My saudade was buried in my subconscious, only occasionally flitting out for brief and distant moments until I got back to work. But my soul mate thought of me, especially when he flew south, way up high in the distance. Did his saudade touch my subconscious? In all that time it must have. There must have been those faint smiles coming out of nowhere. For 39 years, I was preparing for his arrival without even knowing it, except somewhere deep in my soul. “The love that remains” can be very quiet. But it was there….waiting for the right time to soar higher than I could have ever imagined.
Ever since 1970, when I heard Melanie Safka sing, “I don’t eat animals, cause I love em you see. I don’t eat animals, and they don’t eat me,” I’ve wanted to be a vegetarian.
I got good at it when I was in college, after reading an article by a hunter challenging people who are against hunting to stop eating meat. I did better after reading quotes by Isaac Bashevis Singer comparing factory farms to Nazi concentration camps, a realistic comparison considering the severity of misery inflicted. Watching videos of baby chicks being de-beaked or ground up alive, always works for a while. I’ve actually gotten better over the years at not eating chicken.
For almost 30 years, I’ve had no problem abstaining from mammal flesh, feeling a kinship with animals who feed their babies with milk from their bodies, like I did. But I’ve struggled with fish and chicken. Most of the time, I’ve been imperfect in my quest.
Except for Lent. During Lent, the 40 days that start with Ash Wednesday and finish up with Easter, I am stronger. For 40 days, I know I can do what my spirit tells me is right for me. I can be an honest vegetarian-no chicken and no fish. During Lent, I have the strength to stretch myself, with God’s help, to have more days of being vegan-no animal products at all. With so many alternatives available these days, it’s not too much of a sacrifice considering what Jesus did for us. So, I approach Lent with a sense of confidence that grows stronger each year.
Lent doesn’t have to be about giving something up. It can be about adding something good to your life. Like singing more.
At the Church of the Good Shepherd, we are working on a song for lent called: “You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord.” It’s about God saying, “I will raise you up on eagle’s wings,bear you on the breath of dawn, make you shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of my hand.” It gives my soul goose bumps. This is what I joined choir for: that feeling of accomplishment when you start to “get” a song you love- when it starts to come together with the voices of friends. It’s a natural high, a power that comes from divine love.
So this year, I will add daily singing to my Lenten practice. It’s good for the soul. I’ll sing for God and for Jesus and for the animals. Cause I love ‘em you see.
I’m often curious about the true meaning of holidays, beyond the commercialism and promotions of our popular culture. In researching the origins of Valentine’s Day, I discovered there was more than one guy named Valentine. There were at least three martyrs named Valentine who were killed for helping Christians in one way or another. One romantic legend suggests there was a priest named Valentine who secretly helped young lovers get married against the law set by the Roman Emperor, Claudius II.
Now Valentine’s day has sent us scurrying about buying cards and candy or flowers, and perhaps going on a romantic date with our sweetheart. But what if you’re not in a romantic relationship? What if you’re not even close to having one of those? It can feel a bit lonely. I remember.
During my five years of celibacy, I decided to make Valentine’s Day about more than romance, unless you count romance with yourself. Can you have romantic love with yourself? It depends on how you define romance. One definition is: a love affair. Why not be in love with yourself? Not in a narcissistic way, but in a nurturing way. In those dry spells, when I felt lonely, I bought myself flowers and learned to say, “I love you,” in the mirror without feeling silly-though feeling silly is not always a bad thing. One Valentine’s Day, I even got myself a massage. This kind of nurturing self love is, I believe, a prerequisite for a healthy relationship with some one else. I had to learn to love myself before I could be ready to love and be loved by my soul mate.
There is also nothing wrong with using Valentine’s Day as a reminder to express platonic love to friends and familial love to siblings, parents, children and even our dogs who love us so unconditionally.
Which brings me to God. God and dogs love us unconditionally. See the sweet video by Wendy Francisco at http://www.godanddog.org/
This kind of love is often called Agape. (pronounced Uh-gop-ay).
Allow yourself to feel that love from God. Let it comfort you like a soft warm blanket…… or a gentle healing light that touches the top of your head and flows gently through your whole being as you breathe slowly and deeply. Opening to the peace and comfort of agape might take practice. But know this: God is really good at this kind of love. God loves us no matter what. Forever. That doesn’t mean God is going to give us what we want when we want it. Like a loving parent, God knows what we need. And, as I’ve learned, God has perfect timing.
Let Valentine’s Day be about what ever kind of love you want. Let it be about every kind of love you want. Remember to include yourself in your circle of compassion.
For another perspective on the day of love check out this post on Wilmington Faith and Values:
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.”
When I was in college, I wrote a research paper about dolphins. I learned that dolphins are more intelligent than dogs and cats, more intelligent than cows and pigs, maybe even more intelligent than the great apes.
I don’t eat any of these animals who feed their babies with milk from their bodies, like I fed my babies.
Dolphin culture is so different from ours. They don’t have hands so, they don’t build machines. They don’t have technology. Certainly not as we know it.
But they do have language and songs and love.
Young dolphins in Taiji, Japan are being captured and sold into slavery for “entertainment” after watching their family members being killed.
The Japanese fishermen say it is part of their culture to capture and kill the dolphins.
What about the culture of the dolphins?
It was once a shameful part of American culture to capture and enslave people from Africa and other countries. We know that was horribly wrong. We know better now.
It is time for humanity to value kindness and life above profit. I pray through my anger that the people of Japan will stop this violence.
For more information:
The Intelligence of Dolphins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kH68iL5SL3g
How are those New Year’s resolutions going? What steps have you taken?
In recent years, there’s been a lot written about manifesting you dreams. But, asking, believing and receiving has been around for a long time. The sequence is recommended in Mathew 21:22. And sometimes, asking and believing can bring our dreams into reality, if we are open to the possibilities. It happened to me, when the time was right. But first I had to do the footwork. My first love, David, and I had to work on ourselves as individuals and learn lots of lessons before we were ready to be together 39 years later.
In my 26 years or so as a substance abuse counselor, I’ve met plenty of people who wanted to stop using drugs or stop drinking to avoid losing their homes or their kids or so they could regain their sanity. The ones who were successful recognized how much work it takes to change a powerful habit. It takes more than to want to change. It takes action, like going to meetings. It takes movement, like walking down another street. Sometimes it takes changing your phone number.
If you want to lose weight, you might start by buying a new pair of sneakers, or some exercise music. You can also write down you food plan for tomorrow and pray about it. Pray before you go into the grocery store. Pray before you open the refrigerator.
If I want to decrease clutter, I’m going to have to start with one pile or one corner, make the time and get started.
(I just stopped writing this post and spent 5 minutes working on that corner in the kitchen. I found the Christmas napkins I was looking for 4 weeks ago.)
Ask, believe, and then take the steps. One step at a time. You’ll get further than you would just talking about it.