Steadfastness does not receive muchattention in our larger culture. We are awash in stories and images of what is fleeting, of break-ups and short-term triumphs. The courage and discipline of the steadfast only rarely is recognized, but we yearn for those stories, for year after year a handful of them are made and nourish our spirits troubled by a pervasive sense of live in a world dominated by the values of greed and getting ahead lest we be left behind. 40 Moms, 40 Messages was six weeks of daily encouragement to help LGBTQ folks tap into a network of caring and compassion at a time of year when so many feel abandoned and alone. My Immigration Story challenges us not to abide in a place of fearing our neighbors and family, but of knowing our neighbors' and our family members' stories, helping us choose to abide in compassion and not in fear.
Social media is often rapped for encouraging the losses, which is silly, since there are all kinds of people practicing night after night and day after day steadfast presences of compassion, love, generosity, wisdom, attention, healing, and encouragement through social media. Some of them even have lots of followers or might be celebrities. The vast majority, though, are regular people remembering we are all each other's neighbors, that we have responsibilities to one another and to this earth. And many of them find that value grounding through their spiritual and religious traditions.
We can abide anywhere. Whether we choose to dwell in the presence of surprising wonder, with gratitude, with kindness, with generosity, with forgiveness, and strengthening positive connections or whether we choose to abide in fearfulness, rage, corrosive scorn, and other signs of despair and feeling that we are insufficient to the day, is up to us. There are people who undergo terrible things, who are facing violence and oppression every day, yet who choose to extend sanctuary from their hearts into this world. There are people who have life relatively easy, who have a lot and who can only perceive how little they have, who struggle with self-esteem, who feel they have no choice.
I used to be in the latter group. I realized I wanted to be in the former one. When I first started choosing a more open-hearted way, I did not then trust I had a choice, but since I was miserable anyway, what did I have to lose?
What do we have to lose if we try to live open-heartedly? If we're already on the cusp of perishing, why not try life-affirming?
This week's lection includes Psalm 27, one of the songs of refuge, a prayer of courage to abide. I think Psalm 27 is a prayer for those risking faithfully to stretch into, imagine, and help create a world that is more compassionate, more loving, and more generous, a world where we help one another and restore the desecrated and devastated places. Why?
Because there are still adversaries - inside our own hearts and in the world at large - we need spiritual practices that help us stay connected to other open-hearted people and to our sense of strength and wisdom from transforming love. There are people who make money out of suffering and whose livelihoods are sustained by devastating places and communities. There are all kinds of messages to eviscerate our spirits, to cause us to question whether we really matter, to doubt that we have gifts for goodness, to turn us away from our calling from the better angels of our nature.
One of the reasons I turn to Witness.org regularly is to attend to how many people are documenting and sharing and calling each other to human rights abuses and climate injustice. A recent blog on citizen video explains to journalists how to utilize the power of people connecting with each other in these routes outside of big business media to tell better stories and more meaningful ones, calling us to connect. That's an invitation for transformation, because Witness.org is encouraging the people who end up telling the majority of destructive stories to connect to a network of people advocating for and creating positive change.
Spiritual practices help us connect to our calling, our inherent worth, and each other. That's why my spiritual practices include social media, because there are few tools to help us connect positively so widely available today, thanks to public computers at public libraries that allow access to blogs and Pinterest and Facebook and social media like Twitter that work via text messaging for the great many who do not have internet access. Furthermore, practicing steadfast connection through social media teaches me to pay stronger and better attention not to the stories that shatter our spirits, but to find and attend to the stories of the open-hearted. Like prayer and meditation for me, practicing connecting via social media helps me abide in the land of the open-hearted, and making choosing a life-affirming way easier, moment by moment and day by day.
Whether, like me, you're engaged in Lenten practices, or not, I encourage you today to make some life-affirming connections, to choose compassion, generosity, and your better nature. Some of us have mighty obstacles and long histories that make this choice difficult, but it is one that can still be made, and will become easier the more you connect with others living that same decision. Why not give it a try? We only have pain, dissolution, distraction, and despair to lose.