Tag Archives: faith

Love Must Push Back

 

 

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Lady Justice with her scales and her sword. Source: Internet, no credit found. 

Like many Americans, my mind is swirling with many questions about the 2016 presidential election, particularly its results. As I did during the contentious 18 months of campaigning, I am reading opinion pieces and articles to try to comprehend why people, especially people of differing opinions, think the things they do. Peace starts with empathy. One journalist asked why people are still touting the “Love Trumps Hate” slogan after the election results proved it wrong.

“Love Trumps Hate” is for me a belief rooted in faith, not a mere slogan. Since God is the source of all love, then God trumps hate – ultimately, seldom instantly, but in a sustained fashion. Being a person of faith means accepting that things happen in God’s time, and we are not privy to the reasons. Waiting is hard for us, especially when times are hard. And we are quick to forget that we need to work, to fight, and to sacrifice for things worth having.

Why did hate – in the forms of disrespect, bullying, misogyny, bigotry, racism, and xenophobia – get tolerated and perhaps rewarded in this election? Were people so filled with rage born of fear and resentment that nothing else mattered? Were people were so filled with distrust and laziness that they did not bother to vote in rejection of these things?

Women, racial minorities, immigrants, veterans, the LGBT community, and disabled persons were all made to feel less than, unwanted, intimidated, and threatened during this election. Now that the responsible person is in a position to affect their lives, many people have reason to fear and doubt. Now more than ever, I need to cling to my belief that love trumps hate.

Love sometimes requires courageous, difficult, and unrelenting work. To act in the name of love means to act with patience, respectfulness, and humility. When hate pushes against and looms over some of us, we have the choice to stand together, lock arms, and push back.

 

©Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

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Free Like a Bluebird

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Like fans all over the world, I am still in shock over the death of music legend David Bowie just two days ago on January 10, 2016. His final music video, “Lazarus,” was released three days before his death. I watched the video last night, captivated by the metaphoric and haunting images of Bowie preparing to die.

The lyrics to “Lazarus” are equally poignant to me. Bowie delivers the first line of the song lying in bed, clutching sheets up to his chin. With bandages wrapped around his head and covering his eyes, Bowie implores,“Look up here, I’m in heaven.”

As Bowie alludes to his life throughout the song with references to New York, living like a king, using up all his money, and having nothing left to lose, the video depicts him appearing to make a desperate attempt to recall things and write them down.

As the video comes to a close, Bowie is shown back in bed, a loose white night shirt hanging on his thin frame. With his arms extended upward he sings,“You know I’ll be free just like that bluebird.”

Bowie’s mention of a bluebird sent chills down my spine. Several weeks after my brother’s death (from cancer, like Bowie’s), a bluebird, specifically a Western Scrub-Jay, started appearing in my back yard. Unlike other birds, this bluebird’s call is not soft and sweet; it is very loud and sharp. This bird screeched incessantly every morning until I peered out my windows or went outside to look for it. The bird wore me down, and eventually I learned to enjoy its visits, taking them to be a sign from my brother. The bird’s visits grew more infrequent as the months passed, which felt like my brother’s way of saying he was okay and had things to do, so I should get back to the business of living.

When my mother-in-law passed away the following year, two bluebirds (two Western Scrub-Jays) started appearing together in my back yard. They did the same thing, screeching in stereo until I looked out my window or went out to greet them. They came together daily for a while; at times when I missed my mother the most, one bird came alone.

I have no doubt that David Bowie will be free like a bluebird. In fact, I know he’ll be in very good company.

© Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2016.

 

Let the Selecting be Done in Heaven

Hawaiian Proverb

Hawaiian Proverb

 

If I had to guess how God uses disappointment to teach us, I would guess based on my experience as a parent. People always seem to say that it’s harder to watch their children suffer than to suffer themselves. I believe them. As a mom, I often wish I could take away the sting of disappointment that I see hurting my children, but I’ve learned also that disappointments can be blessings in disguise.

There were times when a goal seemed harder to accomplish than I thought it would be. The road was paved with frustration, testing my limited patience. When I eventually succeeded, I was better off for having had my desire and determination fired in the kiln. I appreciated what I got all the more, and I was less likely to take it for granted.

Other goals didn’t come my way ever, or haven’t yet. Different things came unexpectedly in their place. There were the unusual and eye-opening experiences that I wouldn’t have known had my path gone as I wanted. There were the quirky but wonderful people who taught me something valuable while I was stuck in some place or phase in my life. There have even been moments when I could actually see that I had grown as a person while I thought I was idling away, stagnating.

Was God stalling me to give me time to rethink what I wanted? Was He saving me from myself, as a parent often does for a child?

Was God gently presenting me with other goals and tasks that He wanted me to accomplish instead?

While I was busy working and praying for the things I wanted, was God busy giving me the things I needed first or needed more? And when God is done doing what He needs to do with me, if He gives me what I wanted at one distant point in my life, will I still want it or need it?

I think God wants me to set goals and to work hard. I think God wants me to pray. But I also think God wants me to trust Him to use disappointment as a tool to teach me. I’ve made enough mistakes to know that His plans work out far better than any of mine. I’ve witnessed God’s generosity enough to know that He always gives us more than we ask for.

So I’ll let the selecting be done in heaven. And I’ll pray for the grace to take life as it comes.

 

© Living off Island, Writing Wahine, 2015. Photograph by Writing Wahine, 2015.

 

My Blue Mo’o

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Several years ago, while I was alone in my office in the middle of the day, I saw something that made me wonder if I had hallucinated for the first time in my life.

I was preoccupied with an issue that I had been dealing with for several weeks. A family member was chasing a dream opportunity. I was supportive of this dream, even though our family would have to live apart, in two different states, if it came true. The sacrifice would be worth it – this opportunity was too precious to pass up, and it would be a source of pride for our entire family.

Unable to focus on work, I rolled my chair away from my desk, got up, and walked to my couch. The afternoon sun was peeking through the blinds of my windows, so I sat with my back to the windows and my legs stretched across the couch. To my right about two feet away, also with its back to the windows, was a small bookcase.

I thought about how much I wanted this thing to happen, and I began to cry. Human beings cry out of sadness, pain, or distress. It wasn’t sadness or pain that was making me cry, it was desperate wanting. Crying releases chemicals that counter stress hormones, making the crier feel better.

As I wiped my eyes and nose with a tissue, something on the floor startled me. It was a blue mo’o – a blue gecko. It darted past me and froze between my couch and my bookcase. I blinked quickly a few times to make sure my vision was clear, then froze and stared at the mo’o.

I had seen many mo’o when I was a child in Hawai’i, where they’re very common, and I’ve seen some mo’o in California where I live, but I had never seen a blue one. It was also bigger than any mo’o I had ever seen – about five or six inches long from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail.

I was probably not breathing in my shock, but thoughts ran through my brain: Where did it come from? How was it blue? (It was navy blue. The carpet in my office is gray.) Can it jump up on me? Can mo’o bite? Should I get up and run? Then as suddenly as it appeared, the mo’o scurried behind my bookcase.

I waited for it to come out from behind the bookcase, checking to the right of it, to the left of it, and behind it. It felt like forever, but I waited for about twenty minutes. The mo’o never came out.

When I decided I needed to get home more than I was afraid of the giant blue mo’o, I walked back to my desk. I told myself if the mo’o came back out, it wouldn’t hurt me, but I intended to be out of my office soon anyway.

I went home that afternoon thinking about that blue mo’o. Had I fallen asleep and seen it in a dream? So was that what a hallucination felt like? Or did the mo’o really appear in my office and vanish behind my bookcase? … People are going to think I’m crazy.

For the next few days, I imagined what a typical day would be like if my family lived apart. I imagined text messages and phone calls replacing talks over dinner. I imagined receiving pictures and videos of special moments that I wouldn’t see myself. The financial realities of a second family home were sobering. Slowly I relaxed the death grip I had on my dream, and I became prepared to accept whatever happened.

Recently I read that a visit from a mo’o can be a message to face your fears. My mo’o appeared when I was afraid a dream wouldn’t come true. Somehow I must have concluded that my life would not be as good, as happy, as full, or as meaningful if it didn’t take off in a specific direction. I was surrendering my power to decide for myself if I would be happy or fulfilled by conditioning my happiness and fulfillment on a future event. It wasn’t disappointment that I should have feared, it was my inability – or my refusal – to believe that I could be okay, just fine, if life didn’t offer me the path I wanted.

I often think about my blue mo’o. It’s still hard for me to believe that it actually appeared in my office that afternoon. A trace of doubt may linger in my rational mind, but this experience had an undeniable and profound impact on me, because I know this: I have nothing to fear if I believe that I will be okay no matter what comes, or does not come, into my life.

My blue mo’o hasn’t come back to visit.

Hawaiians believe that ancestral spirits can take the form of animals, plants, or other natural elements. An ancestral spirit who acts as a family guardian is called an ‘aumakua.

©Living off Island, writingwahine, 2015.

Hā: The Breath of Life

Little Brother,

Your passing marked the beginning of a years-long period of significant losses and changes in my life. I couldn’t recover from one blow before the next one came. For a long time, I was merely going through the motions of living, just treading water, hoping to catch my breath. Adrift, praying for the losses to end, I let the current of grace carry me back to shore.

Now that the hurting and endless crying have subsided, memories that once brought me to tears can make me smile. I reach back in time to hear the faint sound of your voice greeting me and your laugh teasing me. I stare at your picture to see past your face and recall your expressions and mannerisms.

But memories can’t fill the gaping hole of my loss. I can only build my life around it, layering moments, months, and years into mountains that reach toward heaven. Still, even in my happiest moments, I can gaze downward and see the gaping hole in the valley below.

You inspire me to chase my dreams, to welcome my mistakes, to face my fears, and to jump across chasms on the wings of faith. Your example guides me to live with laughter, courage, patience, and selflessness.

Although you lived away from the land of your birth, you embodied Aloha – the presence of breath. The breath of life, its essence being love, was the gift you brought and shared.

So today, January 14th, I celebrate the day you arrived in my life as my baby brother. There will be no singing, no party hats, no birthday cake, nor candles. But I will make a wish.

May Divine Peace remove all the pain that found you in this world. May your soul travel in Light. And wherever your journey takes you, may you feel my love.

Fly with God’s angels, but never leave my heart,

-Sis

©Living off Island, writingwahine, 2015.

Be Still

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When I was a child on O’ahu, the Ko’olau Mountains would always make me freeze in my tracks. No matter what I was doing in the car, the first sight of the mountains would make me stop and stare out the window. I would stand at the foot of the mountains and turn my face up until my neck could bend no further. I would look at the mountains, the sky, and the mist for countless moments and say nothing. Although I had no words for what I was feeling, even as a child, my soul was reacting to the majesty of God’s creation. To this day, when I return to the Ko’olau Mountains, I am quieted and humbled. I am still and I feel the power of my God.

Copyright: Living off Island, writingwahine, 2014.