Holy Everything: 'Even though it gets uncomfortable, hang on for the ride'

"Hello relatives. Welcome. I'm glad that you're here." Woman Stands Shining entered the room; her warmth and sincerity radiated.

It was the first time I'd ever been so concretely addressed as a family member by someone to whom I was not actually related. But, as I quickly came to realize, the speaker and I were related. We all were.

For Patricia McCabe, also called Woman Stands Shining, the interconnectedness of all beings is central to the way she understands the world. This deep connectedness to one another was where she began her recent talk at Live 125, a community center in Rochester. It was a free event, and folks of every generation were in attendance.

We all sat in a circle as we listened to McCabe, a human embodiment of hope and humility. McCabe is a Dine (Navajo) woman who also finds deep meaning in Lakato spirituality. She speaks around the world on themes of global peace and the healing wisdom of indigenous cultures.

The structure and pacing of her introductory comments was unlike anything I had experienced. Instead of going on and on about her credentials or degrees as we often do in a traditional Western model of public speaking, she started from a place of total humility. She named her ancestors and the ancestors before them. She invited us all to acknowledge a pitcher of water in the center of the space. We sat in silence for a moment as she lit a candle and then picked up her drum to sing an opening prayer.


Water and fire and song — elements that connected those of us at Live 125 to all people throughout all time. Her words were thoughtful and deliberate. There was no rushing. My own posture softened along with everyone else's. Time expanded.

At several points in the evening, Woman Stands Shining referenced the ancestors. "I don't stand alone," she said. The empty chairs in the space were identified as seats for those who have gone before. Their wisdom was available to us if we were willing to receive it.

McCabe encouraged us to have difficult conversations about peace, race and culture. "The ancestors are counting on us having difficult conversations." The organization with which I work, the Southeastern Minnesota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, has spent the last year focused on training and equipping congregations to have difficult conversations. Hearing Woman Stands Shining uplift the same encouragement was a reminder that this is a shared assignment. We are all in it together. Many organizations, individuals and communities of faith are committed to helping people talk about hard things. Our job as the church isn't to indoctrinate on right and wrong. Our responsibility is to give people the tools to talk about things that are uncomfortable and to instill courage and perseverance along the way.

It is through these difficult conversations, McCabe said, that we heal and learn a new way. We don't have to stomp on one another. The deep wounds of hierarchy and patriarchy can be named and rehabilitated. But it takes courageous conversations to get there. It also takes a willingness to look at creation in new ways.

Woman Stands Shining described the interdependence and cooperation of all beings. She expressed that many of us have been led to believe life is all about survival of the fittest — in the animal kingdom and the corporate kingdom, too. But scientists have learned those old cliches aren't true. Instead, "survival of the collaborative" is a more accurate expression of reality. Plants, animals and communities who can learn to collaborate and depend on one another are the ones that survive and thrive.

Woman Stands Shining left us with a final encouragement as she concluded. "Even though it gets uncomfortable, hang on for the ride." The political, social, economic and environmental difficulties of the present time are an opportunity. She told us that all of this can be the catalyst that moves us all forward to a time in which people will learn to connect to each other and to the earth once again. This is part of the ride … the pathway back to peace.

May we all recognize ourselves as healers and peacemakers, and may the wisdom of our ancestors root and inspire us as we journey.

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