Holy Human Communion

I wrote this a couple years ago but never shared it. It was a little raw and rough at the time:

I’ve been full of fear lately. My kids are struggling.  It’s more than that – they are suffering from loneliness. It’s not like I want them to fit into this crazy world, but I long for them to have connection. Some days this completely breaks me.

2 nights ago, I couldn’t settle down. I went for 3 things that might bring me a little quick comfort – bread hot from the oven, a goblet of red wine and Netflix (yep, I’m super healthy and self-actualized).

I grabbed half a loaf of hot french bread and my wine and headed for my room, but before I could get Netflix loaded, I just lost it. Sobbed and screamed into a pillow and asked God where He was, if He was. Then I ripped off a hunk of that delicious bread and took a gulp from my goblet… and He was there. I can’t explain exactly what that felt like, but I knew Jesus was right there in that room with me.

Take this bread, my body, broken for you. Take this wine, my blood, willingly given for your rescue, for your heart and your connection.

Jesus stands with us in emptiness and despair and offers us not a solution, but his deep and abiding presence in every type of circumstance.

That night, I had communion with God in a way I never had before – holy, human communion. I raised my fists fighting, and He took that as an opportunity to wrap loving arms around my aching body and bruised heart. My confusion met with His peace. My sorrow collided with his boundless compassion. 


“…in the Eucharist you have the most amazing symphony of complete presence based on the ultimate absence and the ultimate kind of emptiness.” ~John O’Donohue, Walking in Wonder


 

An Excellent Reading List, Revised

I read so many books last year, I had to update. Still would love to hear from any of you what you books you are loving!

100 or So of my All-Time Favorites

Sorted by genre, in no particular order…

Novels and Stories:

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Godric by Frederick Buechner

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (whole Kingsbridge series)

Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck

Hawaii by James A. Michener

The Alchemist  by Paulo Coelho

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

Howards End by E.M. Forster

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (everything by Jane Austen)

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Elenor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

 

Science Fiction / Fantasy / Mythology:

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Wrinkle in Time Series by Madeleine L’Engle

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy

Cross Roads & Eve by William Paul Young

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

His Dark Materials series and Book of Dust series by Philip Pullman

Ender’s Game (whole series) by Orson Scott Card

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Circe by Madeline Miller

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Leaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

 

Science:

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

Finding God in the Waves by  Mike McHargue (science and memoir)

 

Wisdom and Poetry:

Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon

Devotions by Mary Oliver

Becoming Wise by Krista Tippett

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Healing the Wounded Heart by Dan Allender

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard (and Maytrees)

Walking in Wonder by John O’Donohue

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

The Pocket Pema Chodron by Pema Chodron

Rumi: The Big Red Book: The Great Masterpiece Celebrating Mystical Love and Friendship by Coleman Barks

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith

Spiritual / Christian:

Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning

Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner

A Grief Observed, The Great Divorce, and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Love Does by Bob Goff

A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken

Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen (also The Way of the Heart)

Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer

Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr (also The Divine Dance & Breathing Under Water)

A Hidden Wholeness by Parker J. Palmer

Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor (also Leaving Church)

Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris

Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott

Disciplines for the Inner Life by Bob and Michael W. Benson

Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Richard Foster

A Way other than Our Own by Walter Brueggemann

How I Found God in Everyone and Everywhere: An Anthology of Spiritual Memoirs edited by Andrew M. David and Philip Clayton

Learning the Vocabulary of God by Frank Charles Laubach

Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle

 

History, Biography, Memoir:

A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Night by Elie Wiesel

Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

On Writing by Stephen King

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Educated by Tara Westover

If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie

 

Mystery series authors:

Dorothy Sayers

Agatha Christie

P.D. James

Patricia Cornwell

Scott Pratt

Louise Penny

Nevada Barr

Stephen King

Migration Celebration

The first of the migratory birds are showing their bold colors. Here’s a little poem to celebrate.

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Kinglet with a Golden Crown

A bright stripe of gold pops through a grayish-blue day

     On cue, announcing your presence with careless joy

          Rightly judge me as slow and gentle –

               As a creature deeply tied to gravity

 

     In safety and laughter you jump ever faster

          From leaf, to limb, to trunk

               Pause on occasion to pose and show

 

           Your bold, lucky colors – even in winter

                You’re something to behold

Unready, Unsteady

I spent last week sorting through thousands of family photos, which explains this week’s burst of parenting poetry. As I told my Aunt Lisa, the writing keeps me sane. I’m posting as I write, so no doubt this will see some editing in the future. I write a lot about vulnerability, so I’m trying to practice what I preach and put it out there. Maybe there is a parent in the thick of it who will relate.

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Unready, Unsteady

I wanted it, wanted you

Wanted to know

If I could love

If I could matter

 

The flutter surprised

A minnow released

In the quick changing bump

Of my young, nervous belly

 

Only thirty-six weeks

Not the forty they promised

I was unready – really

Who could be ready?

 

You took what I had

My time, mind, and sleep

What was left of my confidence

A trembly beginning

 

I did what I could

Did most of the things

Rock, sang, and fed

Did I love? Could I?

 

Worried and laughed

Tested and read

To understand need

To plan and protect

 

There is no place safe

In this world for a child

I watched them hurt you

Steal my favorite smile

 

Sat outside your door

2:30 a.m.

In a panic because

Your shell was too thin

 

Oh it was too thin

And your heart was too large

Your mind was too sharp

Taking everything in

 

You wanted to die

I understood why

I wanted to join you

My love was true

 

Love stays that hard

No relief, small reward

But most days we live

And most days we want to

 

~Alyson Hinkie, February 25, 2019

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The Hive

Parenting teens is not for wimps.

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The Hive

In close quarters of

The place you call prison

It is bound to happen

 

The wrong day, the wrong room

The wrong dress, the wrong face

A smile full of freedom

 

Angry hive, unattached, waiting

To land their desperate sting

A swarm with no queen to guide them

 

You stumble out

Alive but marked by

Fear and weak poison

 

Knowing tomorrow I will send you

To fly the same path and I

Will say ridiculous things

 

Like

 

They’re only bees

Lost insects – no mission

Thinking their job is to sting instead of

 

Spreading beautiful things

And I’ll say to you, “Love them,” for one day

They will make honey

 

~Alyson Hinkie, February 24, 2019

Observations from My Offspring

IMG_0265I wish I’d had my voice memo flipped on, because she said this better than I’m about to write it. And how I wish I’d understood this at 16, or at 40 for that matter!:/

On our long drive home from a miserable tennis tournament, this is what she said (have I mentioned that everyone should try to spend lots of side-by-side time in the car with their kids?):

“A couple years ago, it occurred to me that I spent most of the time thinking about myself: how I felt, what I needed or wanted, wondering if I did something right or wrong and what people thought of me. Then I thought: probably everyone else is also walking around mostly thinking about themselves. That meant they didn’t have much time to be thinking about me. So I was wasting my energy worrying so much about what other people thought about me.

At the same time, it does matter a lot what I say to people because most of them are like I used to be and might worry too much about what I think about them (even though I’m not really thinking about them much after that moment). Words that don’t mean much to me might mean more to them than I realize.

So, I try to be careful what I say and remind myself to take what others say with a grain of salt.”

Right on, girl.

We Don’t Know Much

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Bret and I finished watching the 2018 film First Man last night. What drama and cost of life it took us to land people on the moon! We haven’t been back since the year I was born because the expense is still astronomical. We know a lot more than we did 50 years ago about space, our own biology, physics, particle science – a lot of things. What grips me is considering what we don’t know.

According to World Atlas, humans have explored approximately 5% of our ocean’s floors and about 3% of the oceans in total. We have not seen 97% of our own oceans. Every time these brave divers go somewhere new – they find stuff that they thought would be impossible: molten sulfur pools at the bottom of the ocean (with creatures living right above them), underwater waterfalls, life where there should not be life.

Here is a fairly short video with some fun footage from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute: https://vimeo.com/264435524 – they are traveling deep with new 3-D technology, and my bet is there will be some explosive discoveries in the next few years. ON OUR VERY OWN PLANET.

Away from our planet, things get really crazy. 2 spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, have left the protective bubble of our sun called the heliosphere and are technically in interstellar space heading towards the outer reaches of the solar system. The outer boundary of our solar system is the Oort Cloud. The spacecrafts will run out of power around 2025, but if they could be endlessly powered, they would reach the inner edge of the Oort Cloud in 300 years and finally get beyond it in about 30,000 years. Yep – that’s just our solar system.

Scientists have confirmed 500 solar systems in our tiny neighborhood within the Milky Way, and they estimate that there are likely tens of billions or even hundreds of billions more solar systems in our galaxy alone. With the fastest travel on the “near” horizon (ion propulsion), it would take a spacecraft 81,000 years to reach the nearest star. The Milky Way contains between 200 and 400 billion stars, and there are approximately 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the known universe.

Assuming there is an average of 100 billion stars in each galaxy (probably low), there would be an estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 sextillion, if you’re wondering how to say it) stars in the universe. I know that number doesn’t even take an entire line of this post, but it’s big, people.

The next closest galaxy to the Milky Way is a mere 146,643,601,368,010,816 miles away.:) The farthest observed galaxy? It’s 76,254,048,000,000,000,000,000 miles away. Or it was. Since our universe is expanding and our visual information on said galaxy is 13.3 billion years old, well…

When I dip my brain in this sea of numbers, when I see videos of fish swimming on top of liquid sulfur lakes at the bottom of our ocean, it seems ridiculous to think that this universe is not teeming with life forms that far exceed our wildest sci-fi books. I suppose this makes me feel very small, but it also makes me feel a part of something very big. What about you?

Time to pull out C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy again.

 

 

Mama Bear Mary Gets Her Way

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I spent some time with the story of Jesus’s first miracle last week. In several books I read last year, authors referenced Ignatian Contemplation, or Imaginative Prayer. Sounds fancy, but it basically means putting yourself in the story. I was reading through John, and was stopped in my tracks by the interaction between Jesus and his Mom at a wedding party, so I decided to give Ignatian Contemplation a go.

Jesus had left his home and had been out collecting disciples. I have some idea of how Mary was feeling with her first born son suddenly pulling away from their family. It was likely a wedding of family friends, since they were both invited and made the effort to attend.

Mary was already there, likely with the mother of the groom (the groom’s family would have been in charge of the after-party), then in strides Jesus with a bunch of ragamuffin new friends. I wonder if there was a sudden mix of pride and a little embarrassment at what her old friends might think. It’s also interesting to consider how much the people in that room already knew about Jesus if he grew up around them. We aren’t privy to those stories, but don’t you know there were some good ones?

Mary suddenly realized that her friends were about to face a significant embarrassment of their own – no wine at their son’s wedding celebration – what would that signal to the bride’s family and to the community? She got the social implications in a heartbeat, and from her human perspective, there was a lot on the line.

Then, somehow, she and Jesus were in the kitchen. I’m guessing he was summoned. At least one of his new friends came along (the end of the passage states that “his disciples believed”, so someone was in on it). Mary was in a tizzy – probably familiar to Jesus. Did he roll his eyes in playful respect? “They are about to run out of wine!” she said. He knew exactly what she wanted. “It’s not my time yet,” he calmly replied.

She was having none of it, turned to the servants and said, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now this is really something – because either Jesus didn’t know it was his time (unlikely), or Mary, in her motherly determination, changed the mind of the man who was God in the flesh. I wonder if that is why we are told so often to pray – maybe God really wants to know what is important to us – maybe it changes things sometimes.

All of the both/ands of God can be confusing. He is sovereign and we are free. On that day, his sovereign plan came up against his mother’s fervent and free desire, and the God-man was moved. The sovereign plan shifted. Wow.

I love that his first miraculous interaction is such a human one and that it involved a want rather than a need. He saw their desire to celebrate as a holy thing. Humans enjoying wine together to rejoice in community was holy. It was very good.

I also love that the first people who interacted with miracle-performing-Jesus were the servants. They were the nobodies in the room, and the miracle was dependent on their help. The servants were his people. He loved his Mom. He wasn’t afraid of women in leadership.:) He loved his friends. He loved their small, yet complex, human hearts. And he loved good wine. Cheers.

Moon Mysteries

Throwing it back to a couple moon poems from the past in honor of last night’s astonishing beauty.img_9265

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kinder Light

Pale silver blue light

From the smaller globe

Birthed by ancient earth

Broken off and perfected by

Fire and force

Lopsided like my mind

At rest reflects illuminating

Ebbs and flows from within

For death follows life and life follows death

Not weak or less — only other

Strong in softness, because of softness

Sourced waves move tight in formation

Hugging the curves

Boring deep into places where

The wide red waves skip by

See the forest clear-eyed when

There is time and quiet for

Eyes and soul to adjust

Still, hold, ponder

Wander

Exposing the path without

Blinding the wild imagination

Disappearing, reappearing

Pain and joy

Groaning and laughter

The kinder light of the moon

Shines on without burning

 

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Night Sky Liturgy

I gazed upon the blood red moon

Hung bravely in planet shadow

Imaginations long grown fallow

The prophets of fear cry our doom

Words of desecration strewn

I brace my soul from their bellow

For though my deepest self may know

Lies oft repeated confound the truth

Spring free from the bitter minds

Grabbing power in others’ misery

Search fiercely for another kind

Whose hearts embrace the mystery

Poison words will make us blind

Tune fast to night sky liturgy

Connection in the Cracks

If I could give one gift to myself and all the people I love for the year of 2019, it would be connection.

A few days ago, my dear friend, Cindi, asked us to send her a word or sentence describing her husband, Len, in honor of his 60th. A lot of words came to mind, and I settled on “a man after God’s own heart” – or I could say “a couple after God’s own heart” when describing the 2 of them. I kept thinking about why I grabbed onto those words when I thought about them, and I think I’ve figured it out.

Len and Cindi are pretty amazing people. Most people would look at their lives and say, “Yeah – they are good people.” They probably didn’t spend too many days on God’s naughty list.:) But that’s not anything close to what I was thinking about.

When I go to their house, I always sleep well. I NEVER sleep well the first night I’m in any bed other than my own – except at the Woods’ house. It’s because I’m safe there. And I’m safe there because we are real. I described Len as a man after God’s own heart because of relationship. God is love, and God as three-in-one is relationship by essence, the ultimate definition of relationship. So in my book, a person who constantly seeks relationship, love, and connection is a person after God’s own heart.

Enlight174The best relationships are like a mountain. You keep climbing together, through all life’s challenges, over years of time, and the view just keeps getting better. Sometimes to get up a mountain, you have to climb a cliff. I’m not a good rock climber. Heights and upper body strength are not my thing, but I have done it enough to understand that the key to climbing a cliff is cracks in the rock.IMG_4601

Connections in friendships are like that – we connect in the cracks, the broken places. The cracks are the places where love has a way in. Vulnerability is the process of showing each other our cracks, scars, fears, and failures.  When we tell our stories and cry our tears together, we are shouting up the cliff face, “I’ve got you! You’re safely roped in, and your next foothold is about 2 feet to the left, 9 inches up.”

Our celebrity-drenched, social-media-driven society takes all those cliff faces and smooths them out. I LOVE all the Christmas cards I get every year, but I have to tell you – the filters just keep getting better. We show our smooth parts, our successes, who we want to be, who we think others want us to be, and often we leave no handholds for people to climb the mountain of friendship with us.

When we are struggling, there is a big temptation to cover it up with confidence and the veneer of achievement, but in doing that, we are shoving away the very people we need to connect with to help us in our struggle. What a vicious cycle!

I wrote an intimate song about connection after spending some time with a couple who met late in life and had no secrets about where they had come from. This is the kind of connection we want.

Scars

Completely uncovered, stripped down and unashamed

Unhindered affection in this sweet and strange late-life season

Not bothered by our yesterdays or scared of what’s to come

It’s just you and me darling – we’ve got love beyond all reason

C’mon and show me your scars now baby inside and out

Let me ease your darkened mind and lift up this burden of doubt

I’ll trace them with my little finger and fold them deep in my heart

It won’t erase our checkered past, but it’s a good place to start

You peel my layers slowly, with soft and tender care

My body worn and rounded I can safely bare

You don’t seem to mind – you need me a little bit broken

Old wounds begin to heal with deep mercy unspoken

So I’ll hold you tight with no desperation

And you’ll love me with wide open eyes

And we’ll walk this path together till the final fog

Laughing, grateful twilight lovers, you and I

Obviously, this involves romantic love, but I think that is beside the point. All lasting connections begin with love – love with eyes wide open for the friend or lover on vulnerable display. It’s knowing and being know. The lack of this is what is at the core of the political chaos, the spiritual divides, the loneliness that surrounds us.

I’m not sure what my exact steps will be when it comes to seeking and offering deeper connections this next year, but I am super excited about the views to come. If I get to any cool places, I’ll try to snap a photo and share it with you.:) I’m climbing alongside some precious friends these days.

And now… I’ll kick off the season of vulnerability by getting way out of my comfort zone and post the old, amateur, living-room MP3 of my song – if you’re interested. It’s not easy being vulnerable. I want to post the song sounding awesome, with a strong voice and better guitar skills. But alas, it’s a little cracked and weak in some spots, just like me, just as it should be.

“True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” ― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone