heart to living flesh.
May we not turn from the refugee, the suffering, the poor, the undesirable.
Replace our eyes with your vision for justice
that we may see in your beloved children
The image of the divine
In the unlovely,
The discarded and unwanted
In the enemy who threatens us with harm.

If we walk the valley of the shadow of death
in the name of your love
Help us not be afraid
But walk gently onward ever closer to your heart.

Lord may we not look to a future in your heavenly kingdom,
But live in it, today, where we are.
Let us bring heaven to earth.
May we be conduits of heavenly justice and restoration,
Giving birth to divine love every place our feet fall,
May hope spring up from the ground beneath us, the rocks cry out,
The trees clap their hands in recognition of the Living God within us.

May our focus on the eternal not be for our reward after death,
But in our present circumstances.
As kingdom breathers and kingdom bringers
Let goodness and mercy dwell with us and in us
May they pour from our wounds as your blood poured out also.
Let justice roll like a river over every person we encounter.
May we be called ridiculous, scandalous, rebellious
As we seek to open the kingdom to all who those who have lost sight of mercy.
May we tear the curtains of this world, opening wide the most holy spaces.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Amen