Our Lady of Junction
So There I was… Halfway across the state of Texas working on a spiritual discipline. I am mildly allergic to the entire concept of discipline. It smacks of work. It stinks of tedium. These things do not call to me.
But I do desire to be a deeply spiritual person. Not the kind of pop-faith consumer who has a new guru or path with every season. I am ready to settle down: to choose one path and stick to it, and spend the second half of my life mastering it. To do this I am afraid that I must practice a spiritual discipline or two. The purpose of practicing any spiritual discipline is twofold: to aerobically exercise the soul and to increase awareness of The Divine. The traditional practices of prayer, fasting, simplicity, and so on, have great merit, and I occasionally work at them.
I have found a new discipline that suits me, and stretches me in ways I never thought possible. It is the discipline of Spiritual Adventure. The Discipline of Spiritual Adventure is not just simple thrill seeking, but the intentional choosing of the less certain way in order to allow the Divine maximum room to move.
When we are outside of our comfort zone, when we are on an unknown path, our senses are heightened, including our spiritual senses that so often lay dormant as we proceed through life on autopilot. We pay more attention to detail. We are aware of, and communicate our thoughts and desires, more diligently to our Designer. We listen better. Choice is an essential piece of Spiritual Adventure. We must acknowledge, embrace, and take responsibility for the freedom we are given as eternal children of a Divine Creator. An adventure that is not freely chosen is a detour at best, and sometimes a nightmare.
Many of us use our freedom to so fill our lives with busyness, structure and control that there is no room for adventure. We do this almost with out thinking, unconsciously barricading our life against the unknown. But I tell you, it is still choice; it is intentional, and intention counts. It is not a spiritual adventure if you are treading a well-worn path. Fresh road is required. Navigating not by memory, but by a combination of reason and trust.
To practice this discipline you must become aware of crossroads when you come to them. Often they are not marked or obvious. Daily we make decisions that will change our entire future; often it is only in hindsight that we see it. The discipline of Spiritual Adventure says that we can develop foresight and a present awareness that allows us to be fully conscious participants in our choices. And beyond that it tells us that the universe is trustworthy and that we can renounce fear, and trust our Creator and our own spiritual senses to keep us away from real disaster when we choose uncertain paths. A crossroads is a pivotal place where fear wrestles with obedience. It is one of the best places I know of to develop discernment, or wisdom listening. But we do not seek this discipline purposeless, we seek it with the desire, the craving, to see with our own eyes the movement, influence, and evidence of the Divine.
We can only see this when we get our plans, agendas and ourselves out of the way. There are no preplanned spaces in my calendar for miracles. Spiritual adventure can be fun, but often it isn’t. It is always stretching. Even a genuine miracle can be scary at the time -- just ask Jonah. It doesn’t always feel safe, but practiced properly it is safe. In fact, it is much safer than living a spiritually unaware, unawake life.
risk taking is betting on your luck, or your skill; and like any bet
the odds can be good, or the shot can be a long one. Spiritual Adventure
presumes that there is another player, and that the other has your true
best interests as its goal and guiding principle. This is an essential
truth: yes, the house always wins, but you and the house have intimate
In Loco Parentis
I was married on my twentieth birthday. Back in the Mesozoic Era (1977). On that day my parents ceased to have any legal authority over me, they no longer had legal parental care responsibilities for me, and would not have been the first choice to make legal or medical decisions on my behalf if need be. All those rights and responsibilities conveyed to my 24 year old husband. When my father walked me down the aisle and handed me over to the young man of my youthful choice, the symbolism was real. For one year there were certain ways in which he was both my spouse and legal parent. I thought getting married would make me an adult - I wasn't prepared for the ways in it would continue my childhood.
We were students in New Mexico (where I once again live.) When the college had a river-rafting field trip - I could not sign my own liability waiver - he had to sign a permission slip for me. I thought that was kind of funny.
I was not old enough to buy alcohol, but in any restaurant in the state he could say "...and I would like to buy a margarita for my wife." and no questions were asked. I had a ring on my left hand. If we ever did get carded - they carded him - not me - because my age did not matter if he was buying for me. I could have been sixteen, and if legally married - which my father could have consented to - I could drink - or not - as my husband wished. The legal doctrine for this is In Loco Parentis - he was legally acting in the place of a parent. In New Mexico at that time - a Pater Familias could put wine on the table and pour out to the children - he decided how much they could handle. I thought it was kind of cool to have what I thought were adult privileges early.
When I was a single girl, especially a white girl, I could open a bank account - I had one in Illinois when I was a child, and got checks made when I was 16. At 18 they added a question - to all women opening accounts - "Are you married?" because if you were, you needed your husband's signature. Hmm.
Shortly after the wedding I went down to the women's clinic and had a check up and asked for birth control pills. "Are you married? oh, then we need your husband to fill out and sign this form saying he approves." This time it did not matter if I was was 20 or 21. I did not like this one bit - but I had him fill out the form.
Ten years, and two children later - Now in Oregon, I told my doctor that I was satisfied with two children and wanted to have my tubes tied. My doctor wanted assurances that my husband was also satisfied. Then or now, a man can walk into his doctor's office and ask for a vasectomy and no one else's opinion matters.
In 2005 after my father's passing and receiving my inheritance, I asked my bank for a credit card in my own name. They wanted my husband to co-sign. But my rights had changed by this time and I made a stink, and quoted law, and got my own line of credit. What I did not know was that inheritance did not count as marital property - I could have put that money away in an account in my own name, but I did not. My inheritance got spent on marital expenses and was gone by the time of the divorce 2 years later.
Rights, as it turns out are temporal, and sometimes fragile. You can't buy booze for kids in a restaurant in New Mexico anymore. And as of this year, a women's fertility may not be in her own control.
There is a contingent of misogynistic, patriarchal people in this country (and they are not all men,) who want to turn back time. Make sure that women can only marry men. Make sure that men control women's finances and fertility. They would prefer that women don't vote. They would make women legally children if they could. Maybe even decide if they can get a drink.
We are not so far from having women who appear to be of child bearing age being denied alcohol, or plane tickets, because they 'might' be pregnant and the decision should not be theirs to make.
Ten years ago, deep in the Obama years, I would have laughed at this notion.
I am not laughing any more.
Because I remember being a married child.
Albuquerque, New Mexico is high desert. It is at the tippy top of the Chihauhuan Desert which is mostly in Mexico, but flows up the Rio Grande Valley. This allows a wonderful, miraculous thing to happen every summer. Just when the summer gets really hot and unbearable, moisture flows into Mexico from the Gulf to the East, or the Gulf to the West, and flows landward; it hits the mountains and mixed with all the heat, forms thunder heads which rain on the dry lands. Because of the mountains of the continental divide, this weather pattern comes north into Arizona and New Mexico. It doesn't really so much move, like storms across the great plains - it blossoms, it bubbles up, and then it pours down.
The people who have lived here the longest call these the male rains. They are blustery, and involve a lot of lighting and thunder. Winter rains, female rains, are less dramatic. Winter rains are also more prudent, and stockpile in the mountains in the form of snow and feed the valleys for months. And just when that winter bounty runs out, the noisy, fast, loud rains come. This is when you need to stay out of the arroyos. Believe the Earth. When you see what looks like a riverbed, believe it is a riverbed at least sometimes. If you pitch you tent on that nice flat sandy ground, when the daddy rains come he can make you very sorry.
The National Weather Service calls these rains monsoons. They are regular and yet notoriously difficult to predict in the specific. They can be very specific. Your neighbor an acre away can be experiencing a microburst that drops a couple of inches of rain in minutes and might include hail. You can watch this from sun-drenched, thirsty ground. Today may not be your day - tomorrow you may be bailing out the garage. We are on the edge of a Mesa with a view of the mountain. She gets wet more often than we do. We watch her and try not to be envious.
The first rain, whenever it come to you, is joyous. If you are oriented to your place, you go out and stand in it, or even dance a bit.
Every day we watch for the clouds to build. The monsoon is like a toddler working up to a fit. Sometimes he gets distracted, and calms down. Sometime he reaches full torment. Sometimes it's over the top and gets destructive. You never know.
You plant your beans and corn and squash and you hope.
But this you should know. You can't do anything about it. You can stay out of the arroyos, but you cannot make the rain come to your beans. This is a higher power. The oceans and the mountains and the deserts are old hands at this. This is an earth loving - life giving - somewhat dangerous - process. You can pray, and hope, and dance. But it is not about you. You cannot control it. Life itself is not really controlling this.
But I tell you,
love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of God.
God who causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
- Jesus, according to Matthew.