Today is World AIDS Day

Did you know that?

There is a giant red ribbon hanging on the front porch of the White House today.

December 1 is still World AIDS Day.  There still is no cure.  People still get sick and die because of AIDS.

People are also living much longer and are taking medicines that really do help slow the progress of the disease.

The drugs that work are very expensive and state and federal programs that help pay for them are in danger of being cut.

Sometimes the side effects and the dosing schedule are so difficult and intolerable that folks stop taking the drugs.

I spend a lot of time helping out at Higher Ground, a day center for people who are HIV positive.   It is a free-standing program of Triad Health Project, the local AIDS service organization.  Three days a week, every week, local churches and other groups provide lunch for 25-40 hungry clients and volunteers and the one paid staff person who tends the souls and cleans the toilets for all who come through the doors.

Higher Ground is a place of acceptance for many who have been turned away by family, churches, and friends.  Believe me when I say, God is in this place and miracles do happen here.  Like crack addicts who are able to stay clean and have their own apartments for the first time in their adult lives thanks to case managers at Triad Health Project and the support and love of peers at Higher Ground.  Or men like my friend Bill who has been HIV positive since the 1980’s.  He had a leg amputated above the knee a while back because of HIV complications and was back at “The House” a few weeks later, smiling.  Many volunteers over the years, from high school students to those of us with gray hair, have been profoundly touched by the courage and faith of the men and women who pass through Higher Ground.

Did you know all this was still happening?

Today, there is much more hope.  But AIDS is not gone.  If you can, please donate your time and/or money to a local AIDS service organization.  They still need you.

Triad Health Project’s vision statement:

We will stand together for as long as it takes until HIV/AIDS is no more, promoting enlightenment, dignity, acceptance, understanding, and love; demonstrating that we are not only enduring this epidemic, but also prevailing over it.




I was bad last night.  This morning I was hung over.  And it’s Paul Newman’s fault.

I didn’t drink any alcohol or do any drugs.  Thank God.  It was cookies.  Newman-0’s, like Oreos, but made with organic flour and organic sugar.  I really don’t know how many I ate (bad sign, huh?), but I do remember at one point thinking I had crossed the line between eating and bingeing.  I didn’t stop until they were all gone.  (Mike ate some.)

I didn’t feel good when I went to bed.  I was afraid the chocolate would keep me from falling asleep.  And I forgot (!?!) what sugar can do to me.

My body and I live with rheumatoid arthritis.  The disease causes inflammation in my joints.  Inflammation causes pain.  Sugar increases inflammation. And so increases pain in my body.  Which I remembered when I got out of bed this morning.

Sugar hangover.  Will I never learn?

I’ve read books and articles about the mind/body/spirit connection.  I’ve even read a book about chronic illness as a spiritual practice.  I know my attitude and behavior influence how my body feels.  I resisted the sugar/inflammation/pain idea for a long time, but it’s true.

Here’s what else I know is true, for me:

1.  My body is the container of my soul.  I am an embodied Spirit.

2.  My body deserves reverence, respect, and gratitude.

3.  Exercise can be a spiritual practice.

4.  Nourishing my body with healthy food feeds my soul.

5.  Living in my body is a spiritual practice that teaches me patience and acceptance.   I’ve learned how to feel anger, how to love imperfection, how to grieve.  I now understand joy and awe.

6.  I am a child of God.  I was made in God’s image.

7.  My body and soul deserve fresh, local peaches and Goat Lady Dairy cheese, not cookies.  Not even organic ones with Paul Newman’s picture (those eyes!) on the package.

Words on the blackboard behind my eyes

Acceptance            Approval           Compassion         Boundaries

Permission         Pity              Blame          Anger

Forgiveness          Empathy        Mercy          Grace         Faith

My granddaughter’s extended family gathered last Sunday to celebrate her baptism.   At lunch were 15 adoring adults and one 5-month-old baby.  Each of has our own story of love and angst and worry and joy in relation to each other.

Do love and compassion help with unacceptable behavior?  Or do they simply enable and excuse?  When is confrontation appropriate and when are surrender and acceptance the only real answer?  Where do I find empathy when I can’t imagine myself in his shoes?  Who gave her permission to act this way?

Last spring, I joined a Lenten study group on forgiveness. We didn’t come up with any easy answers for these very difficult questions.  We talked about pride, sisters and brothers, God’s mercy and grace, parents and children, drugs and alcohol, mental illness, and anger.  We wondered about personal responsibility and setting boundaries to protect our own souls.

“Would you rather be right or happy?” ask my wise friends.  “Can’t I be both?” I ask.

Peace comes with acceptance for me.  Acceptance doesn’t usually come easily.  I don’t often surrender to reality gracefully, not at first.  Anger and frustration no longer energize me.  They make me tired.  And not like myself much.  So I pray for willingness. Sometimes I pray for the willingness to be willing (think about that–it will make sense).

One of my life goals is to live as the child of God I was created to be.  I wish it could be easier.  But “I’m workin’ on it“.

Pray Naked

It is important to pray naked in front of a full-length mirror sometimes, especially when you are full of loathing for your body.  “Here I am.  This is the body-like-no-other that my life has shaped.  I live here.  This is my soul’s address.”

I’m reading the book An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor.  Each chapter discusses a spiritual practice for daily life.  Most are not as challenging as praying naked.

Like so many women, I have struggled since adolescence  with my feelings about my body.  Several years ago I realized my mother was probably anorexic most of my life.  She is the source of my continuing angst about my rear end.  I was awed by my body when I was pregnant and nursing.  I felt betrayed by my body when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at 35.  While my body has given me pain over the years, it has also given me lots of learning opportunities.  I know now where my daughter’s dogged determination and persistence may come from.  And no wonder my daughters are driven to be independent and self-sufficient.

Dogged determination has gotten me through numerous surgeries and frustrations.  My need to be self-sufficient has made it hard for me to ask for help easily.  I don’t want to share my vulnerabilities.  And I really don’t like that my hands and feet look weird and that I don’t always walk smoothly.  I don’t want my disease to show.  I want to control who knows and who helps and, God forbid, who might feel sorry for me.

My body is my soul’s address?  God thinks my soul can handle challenges, I guess.  I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today without rheumatoid arthritis.  Once in a while, I’m even grateful for the gifts of compassion and acceptance that I can share.  More often it is simply hard work–emotionally, physically, and spiritually–to be okay with my physical self.  I get tired sometimes.

So, pray naked?  I haven’t tried that yet.  But the idea has been stuck in my mind for days.  That usually means my Higher Power is nudging me toward something I don’t really want to do.  Which I will eventually do because it’s the next right thing.

How about if you go first and let me know how it was for you?

I’m Workin’ On It

My friends and I are people who work on our issues.

Family of Origin Stuff. Addictions. Letting Go.

Fear. Faith. Living Life on Life’s Terms.

Truly, we are not a dour, depressed, gloomy bunch.

We laugh a lot.

One friend proposed a few years ago that we make buttons, like campaign buttons that are round and have a plastic cover over the candidate’s name and picture and a big pin on the back.  The button would say in big, bold letters:

“I’m workin’ on it!”

For days, I walked through my life noticing how many times I could have used The Button.

“Are you going to pick that stuff up?”

Point to The Button–“I’m workin’ on it!”

“Are you going to fix dinner?”

Point to The Button.

“How’s your program these days?”

Point to The Button.

“Why are you so grouchy?”

Point to The Button.

“Have you finished __________?”

Point to The Button.  “I’m workin’ on it!”

During that time, I was worried and frustrated about the behavior and choices of someone I love.  I’m almost always working on Letting Go of someone, although who I worry and obsess about varies.

I decided to walk the labyrinth (a circular walking meditation path) at Holy Trinity Church. It is a big one made of inlaid stone in an outdoor courtyard. I wanted to come out of the labyrinth less crazed and more peaceful in my head and in my soul.

Sometimes walking this labyrinth is just a relaxing way to be outside.

Other times I’ve had insights about how to resolve challenges.

This time I heard God’s voice.

I walked into the labyrinth slowly, holding my hands open–trying to willingly give my loved one to God, trying to be open to God’s grace and peace.  My brain was racing, giving God the bullet points of the situation and my plan for God’s intervention and resolution.

I kept slowing my pace and re-opening my clenched fingers.  It was a long walk in.  At the center, I sat on a wrought-iron bench and tried to feel God’s Presence and relax into it.  Didn’t happen.

I am not a good cry-er.  That got squashed out of me in elementary school.  Sometimes the best I can do is feel the tears behind my burning eyes and let them kind of leak out one by one.

I was leaking as I left the labyrinth center.

I hadn’t surrendered my plan, but my head knew it probably wouldn’t work and my body was weary from all that “workin’ on it”.

I was about halfway out of the labyrinth when I sort of woke up, looked around, and felt like I had somehow lost my way on the path.

I stopped, breathed, and heard a voice say,

“I’m workin’ on it”.

I knew I was alone.  I looked around.

It happened again.

“I’m workin’ on it”.

I puckered up my forehead in a question mark.

Then I knew.

God was pointing to The Button.

“I’m workin’ on it.”

Published in: Uncategorized on July 7, 2010 at 1:23 am  Comments (10)  
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