hell yeah, laughter

laughter. the best medicine. i’ve long believed in this.

back in the day, as a crisis counselor working with survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, i was often in awe of how much laughter there was in trauma care. in the darkest moments of a person’s life, how easy it was–how healing!–to find such pure joy. and through laughter, a return to our wholeness. both the survivor’s and mine. a communal act of healing.

last friday, when church folks gathered as we do each week in the name of Christ and in commitment to the work of racial reconciliation and healing, we found the presence of God to be angry. there was rage in facing the truth of who we are! in witnessing on a national–world!–stage such sin (as in “sin=separation from God”). as facilitator, i dared to drop the f-bomb. it felt good! it was real! it was true! and it brought laughter. there, joy in the pain. light in the darkness.

tonight, during an Epiphany bible study, as we read scripture and reflected on times we’ve judged others and turned away from God’s presence, laughter came as we showed up in our messy, humanness…humble and longing.

i know that with laughter, i experience a holy presence.

returning to a text that i’ve been reveling in lately, Yunkaporta’s Sand Talk, i found this juicy bit on just this thing: “If people are laughing, they are learning. True learning is a joy because it is an act of creation.”

i love this. and i would add that the same is true for weeping.

but let’s stay with laughing for the moment.

because yeah, the world right now.

joy as an act of creation?!?! yessss.

years ago, i was having a very deep and serious “leadership review” with a colleague. it was my role in the organization to check in with team members to take their pulse on their health and wellness in the org and to also take the pulse of the org.

these conversations always felt so vulnerable, with folks trusting me with their truths–hard to do in professional settings. so here we were. she began: “i am really, truly happy. happier than i’ve been in a long time.” she went on to share a bit about why…and then, before we knew it, she arrived here: “i am deeply depressed.”

it took a moment. and then…

we both died laughing.

i mean, we DIED laughing. so hard, for so long.

so TRUE. so REAL. so HUMAN.

i was there with her and she knew it. we both did.

i’ll never forget that. laughter as the thing that revealed our connection, our humanity. it revealed Truth in a new way that changed everything. Truth in the complexity of Truth–where there are multiple and even opposing truths at once.


and now, in times of such national chaos and collapse, isn’t it a miracle that we can find laughter? that it finds us?

that’s the way of Spirit. the way of Love.

always there, to bring us home.

the land’s workin’ me

i awoke this morning and got that today was a day of solitude. a day of carefully turning inward.

what a week. on Epiphany, an attempted coup by white nationalists + the rise of Black leadership in Georgia; volatility growing amidst increasing political divides + calm organizing amongst peace-makers and spiritual activists; meg returning to “school” + thomas claiming his own; my letting go of old ways of working + taking my seat fully as an independent contractor; moving forward with the land (now under signed contract!) that on one hand allows for more certainty, while on the other, revealing more uncertainty.

so, yes. a day of solitude.

turned to a new book a friend gifted me (thank you, Quanita), Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta.

perfect, divine timing.

it’s the sort of book that stirs you from the beginning–this is going to be a ride. there’s a play with the English language that is disorienting and invigorating, life seeping into the word-shells. like he refuses the word “we” (who is that anyway, he asks). instead, he uses what he calls the dual first-person “us-two”. come on!

i come to this juicy bit:

Any discussion of Indigenous Knowledge systems is always a polite acknowledgement of connection to the land rather than true engagement. It is always about the what and never about the how. I want to reverse that phenomenon. I want to use an Indigenous pattern-thinking process to critique contemporary systems and to impart an impression of the pattern of creation itself.

yesss! now i get what’s been working me.

as we move forward with the land, i’m feeling tension around the “how”. wanting clarity and wisdom, i’ve tried (for the first time in my life!) sourcing financial planning + investment + real estate advisors. the insight offered by such eurocentric, capitalistic forms of “expertise” has helped to reveal to me that i’m working from a different paradigm.

Yunkaporta helps me understand why: because i want to become indigenous.

he writes that “an Indigenous person is a member of a community retaining memories of life lived sustainably on a land base, as part of that land base.”

of course the current systems do not offer insight into the questions i’m asking now: how can we enter a mutual relationship with the land in way that honors and grows the relationship? how might i understand investment in the land in reciprocal terms? as a covenant with the land as opposed to a contract? like a marriage in which each party vows to offer what they have in a process of co-creation?

i am not interested–no, more than that!–i am repulsed by the positioning of the land as a commodity, a thing of productivity. i’m choosing relational over transactional. i am interested in creating balance in the human story of colonialism. the earth is waiting.

while i don’t have the answers to “how”, these questions will guide us.

christmas 2020

Last week, my dad stopped by unexpectedly to drop off Christmas gifts, masked. As he cracked open the door and hollered into our home what he was doing, sadness overcame me. I grieved touching and hugging on him; I grieved our sacred family traditions; I grieved for my children, for my beloveds, for me, for all of us. Tears spilled, washing and moving and making room. They spilled into my next zoom meeting…and kept spilling.

And making room for my honest tender-heartedness with colleagues in that moment; later, candles sprinkled throughout our home; a new DIY Christmas Celebration Howton-style around the fire with songs and stories and poetry; too much cookie dough that is still taking up too much room in the fridge; unexpected joys and surprises and wonder–unimaginable gifts that I didn’t even know to dream of.

My youngest, Meg, learned the truth about Santa this year. She’s eleven. It was time. And like all of 2020, this truth came with loss: Santa doesn’t look like what she’d imagined all her childhood. And, this truth came with gifts: Santa doesn’t look like what she’d imagined all her childhood. 

mary, divine mother

© Magdalena Walulik 

mary has been always been a presence in my life.

born at st mary’s hospital, brought up in st. mary’s church, attended marian heights academy for high school, st. mary’s college, now living on madonna place…she keeps hanging around.

and yet, i’m still getting to know her.

the past couple of weeks, she’s been with me. i’ve felt her presence, drawing me ever more closely to her. imagining her pregnant with child, pregnant with possibility, reaching out her hand to me, “come, child.”

after all, i’ve been pregnant with possibility, too. as is our world.

there are truths about mary that strike me differently this year. truths that feel so profound that uttering them feels dangerous. truths that must begin first as a soul’s stirring and then in their crescendo, shake the ground beneath my feet in their proclamation.

mary’s faithful surrender: mary opens her heart to possibility, knowing that there is a far greater story than the one bound by her human body, her human conditions. her knowing, allows for a yes.

mary’s joy and fear: mary does not deny her fear; she does not turn away it from and try to avoid it. she leans in. she goes to her friend, elizabeth, to be in community, to be held, to be together. and there, she finds joy. she brings joy.

mary’s prophetic voice for love and justice: mary’s birthing of possibility brings forth Truth for her that is undeniable. in the face of brutal imperialism, oppression, injustice, she dares to speak–SING!–of a Kingdom of God that was always, already present. her song, the magnificat feels as outrageously bold today as i imagine it did when she sang it.

how dare she?!

this from a teenage, Jewish, refugee girl pregnant and unmarried and considered by the empire to be among the lowliest of the lowely.

mary isn’t the only who has sung this song, at least the essence of it. it’s been sung since the beginning of time by others who went before her and others who have come since. others who dare to believe in the possibility of Love that is not bound by the human conditions that the world hands down to us. the conditions that dictate what “power” and “freedom” look and feel like. these bold leaders and martyrs and prophets and disciples know that there is a much grander Love story available…if we choose.

these stories, these lives are so very threatening.

and because they are, they are often snuffed out too soon. they remove the veil on the lies we’ve been told and bought into, like removing the veil on Oz. the empire will not tolerate these Truths.

and let’s be clear: the empire lives in each of us. we can be our own worst enemy.

i could feel my bit of internal empire alive today as a group gathered in our deepening commitment to become beloved community. we sat in presence to mary and God’s invitation to dare to imagine possibilities, to be in joy in the time of waiting. mary’s life–her choosing–rubbed up against us and the stories passed down to us. questions began to surface around “what really went down”, “what is the full story?”

i could hear myself asking of myself, “how dare you imagine?”

if we can stay with this uneasiness and simply imagine…if we dare to imagine…then we find Love, we find Joy, we find Truth. Always already, here.

mary–in both her flesh and as a symbol–shines the light on the power within each of us to choose and the freedom and responsibility that comes with that choosing.

(thanks to Rev Phyllis Spiegel for sharing this inspiring essay by Debie Thomas, Mary’s Song)