Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"Holy is His Name" - Note (and News) from Clive, IA

The following was originally written as a faith reflection and update for my Norfolk Catholic high school classmates. I edited it to post here as a spiritual reflection; I share this with all of you as friends and family invited to witness Francois and my marriage. Happy holidays!
Hey Friends!

I am holed up here in Clive, Iowa, where my car broke down yesterday, and I wake to read emails, eat my oatmeal, and try to enjoy the delay (and expense) in returning home to Minnesota....*chuckles* sigh*smile*

Part of my morning routine is perusing scripture and wondering about how God is talking to me each day.....Today's Gospel* features "the Magnificat," or "Song of Mary"-- a text that inspires a canticle I adore: "Holy is His Name."

Mary is speaking and rocking my world with her words about God, about child, about being blessed, about the power of Love. Spending time with the text this morning, I keep hearing Ann Shallbetter and Julie Strahan singing this at my wedding. I am standing, holed up in the Children's room at St. Philips, leaning into the speakers to hear my friends sing this song as prelude to walking down the aisle. Or: I am standing alongside my dad last Sunday, at St. Margaret Mary's in Omaha, where my brother in law, Chris Johnson sings this song with his church choir. And my heart is happy. It's such a beautiful tune, inspired by such a powerful text....

I wonder what words each of us might be inspired to utter in the face of faith, this season's experiences? I wonder what I might be inspired to say, given the miracles and blessings of God's love?

For all of you who may not know yet, I share this piece of news that has me feeling blessed this Christmas season:

Francois Kiemde and I are expecting a baby! It's so exciting, it's so fast, it feels like such an overwhelming miracle and mystery...ALL OF IT! Meeting him, connecting in our faith, and finding the blessed capacity to commit to communicating and loving each other the rest of our days, and then conceiving this baby....It's all so much larger than me. I feel a bit like Mary,

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; the Almighty has done great things for me, He has filled the hungry (me!) with good things --(a baker and baby!)

I invite each of you to celebrate with us at this good news, and to keep us and this growing child in your prayers. (We will be having an ultrasound in two short weeks, and simply ask for a healthy child to be born....Can you imagine Mary asking for a healthy ultrasound? It makes me laugh as I write this... ) By the way , we are due in late May.

I also invite each of you to celebrate in the spaces where you are "holed up" this season, and to see how any miracles are manifesting your midst.....God is good. I am grateful for all of you in my life.

Peace, Advent blessings,

Melissa, on behalf of Francois and child



Lk 1:46-5

Mary said:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever."

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months

and then returned to her home.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Inctivus, Advent, Incarnation...

I wonder who among you has seen the recent film entitled, "Invictus"? Starring Morgan Freeman, as the newly-released-from-prison/ newly-elected-to-office President Nelson Mandela, alongside Matt Damon, playing South African Springbok Rugby captain, Francois Pienaar, the film places us squarely inside South Africa's transition from Apartheid rule to a free, Democratic nation. The time and period in our world's recent history is not without incredible charge, strife, and division among people. It's a time and period that calls us all to deeper reflection and contemplation of what it means to be united in the face of incredible adversity, diversity, conviction.

Enter Mandela. Enter a leader who exemplifies a radically new kind of authority and governance: one that is deeply acquainted with the victim, with the experience of the oppressed and marginalized, and yet is one who leads from a transcended space of love, compassion, and forgiveness. Enter Pienaar, another leader of sorts, who is called into this space to inspire his peers beyond their comfort and convictions into a place of equally transcended and transported action. Mandela and Pienaar are two starkly contrasted men who this film centers around in the name of delivering a narrative of hope and promise, of victory over fear and ignorance; it's a tale about the unity of people in spirit, mind, body.

On one hand, Invictus is an American film examining the post-Apartheid times and circumstances of our South African brothers and sisters. As a Clint Eastwood Production, it comes to the American public in this package and presentation that, for me as viewer, invites me to receive it within this lens. The Dirty-Harry-Unforgiven-Gran-Torino Eastwood delivers this story in a way that I must embrace as gift, as he - and the film's creators - present us with these larger questions around leadership and unity in the midst of deep divide. (How are the film's themes applicable to the American public? The larger world? It's rich!)

On another hand, Invictus is a David and Goliath sports flick, giving us an underdog team in the Springboks that strives to defeat the giant opponent in New Zealand's All Blacks. It is Hollywood flexing its American muscles inside a biblical metaphor. It's a film that culminates in sweet victory, a virtual miracle of sorts unfolding before our eyes when we all consider the human odds of Black and White camps and convictions, experience and athleticism, going into battle.

And now, a week after seeing the film, still reviewing a number of its moving scenes in my mind, I hold the fullness of the film's lessons about transcendent leadership and possibilities, inside of this Advent season. Invictus comes to me this day in a much larger light, one where its characters are considered inside of a faith perspective; that where a divine presence enters our midst and is seen in the most obscure places. Mandela as a President emerging from South Africa's apartheid prison. Pienaar as post-Apartheid athlete unifier. The uncanny, unfathomable, seemingly impossible, becomes possible, tanglible, quite real in this tale. There is an incarnation witnessed in this film as the should-be-conquered and conquerable reveal themselves to be as the movie title states: Invictus, Unconquerable.

I can see a Christ-figure born in each of these men: Mandela as compassionate intellectual posing questions of unity and leadership, inviting the black majority of South Africa to reconsider its battles with the former white majority rule. ("Why overturn the Springbok green and gold?) Pienaar, as athletic leader who wrestles with his privilege, his comfort, and ventures to see inspiration and possibility through the "other's" perspective. The rugby captain actually traveling to the new president's former prison cell at Robben Island, and contemplating what captivity has taught him about the human spirit, about compassion, about the invincibility of an unjustly accused and condemned man.

Whatever lens you choose to view this film through, I invite you to simply view it! Consider how its characters and circumstances speak to your heart. Consider these questions:
What does it mean to lead? What is at the center of your beliefs and actions? What inspires nations and its citizens? What creates hope and optimism in your own home? What is possible in the face of great odds? What is trying to get born in you today, in your work, on your field, in your lab, in your mind, within your family or community? How are you called to respond? Do you see yourself as unconquerable? Do you know that beauty and the divine dwell within and all around? Do you recognize your own capacity to forgive, to transcend those who have caused you the greatest grief or injury?

This season, I invite you all to see this film and meditate on its themes and many questions.

In peace and contemplation,