Monday, September 23, 2013

FEED MY BIRDS







not great pix but the best i could get of the hummingbirds who frolic
in the backyard fountain every morning around 8
rufous and ruby-throated, i believe...

Holy God in heaven above. I am back from speaking at the Catholic Women's Conference in San Antonio. 1800 gals in air-conditioned Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center, from 4 p.m. on Friday to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Vendors, music, hoo-ha galore. Rosaries, chaplets, Reconciation, Adoration, bathroom lines...

Everyone from the organizers, to the attendees, to my fellow speakers, Dawn Eden and Pat Gohn, were unbelievably welcoming, accommodating, kind, and responsive.

And introvert that I am, the minute I got back to my hotel Saturday afternoon, I changed into normal clothes and set off, alone, on foot for the River Walk. If I had my way, of course, the whole thing would have been outside. We would have taken long quiet walks every couple of hours, communing with the flowers, birds, and sky. We would have foraged for edible roots. We would have quietly, thoughtfully, read....

Fyi, the River Walk, as soon as you get out of the downtown tourist dreck, which doesn't take long, is about the greatest urban thing going and if you ever get to San Antonio you must avail yourself of it at once, and constantly. I only got to see a very short portion, from downtown to the King William area I guess it's called but it is just lovely. Boy if we could do that with the L.A. River, we would really be in business. Old stone walls, flowering bushes, ducks, overhanging trees, green water to gaze into and dream...

Anyway, back to the conference: I never truly know what I'm going to say until I get behind the mike. For at least 24 hours before, I'm seized by an uncomfortable mixture of excitement and dread. Not dread of public speaking, but dread that I will speak from anywhere else than my deepest heart. Dread that I will speak from a place of anger or judgment or complaint or victimhood. Excitement and a kind of pre-sorrow, knowing that I won't get to say EVERYTHING that's flowing out of my overheated mind and soul.

Twenty-six years of telling my story to my fellow drunks and addicts has prepared me perfectly to tell my story to anyone. Drunks can tell a phony from a hundred miles away. Drunks know better than anyone that you can't transmit something you haven't got. Drunks grasped a long time ago that a decent story is the story of someone who has suffered and is trying to help other people who are suffering (as opposed to being full of humorless self-pity, self-righteousness and/or moral outrage) and having a good laugh in the process. I have never given one second's thought before a talk of any kind as to whether I'm going to be "catechetically correct." My allegiance is to being fully human, awake, and alive. My allegiance is to Christ. And so I asked for a little room just before my talk where I could go over what had become ten or twelve pages of notes, enough for about five talks, and get with my heart, and say Jesus, help me to come from gratitude. Help me to come from love. Help me to be me, which is you...

Signing books, I talked to women whose husbands, sons, daughters and friends were alcoholics (like me), who were alcoholics themselves (like me), who wanted to quit their job and write (like me), who had had abortions (like me), who had felt lost and abandoned (like me), who wanted to take responsibility for their lives (like me). I met women who asked me to pray for them, women who said they had been praying for me, women who gave me CDs of their own work, women who wanted their books signed to their mothers, their daughters, their nephews and nieces, their sons, their daughter-in-laws, the Lopez sisters, the women they minister to in jail.

Sunday morning I attended the Spanish Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary, next to the Holiday Inn on West Cesar Chavez. I looked up at the beautiful wooden carving of Christ on the Cross above the altar, and I just thought, "What, Christ? What would you have me do? What would you have me be?"

Feed my sheep. Tend my lambs. Feed my sheep....

Greg Camacho, a young Tom Waits fan who works for the Pilgrim Center of Hope (the folks who sponsored the conference), ferried me to and from the airport. When he dropped me off, he had the United skycap take a picture of us. And then we looked at each other and I told him, "This is the thing. You're always in exile. To be with Christ is to be in a place of precariousness. We don't get to have it our way. We don't get to be secure. We're always in exile."

Twenty-four years old and he gets it. 


So thank you to Mary Jane Fox, Nan Balfour, and all the good women of San Antonio and beyond for having me.

Believe me, you gave me way, WAY more than I gave you.


okay you ornithologists. rosy finch?....

5 comments:

  1. Heather, it sounds like San Antonio was a blessing for all, those who attended and those who spoke. Your words above, .....You're always in exile. To be with Christ is to be in a place of precariousness. rings so true to my own life. I enjoy your blog and writings. thanks for sharing.

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  2. This is the new Evangelization. Thank you for sharing and for the reminder that I need to take time in gratitude and love to ask Christ to fill my heart.

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  3. Thanks so much, Terri. It's the new evangelization, the old evangelization and the only evangelization, which is an encounter with the Christ of the Gospels. Therese's prayer was "Draw me"....We have to be willing to turn off our TV sets, get outdoors, examine our deepest conscience, surrender our security--especially the spiritual security of Phariseeism--acknowledge our vulnerability, and meet Christ in the least of these.

    The Christ of the Gospels is a great, great adventure--and a great risk....

    Bless you and that darling baby you are holding...

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  4. "Believe me, you gave me way, WAY more than I gave you." It always seems this way when we have served well, been simple and obedient. God is generous.

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  5. "To be with Christ is to be in a place of precariousness. We don't get to have it our way. We don't get to be secure. We are always in exile." So much truth in your words. If we are with Christ, we don't know how the day will turn out to be. He asks us to accept every minute as a gift from Him, weather we like the gift or not. Through acceptance, gradually comes a peaceful trust.

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