I’m a Riser
For Paris-The City of Light
I’m a riser
I’m a get off of the ground, don’t run and hider
Pushin’ comes to shove
Hey I’m a fighter
When darkness comes to town, I’m a lighter
A get out aliver, of the fire
On the dark ashen night of September 11th, 2001 in New York City, I lost my innocence and rather brusquely in its place was inserted fear into the secret folds of my heart. Fear, that haunting incarnation, that robs us of joy, makes us question our benevolent view of the world and shakes our spiritual grounding.
Three weeks ago, the Darkness mounted another harrowing offensive – this time in Paris, the City of Light. It felt personal. Paris had wholly won over my heart over twenty years ago when it opened its arms to a pair of newlyweds, became a muse for my writing and continues to fuel my love and crazy joy for all things food and cooking. Every Summer, my family returns to Paris, to the same boulangerie, picnics in the Jardin de Luxembourg, twilight concerts in Saint Chapelle, candlelit masses in Notre Dame, walks along the rambling cobblestone streets of the Left Bank and sweet time with our French friends. France has become part of the fabric of my spirit. It is my dream place.
After texting and emailing Paris to check on friends, I went to bed angry that Evil had dared to haunt my beloved city. I mourned that the French people, so full of light, gusto and love would now feel what I had felt after September 11th—Fear. I knew that they would wake up on Saturday morning after the massacre, step outside for their morning croissant and café au lait, and the view would be painfully distorted.
After September 11th, I mourned for those blissful, yet naive years where I honestly believed the world was safe, just and that bad things couldn’t possibly happen to good people. Since the very beginning of time, mortals have wrestled with the theological question of how a God, the supposed all-powerful, omniscient, and very incarnation of Love could allow the presence of Evil to sacrilege and often destroy what was created for good. Today, if you read the paper or watch the news you can’t help but think that the bad guys are winning. In the ongoing duel between the Darkness and the Light, the Darkness appears to have the edge.
How is it that a twenty year old boy could walk into a full concert hall and with eery composure, begin shooting one, two, three, hundreds laying head to the ground helpless? It reminds me of a quote by Mother Theresa about her calling to the slums in India, “I do what I do, because there is a Hitler inside of me.”
Is that how Evil works? It’s a choice? Just as peace, and love and hope is a choice?
The Christian theologian Frederick Buechner said, “God could have turned us out perfectly as an inventor turns out a perfect invention or could step in when we get out of line and move us around like pawns on a chessboard. But instead, He wants us related to him like as children to their father. He wants us to love him and if our love is spontaneous and real, we must be free also not to love Him too— with all its grim circumstances and suffering. Evil exists in the world not because God is indifferent or powerless or absent but because man is free, and free he must be to choose love.”
I realized in the aftermath of September 11th, that Evil is a choice, a very sad, painful and cowardly choice. That young boy in the concert hall in Paris was once an innocent babe in a manger who somewhere along the way made a choice to join the side of Darkness. We only have to look at the Christmas story and witness how Mary, Joseph, the Wise Men and especially that savior babe were also given a choice. Mary chose love. The Wise men, tempted by King Herod, chose another way home from their mystical experience at the stable. That babe in a manger knew the presence of Evil and human fear as intimately as he knew the love and redemption of God. He chose to be a riser, a fighter, a lighter, a survivor!
The coward’s way out is to let fear have its way with our hearts. But if we do, we must accept the consequences: Diminished joy, smaller lives and a paralyzed soul.
Or, we can choose to be fearless, eternally hopeful and living luminaries in the face of darkness. We can be Risers!
As difficult as it is to reconcile, God never promised it would be easy or that we would come through this journey unscathed. Every single one of us will feel the darkness press in, experience that ugly pit of fear and endure many a broken heart. But here me say, in my own life, I have been given every reason to choose fear and become the cynic instead of the hope-bearer. How many times could I have just laid down, but instead I chose to rise. I know so painfully the harder edge of life, and I’m here to tell you that when God promises your soul, “I will be with you always,” it is a truth that you can stake your life upon.
In those moments when fear clutches the heart and you shudder at a world that feels so dark, unpredictable and scary, turn inward. Learn how to carve out a sacred breathing space, a timeless moment where your soul may reconnect with that still, small, transcendent voice of the Divine within. Allow God to help you find your grounding again.
Fear will rear its ugly head. Maybe a prayer to God in secret can be as simple as, “God, come. As close as my heartbeat and as near as my breath.” I’m convinced that we cannot do it on our own. To choose the light over the darkness, forgiveness over revenge, love over hate, to get up after we have been knocked down and to live consciously in hope, we need a little help from the heavens. In my own heart, I want to be a Riser. But I know it’s impossible on my own accord. I need to be able to trust my heart to that which is larger than myself and this crazy world, to believe that God is on my side, and that hope, as promised, will not disappoint. I always return to this prayer. You’ll find tattered copies in old purses, the glove compartment of my Suburban and beside my bed. The prayer reminds me that I’m not alone, and with God by my side, I can be a riser, a lighter, a fighter, and a survivor too!
Dear Child of Mine,
As you go through this day, know that I am gently protecting you. I am as near to you as your very breath, as close to you as your heartbeat. I can see the fragile state of your emotions. I know how close to the surface your tender feelings are. I am aware that the wick of your spirit’s inner light is flickering in the winds of your dilemma. But you are my child, and I am on your side today. I will hold you in my love until you are strong again. Do not be troubled or afraid. Do not strive in your own strength, but lean into My love. Be strengthened by My Spirit. Find comfort in My mercy.
Your Shield and Defender,
A little gift from Music City to Paris. A country music song that speaks to the heart. It’s a rally call of hope sung by my friend and crazy talented country music artist Dirks Bentley. Make no mistake Paris, Ya’ll are Risers!
Live in Hope,