Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Well Now That's Comforting.....

Thanks to Net

I'm sure my congregation will be happy to know this!

Yurt-Countdown and Update

Well it's six days and counting till yurt departure and apparently all is not well at the farm. Since it would be obvious when I arrived, my congregant thought I should have a heads-up. The interns have departed early and there were "tensions" connected to that. The sisters who own the farm are also caregivers of their very elderly parents who reside on the premises. There was a hundred year old building moved in for an educational center this summer that needed lots of work and a whole foundation dug, and apparently all did not go well on that front either. It's all a lot of stress. Not, she said, that I should not go. Just be aware that all may not be so serene in the land of yurt. Oh. Well, OK. The yurt will still be there. The silence (I hope) will still be there. And God in the silence (or not) will, for sure still be there.

But I was aware of a small tantrum brewing. Much as I hated to admit it. There was a small internal foot beginning to stomp. Why me? Why my yurt time? It took so long to finally find someplace to go! I'm using my LAST two precious vacation days! It's not fair! And then the Critical Parent (who always gets into the act when a tantrum brews) had to get her two cents in "Well whose fault is it anyway that it took you so long to get a place! If you had gotten on the stick earlier you could have been there and back before it blew up. And if you'd been paying attention to your vacation balance you wouldn't be in that mess! And who ever said life is fair anyway, Missy!" Whew! Got that all out of the way.

Truth be told, I am a bit disappointed. I was hoping for a little mix of community and alone time, hoping for a chance to meet these interns, college people of faith who would give a summer to such a place. But obviously, that is not the plan. God has another idea. Guess I'll see what it might be. Who knows, it may be just silence, or it may be something else entirely. That's the thing that keeps it all so interesting, this Spirit journey. You just never know!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sabbath Rest and Reflection

It is early afternoon on Sunday and I am gently bubbling in the liturgical afterglow. We were summer scant today, seven in the pews, and many gone who normally fill the Sunday tasks. So I was priest, preacher and acolyte to myself, and altar guild after service. Took communion to my healing shut-in, who, praise be, thinks she will be among us again soon. So now all is tended and tucked away, the worshippers fed on word and sacrament, coffee, cake and fellowship and sent out to be the church in the world. I am a bit weary. Sermon-writing Saturdays after a full work-week take an energy toll, even when supported by spirited RevGals both blog-ly and physically present, to provide encouragement, inspiration, distraction and a good laugh. But if a long day of sermonizing is the price of admission to preach and celebrate the Eucharist I will pay it joyfully. For the Spirit had my back today. The 1752 words of the sermon became more than they were on paper, came alive, took flight. Not of my doing. I allowed, enjoyed and marveled at it all. Twenty-two minutes, the person whom I asked to time it told me. Worth every minute, she said. Unsolicited. And when we got to the Lord's prayer in the service, I thought I just might levitate, the prayer was so immediate and vibrant and real.

My healing shut-in person has been struggling, we have been praying. She tells me just this week, she not only feels better physically but has this sense of Presence-with-her that she has been missing for a long time. She says that just this week she needed comfort and felt drawn to the Lord's Prayer "for some odd reason." I got to hold the baby I baptized on Easter, who is her youngest granddaughter, and to preach an impromptu children's sermon to the baby's big sister "almost five" who asked what my OneEpiscopalian bracelet meant.

Here I have been looking for bread and eggs and fish, but God has given me God's indwelling Spirit. Imagine that.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost-Luke11:1-13

I guess there is no escaping it. If we are to be true to this morning’s lectionary readings, we are going to be spending some time thinking about prayer. Now you might think that this is a strange beginning for a sermon. Or not. Maybe you are really comfortable and happy with your prayer life. And if you are, that is a wonderful, blessed and grace-filled thing. For many of us, though, prayer is something that, at least at some times in our spiritual lives, is one of those things we wonder about, question, and even wrestle with.

Like the disciples, I think we all have a sense that prayer is important. And, like them, I think many of us feel like it’s something we are not really sure about. We wonder if we are doing it well enough, doing it right. We wonder if God is pleased with our prayer. Maybe we have some baggage from the past, things that crop up as niggling little doubts, as feelings of shame or guilt in our prayer life. This might come up especially when things are not going well, if we have been praying “for” something and feel as if our prayers are not “being answered,” or if we are going through one of those times that we all experience when God simply feels far away and we wonder who moved.

As Episcopalians, we have a wonderful source of prayer in the prayer book. There are, in the Book of Common Prayer, prayers for just about every occasion one could imagine. Blessings of this and petitions for that. If you ever need a prayer for anything, just look and you will likely find one. This is both the good news and the bad news. While it provides us with untold riches in prayer, it can, I think, also act as a kind of crutch in getting us into a mode of thinking that prayer is all about asking and words and expectation, when really it is so much more than that.

M. pointed out last week that Luke’s Gospels over these weeks of ordinary time are themed around what it means to be truly living a life of faith, loving your neighbor even when it requires going out of your comfort zone to do so, being willing to stop “doing” to “be” with Jesus in silence and prayer and study, even when doing is the more comfortable and socially rewarded role. And today we hear how prayer fits into that picture of living the Christian life--remembering who and whose we are requires that we be grounded in relationship to God, which is really what we are talking about in describing prayer.

But sometimes this is hard for us, and we need not feel badly about it. Apparently it was not too clear for the disciples, either. They had seen Jesus pray. They knew that this was something that was important for Him, that it sustained Him, fed Him. And, it seems, they also “got” that it was something they did not entirely understand. But unlike so many other things that they were kind of dense about, in this case, they came right out and asked Jesus to teach them to pray. Now I don’t know what they were expecting. I wonder what we would be expecting if we came to a “prayer class.” Maybe some nice neat and tidy rules, a set of guidelines? A formula…if this, then that? Because that would be kind of comforting. Especially if it could guarantee some kind of results. You know, like If we just ask God in the right way for things, we could be sure we would get the answer we want. This certainly is one “theology of prayer” out there in the culture, one that we might have heard of, and at some level might even subscribe to. It is the theology that informs some contemporary spiritual programs that lead us to believe if we think about things in the right way, and even approach God in the right frame of mind, we will surely get what we seek, especially if what we are seeking is a certain kind of material abundance and security. But among other serious shortcomings of this theology, it is far too one-dimensional and linear to reflect the complexities of our spiritual lives and relationship with God, and it sells both short. It portrays God as a kind of holy vending machine. We put in the right combination of words and intentions and out comes the desired commodity. And yet who of us has not been there in our prayer life? Often in times of desperation or need, we find ourselves feeling almost as Abraham must have in the Genesis reading, bargaining with God for just one more chance, one more try, one more better offer.

And so to the disciples. They too had questions about prayer. As devout Jews, the disciples of Jesus surely knew how to pray, and prayed often, but when they watched Jesus at prayer, and perhaps saw the deep connections between his prayer life and everything else he did and said, they longed to go deeper. And perhaps they had a sense that somehow prayer for Jesus was different for Him than anything they were experiencing. “Lord,” they asked, “Teach us to pray.” And so He does. And as is usual for Jesus, he gives them (and us) a lot more than was asked for, a lot more than was expected. Not surprisingly, He begins his teaching on prayer by praying. And He says, “Father or Abba,” using a word that would suggest that He is addressing someone close, familiar, beloved. When first-century Jews generally gave reverence to God's name, they used the word YAHWEH. That name was then and still is thought so special and holy that it was and is rarely said by Jews. So we can guess that this got their attention and maybe even raised a few eybrows among the disciples.

Jesus then goes on to ask that this beloved Abba’s name be hallowed, that is, that this Abba God “be in truth, who you really are.” Jesus is asking that Abba God reveal himself to be the God he is, the God of love that Jesus knew Him to be. Again, the unexpected, as in so much of Jesus’ ministry and teaching, those surprising combinations that forced people to stop and rethink what they thought they knew and were sure of.

Jesus asks then that God’s kingdom come, which for Jesus is what exists when pretense and falsehood, injustice and all of the other conventions that were (and still are) so important, fall away. Perhaps He is taking yet another opportunity to tell them, in His own unique way, that this business of praying is not quite so simple, not just a formula or a ritual, but something much more. And that perhaps they might expect the unexpected, that the very act of prayer might change things, or change them, in ways they had not even considered. They might consider, as we say, being “careful what they pray for.”

Jesus goes on in the next phrase of the prayer to ask His beloved Abba for bread for the day. While we might romanticize this, or make it metaphorical, it might be as simple as a true reflection of the reality of the life of the incarnate flesh and blood person of Jesus of Nazareth as he lived day to day with, as he reminded the disciples a few chapters earlier in Luke, “no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58).

And again, as Luke has Jesus say the familiar phrase, “and forgive our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us,” Jesus draws them to a place they likely did not expect in their quest to simply be taught to pray. He reminds them that forgiveness is essentially pure grace, and, as theologian Gerhard Ebert puts it, there can be no question of its cause lying in some achievement that earns it. One who really forgives from the heart is liberated from the vicious cycle of action and reaction in which we often find ourselves; it is not simply as if our forgiving were merely something that is demanded of us as a result of our receiving forgiveness. One who rejoices in receiving forgiveness almost has to let others have a part in it.

And finally, Luke has Jesus conclude His prayer with the phrase “and do not bring us to the time of trial.” This was, we are told, a common ending to prayers of that day, and reminds us not only of the generality fragility of daily life in that time, but of the trial that faced Jesus only a few days hence.

Immediately after concluding His spoken prayer, Jesus goes on to the illustration story. I can’t help but think that He knows these guys pretty well by this time, and gets that they need things spelled out rather clearly. “Ask.” He tells them. “Search. Knock and the door will open. If your child asks for a fish, who would give him a snake, or a scorpion instead of an egg?” Hey, this is all sounding pretty good, almost like that vending machine theology I mentioned earlier. But then Jesus, once again surprises them, and us. “How much more,” He says, “will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” What? Who said anything about the Holy Spirit here? We are asking for bread and fish and eggs, forgiveness and being spared from our trials! In our limited minds we ask for what we can imagine to be what we want, and yet God knows that this is what, beyond anything, we truly need, the indwelling Spirit of Christ Jesus in our hearts. It is not God who changes, not circumstances that alter, but we who are transformed. This is truly the Good News of this Gospel. If the answer to our prayer, no matter what the question, what the need, what the request, what the pain, is always the indwelling, present, loving spirit of God, from which nothing can separate us, then it is true that we can indeed BOLDY say, “Our Father…”

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Five -- Floods and Droughts

Sally brings us a weather themed Friday Five
1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event- what was it and how did you cope? On Friday October 31, 1992 I was in charge of the fetching from the airport and delivering to the host homes about 40 women who were coming to a weekend conference. It began snowing early that morning and before the day ended we had 27 inches and by the end of the weekend over three FEET of snow. Some of the women never did arrive, some got in on Sunday, just in time to get back on the plane to go home. For the ones who did get as far as the airport, we arranged convoys of fourwheel drive vehicles, and brought them all to the church where the conference was being held. We brought in food, hauled in blankets and sleeping bags and just settled ourselves in until it was time to take them all back for their Sunday flights. Some of the speakers could not make it, so we punted and made up our own program. All in all, though it was not what it was planned to be, it was surely unforgettable (especailly for the ladies from California who had never seen snow before!)

2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming? It is vitally important. From what scientists are telling us, we are running short on time to change our wasteful ways.

3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree? Agree. We need to assume much better leadership in this area, not just in words but in action.

And because it is summer- on a brighter note....
4. What is your favourite season and why? I LOVE summer. I like heat! It's been hot and muggy this week and I have been somewhat guiltily loving it as everyone else has been miserable! I told someone yesterday that I think I must have been an orchid in my previous life. Spring is nice too, though, all that bursting forth, and I like the crispness of fall, other than the fact that it is followed by winter...which I do NOT like.

5. Describe your perfect vacation weather.... HOT! Sunny, even a little muggy is ok by me...perfect for beaching or hammocks.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Invited to Conversion

It seems I haven’t had a lot to say of late. This has not been true just on my blog, but I’ve also been noticing that in the rest of my life I’ve been quieter, more reflective. I have of sense of being in an “intake” mode. Watching, observing, wondering about how it all fits together, what it all means. I know that some of this is just the rhythm of my life. But some of it is still hangover from one of those Things That Happen when you deal with people in human relationships. Words were said, feelings were hurt. Old stuff was triggered for me. This is by now weeks past, and I tell myself I should be over it. And for the most part, it is done. The real world parts have been handled as well as they can be with all concerned and life goes on. But there has been in me some emotional residue. A mix of shame, anger and sadness that has left me with a heaviness of spirit manifested in a sort of bland neutrality. I have been faithful in showing up for the things that I know will see me through, prayer, Scripture, yoga and meditation. I have been sitting in the hot tub doing nothing (hard and rare for me). I have been reading voraciously, my old journals, books and other people’s blogs. And finding therein a lot of wonderful things to reflect on.

The things I’ve been posting are some of my discoveries, a poem from the past that found its way back to consciousness, the quotes from the journal sent to me by the sisters from the religious community I once belonged to, the Stargazer fresh picked from my garden that enticed me with its beautiful color and unmistakable sweet smoky smell. There have been others as well. Kathryn of Good in Parts posted a wonderful quote from Henri Nouwen about emotions that touched me deeply, and led me to the Henri Nouwen Society website, where there are all sorts of wonderful things including a daily meditation, a blog (of all things), and other connections to Nouwen’s works. Since he was someone who was very formational to me in my spiritual life, I found it more than a little “interesting” shall we say, that he would turn up just now. I don’t know if it is the paying attention, of if there truly has been a preponderance of this sort of thing. But it seems, as I’ve said before, as if God takes no chances with my paying attention to the message. And I think I am finally hearing it. And it comes to me via Henri Nouwen, now back on my spiritual radar (thank you Kathryn). He says: “What happened invites you to conversion.”

I saw one of the people involved in the Thing That Happened over the weekend. The person, it turns out, who seems to have the most emotional charge for me around it. Initially it was very painful. Almost flashback-like moments of the incident, reliving of the feelings. But in that same weekend was a beautiful liturgy and renewal of ordination vows and commissionings for all our Total Ministry teams. It “just so happened” that some of the hymns were the same ones I had chosen for my ordination. The readings chosen for the service (Ephesians 4:11-16 and Matthew 9:35-38) felt like they were speaking directly to me, as did the words of the sermon. This and a hundred other things I’ve heard, read, seen, stumbled across in some way, all coalesced in the Nouwen quote -- I am, once again being invited to conversion. Once again being invited to ask what I so often forget, where is God in this? What is God calling me to do, us to do in this time, in this place, in this situation? So right now I am just listening, still reflecting. Lots of questions, no answers. Seeking input. Letting it settle. Invited to conversion. RSVP.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The things we fear most in organizations -- fluctuations, distubances, imbalances -- are the primary sources of creativity. Margaret Wheatley

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. Corrie ten Boom

Monday, July 23, 2007

Jan's post of the poem by Hafiz reminded me of one of my favorite poems by another Persian poet.

The Guest House
This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture.

Still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Jelaluddin Rumi

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Friday 5- looking back, looking forward

Sally at RGBP's says, "When I began work here at Downham Market a wise friend told me that after one year I would see a few changes and sense God at work- years two and three would cause me to question and to wonder why I had chosen to accept the post here and in year four I might see the beginnings of something new.And so with that in mind alongside yesterdays celebrations I bring you Friday 5 Looking back, looking forward."

1. Share a moment/ time of real encouragement in your journey of faith. This comes at a perfect time, here toward the end of year one. It has been a bit of a struggle lately, lots of hard work, some of the human stuff getting in the way. But my SD reminded me tonight that I need to remember Who and Whose I am, Who it is who called me, Who it is who has the real power in my life. Get the focus back where it matters. I always leave our conversations feeling encouraged and positive about my call and my life in general. I feel blessed by her and by all the people God has put in my path at just the right time.

2. Do you have a current vision / dream for your work/ family/ministry? My vision is that every member of our church will realize that the Gospel message is for and about them....love one another, be one, and take this message everywhere and live it!

3.Money is no object and so you will.....contribute it to realize the Millenium Development Goals.

4. How do you see your way through the disappointments? What keeps you going? It helps to have the perspective of life experience. Things do pass, nothing lasts forever, no matter how awful. What keeps me going...faith, breath, yoga, prayer, love and friendship.

5. How important are your roots? Immediate family, not so much as most of them are gone to God. Big picture a little more, hoping to visit the ould sod next year and make connections with some of the folks there.

6. Bonus= what would you like to add....little things matter, listening, paying attention to one another, a smile, a small courtesy. Don't underestimate the power of one to change the world.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Life Lessons

My memories of high school are nothing like those of most of my friends. There were no pep rallies, no Friday night football games, no sock hops. The biggest event of the year was not prom but the spring concert in which about 90 per cent of the nearly 300 students had an active role as musicians, singers or both. The social aspects of an all-girl’s high school in the late sixties were a bit strange. For many students, school was the place they spent as few hours as possible, then got in their cars and drove across town to meet the guys at the coed schools. But some of my best memories are of hanging out after school talking with a couple friends and one of the nuns down in the music wing, or up in biology lab. Or of being alone in the chapel during retreat watching how the light moved across the altar. Or, after classes, going over to the elementary school where our nuns also taught to spend time with G. I met her my sophomore year. She was thirty-one to my fifteen. We shared a love of books and language. She invited me to her classroom to help tutor, and soon I started staying around after school. She gave me the attention I was starved for, reflected back to me a person I had never before seen myself to be, a smart, quick, funny girl with potential to be more than I had been. She introduced me to Rilke, the poem about "loving the questions" that I still carry in my planner came from her. She talked to me about a God who was different than the one I knew from grade school. She had a pretty close relationship with Jesus and talked about Him as she would a friend, a brother. Sometimes she would even pray with me in words that did not come from a prayer book, and I would feel a sense that Someone was there with us in that moment. She had a group of followers. Girls like me whose sense of self was not so certain, who basked in the attention of an interested adult. Oh, how we loved her. Looking back, I know that she was young and immature, and found in us a way to get some of her own needs for love and attention met, too. Some of us, I’m sure were more vulnerable to her than others. I seemed to have no fences on my heart where she was concerned. So she was able to hurt me badly. And one day, when I was fifteen, she said some very scathing things to me. Things that stunned me and left me reeling. Things that burned my heart so badly the scars have never fully disappeared. Even now, there will come times when I will bump up against the ghost of her damages. For my fifteen year-old self, although the pain was searing and powerful, my need to remain connected with her was just as strong. So I held on. I excused her harsh coldness with me, she was only trying to help me, after all. I apologized to her for the faults she saw in me that had prompted her words. I promised to change, to be a better person, the person she wanted me to be. I forgave her, at least in part, for those things she said, though I never, ever, forgot them. We moved on, and we remained friends of a sort well into my adult life, until she left the convent and abruptly severed all ties with those who were connected to that part of her world.

I learned so many things at the Academy that were never on anyone’s lesson plan. About the ability of ill-used words to damage a fragile spirit, about the importance of using one’s power wisely, about the need for gentleness, and compassion and empathy. I also learned about the need we have for connection and the lengths we will go to find and maintain it, no matter what the cost. On the positive side of the ledger, I learned that when my heart was broken, God was there, and in my deepest shame, God loved me still. I learned that even in my worst despair I was not really alone. Sobbing alone on a stairway at fifteen, though, I would have traded it all for a regular old high school day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

God in the Details

I seem to be on a nostalgia roll lately. Maybe it’s reading Jan and Gannett Girl's memoirs, or maybe it’s all the memories stirred up by the Pope and his apparent attachment to the Roman church of the past, but I find I have been taking my own trips down memory lane. As I remember myself in those early years, I think my greatest desire was to be approved of by the adults in my world and, if not liked, then at least left in peace by my peers. I did what was expected, thought lots and said little. Despite my run-ins with the priests over confessions, I still had total faith in the Church and her teachings. It would no more have occurred to me to question some facet of Catholic doctrine than it would have to ask if the sun was going to rise the next morning.

One thing I did question though was where I was going to high school, thereby creating more family conflict than anything I had done in my short life. For some strange reason I had decided that I needed to go to the Academy. All girls. Expensive. Upper class. Not the expected thing for the daughter of a sheet metal worker and housekeeper who lived in the lower class section of town and went to the German Catholic church. The kids from my school went to the diocesan Catholic high school if their parents could afford the tuition, or, if not, to the public high school. My father in particular was incensed by this ridiculous notion of mine. What, he demanded, was I thinking? Just who did I think I was, some rich kid who had nothing better to do than learn to walk around with books on her head? And just who was going to pay for this, he wondered? The public school was free, the diocesan school subsidized by the parish. The Academy was private, and we could not afford it. He talked to me, he even had the Pastor talk to me! But I was determined. In retrospect, I have no idea how I even learned about the existence of this place, let alone why I thought I should go there. It was out of my realm, beyond my world. I was the child of the working poor, blue collar. This place was for the daughters of the doctors and the lawyers and the businessmen. Truly I did NOT belong. But I had decided. I was going and nothing was going to stand in my way. So I contacted them about scholarships, found out there was indeed an accademic competition, entered it, and, I think, largely on determination alone, won a partial tuition scholarship and off I went.

To say that it changed my world would be a gross understatement. The sisters that taught in my grade school were primarily farm girls educated minimally to teach. They were mostly kind, sometimes smart, but they had never taken me an inch beyond the world I already knew. At the Academy, the sisters had Master’s degrees, sometimes more than one. They opened worlds of literature and language, art and music, philosophy and theology that I never dreamed existed. They saw in me a hungry mind and fed me well. I was introduced to de Chardin and Buber, Hammerskjold and Plato, Aeschylus and Dylan Thomas, Bach and Vivaldi and Munch. We went on trips to Chicago to the art and science museums and Minneapolis to the Guthrie. We sang great choral music and we sang it well (or else!). I learned to play the violin. I learned to think and reflect and question. I learned to dream of a bigger world than the one in which I had been raised. We had a chaplain of our very own. We went on retreats in which we were encouraged to think seriously about our own spiritual lives. I met women who were smart and funny and educated, and despite the fact that they were nuns, had traveled to interesting places and had wonderful stories of their lives and their faith they were only too willing to share. In truth, I found them much more interesting than most of my classmates, and developed crushes on some and true friendships with others. They challenged me to think about a future for myself that might include more than motherhood, or the blue collar world I was raised in. Again to the complete bafflement of my family, for whom the completion of high school was a new phenomena, so far accomplished only in my generation, I announced that I was going to college! My parents,who were getting used to their changeling-child by this time, shrugged and gamely filled out family financial aid forms. It was only years later that I could appreciate the real sacrifice they made. My father was an intensely proud and private man who hated to ask for any kind of help from anyone, and having to share his personal information to get that aid must have pained him deeply.

As I reflect on this, I have a sense of awe and immense gratitude. There is so much about all of it that is mysterious. Why I thought I had to go to a school that was obviously "not for me" and how I was able to persist in convincing everyone of that fact, and manage to get myself there amazes me to this day. I cannot even begin to imagine who I would be if I had not gone to the Academy, and my life had stayed contained in the small circumscribed world in which it began. Clearly God has a hand in all of this, as in all of our stories. "Surely it is God who saves me...."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Running the Numbers

Six. The number of new members joyfully welcomed into our little church yesterday. The service was beautiful. The team was a bit nervous as this was our first "solo flight" with the Bishop since not having our seminary-trained mentor on board. But we had made our lists and checked them twice (with experts if necessary) and it all went off without a glitch. The new folks are a great group and we are so excited that they want to be part of us.

Twenty. Number of days until the yurt retreat. I got to talk to two people who have actually retreated there (new member and mom) and got even MORE excited.

Two and one quarter. Number of vacation hours I was informed that I was short in order to take said retreat. But bless my boss. After taking one look at me when she delivered the bad news, she told me I could use a bit of personal time to make up the deficit as it seemed to her that this was an event that met the personal time criteria "necessary for the employee to attend to and could not be otherwise scheduled."

Three. Number of weeks until I have been blogging long enough to officially join theRGBP blog ring.

Four. Number of History of Psychology texts it took before I found one I could stay awake to read.

Five. Number of weeks left to prepare the entire History of Psychology course based on that text.

More than one. Number of hours of sleep I missed over that fact last night.

Zero Number of nights free this week to work on the course prep. Uh,oh.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Light at the End...

I feel in some very important sense like I am coming back to myself. There was that blogger's block, which was pretty short lived. But there has been some other stuff lately that I have not been able to shake. I have felt flat, cranky, disconnected from my center. I knew what some of it was about, and I was doing what I could do handle it. But despite that, it persisted, and I DID NOT LIKE IT! The part of me that Knows Things smiles as I write this. Of course not. It was not pleasant, not of my creation nor in my control, why would I like it? It does not meet any of the basic criteria!

I talk a lot to my clients about letting go, about radical acceptance and what that means. Not that you like how things are, or even necessarily are ok with them, but that you allow that life is what it is. "Life on life's terms" as an old co-worker used to say. That there is a third alternative between the two common ones of pushing away (or stuffing) and falling off the deep end into whatever it is that is going on and letting it consume us. And that choice (for truly it is one), is simply being compassionately with ourselves in the midst of it. And what I cannot always say to them, but can to myself, is remembering that God is there too, lovingly in the midst of it with me. Whether I feel God there or not. And that is part of the radical acceptance too. That God is there whether I am in a place where I can feel God with me or not. It is not about God after all. God is the Unchanging One. I am the fickle changer. The one who does not see. Does not know. Does not feel.

So tonight it is better. A frank conversation with a couple of team members. Some good alone time. A couple of good night's sleep. A soak in the hot tub with a good glass of wine. Making it through the Bishop's visit. Remembering to breathe. Showing up on the mat, for prayer, and with the Scriptures. Doing the things that I know I need to do, the things I know will ultimately see me through are once again bringing me to that better place. I am still in the woods, but there at the edge there is something brighter, and once again I know I will come out into the light.

Friday, July 13, 2007

rev Gals Friday Five: Wocher Harry or Not

Though unlike Reverendmother, I am not quite "all over Harry like a Seeker on the Snitch" I do really hate to think of myself as a Muggle. However, given that I am a few books/movies behind, I decided to go with Option 2:

1. Former U.S. First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson died this week. In honor of her love of the land and the environment, share your favorite flower or wildflower. There is a huge list, but probably top favorite is Stargazer lilies. Beautiful. Smell wonderful. What's not to love?

2. A man flew almost 200 miles in a lawn chair, held aloft by helium balloons. Share something zany you'd like to try someday. I don't know that I'd really like to try this, given that I have huge control issues and I'm afraid of heights but my SD tells me that rappelling might be good for my spiritual growth, and I have a feeling that someday I will find myself hanging off some rocks somewhere "uttering a brief prayer."

3. Do you have an iPhone? If not, would you want one? About a year ago I bought an iPod. It's back in the box in the drawer as I cannot figure out how to use it. My friends have suggested I borrow a 12 year old to explain it to me. So, no, no iPhone. I like to get my calls now and again.

4. Speaking of which, Blendtec Blenders put an iPhone in one of their super-duper blenders as part of their "Will It Blend?" series. What would YOU like to see ground up, whizzed up or otherwise pulverized in a blender? Those big yellow machines that are working on the streets by my house that start every morning at 4:30. They go grind grind beep beep and make the dog go woof woof. I won't repeat here what they make me do!

5. According to News of the Weird, a jury in Weld County, Colo., declined to hold Kathleen Ensz accountable for leaving a flier containing her dog's droppings on the doorstep of U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, apparently agreeing with Ensz that she was merely exercising free speech. What do you think? Is doggy doo-doo protected by the First Amendment? Um,I think I learned in sixth grade civics that my rights end where others' begin....can we say infringement? I'd like to think that might include no doo-doo on the doorstep!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Faith of Our Fathers

With all the activity over in Rome this past week, I have been doing some reflecting about that “pre-Vatican Catholicism” that Benedict seems to want to return the church to so very badly. I knew that church well. I grew up there. When I say I grew up Catholic, I mean: I. Grew. Up. Catholic. The city I lived in was called “Little Rome.” There were seven hills and each one contained a Catholic institution of some sort. When I was little there were at least six motherhouses for nuns, a seminary, two monasteries, a Catholic men’s college, a Catholic women’s college, five Catholic high schools (girls, boys and coed), and more churches than you could count. It was the seat of the Archdiocese, so we had the Cathedral and the mansion for the Archbishop and all the Diocesan offices as well. There were the Catholic Daughters, the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Order of Foresters, Sodalities and more. Of a population of about 50,000 in the early sixties, about 60% was Roman Catholic. I really didn’t know anyone well who was not Catholic. Oh, there were a couple girls in my dance class who were “Protestant,” (whatever that was) but they were highly suspect, and I clearly remember having a sense of not being supposed to get too close to them.

So of course I went to Catholic school. And as part of Catholic education there were things that were taken for granted. We went to Mass every day. When I was in sixth grade I remember for some reason figuring it out and determined that at that point I had probably been to Mass at least 1600 times in my life. We went to Confession every first Friday, as a group from second grade on, starting with our “first confession” prior to First Communion and continuing until we graduated eighth grade. In Lent we made the Stations of the Cross every Friday. The sixth through eight graders sang all the funerals.

The Mass is a big focus for Benedict. He has given permission for the churches to return to the Mass I attended as a child. The one performed in Latin by a man with his back to the people. I don’t know how many churches want to or will do this. It seems strange to me now that anyone would want to. Because when the liturgy was “given to us” in English by Vatican II it was a Very Big Deal. I was twelve. Sixth grade. We had a wonderful and talented priest at that time in our parish who wrote a beautiful English organ Mass. In order to introduce it to the parish he had the sixth graders present it as a choral drama. The “presider” of course was still a boy. It was, after all, the mid-sixties. But I was asked to read the lessons! It may well have been life-changing. To be part of a service, not just an observer, awakened, I think, a sensibility in me that did not have full articulation until much later. What I had always known from being that tiny person in the far away pew, watching the back of the priest as he communed with God in what we had been told was “God’s language,” was that there was something about what happened in the liturgy that was holy and transcendent. I got the mysterium. I knew without a doubt that God was God. He was there in His celestial heaven surrounded by the heavenly hosts and all the saints. And I knew that when the little bells rang, and the priest lifted high the host and chalice, that Jesus was here, really present in His body and blood. And that, somehow, that was God, too. And I knew that when I went to the rail and ever-so-carefully took Him on my tongue (being careful never, ever, ever to let Him touch my teeth, this was Jesus after all), I was somehow taking Jesus into me. And then it didn’t matter so much that the priest was up with God talking one on one in God’s language, because I had Jesus in my heart. I knew this when I was eight. I remember.

There were such strange disconnects. Much of the church at that time was about rules. We fasted from midnight before communion (even little kids). So the school day began with breakfast after Mass. Jesus, Rice Crispies and chocolate milk form the background of my grade school years. A lot was about fear. I had a meltdown the night before my first communion because I thought I had committed a mortal sin after the confession times were done and so could not receive my First Communion! I actually threw up I was so upset. My poor mother had to soothe me. After patiently explaining to me that saying the word naked isn’t a mortal sin, she told me to “go make a good Act of Contrition and I’m sure it will be ok.” When I was about nine a priest refused me absolution because he thought I “was not sorry enough” for whatever sin I had confessed. And when I was thirteen, the pastor apparently thought monthly confession was not enough for the likes of my sorry soul and he made me make a solemn vow, in the confessional, to confess weekly. When my dad found me sobbing in shame and consternation on my bed afer I'd come home, he wangled out me what had transpired. After dad had a talk with the pastor, I was told I could be "dispensed of my vow." I still remember the roses on the rectory carpet as I knelt there before school on Monday morning repeating after that priest whatever words he told me to say that would "dispense" me. And yet my refuge was the church. The place I would go to hide when playground life got to be too much for my sensitive introverted little self would be the front pew by the Mary statue. I would talk to her and her Son Jesus, and things would always get better. And then there was playing Mass. I’d gather the dolls and the bears and get the Wonder bread and Welches and guess who would be the priest? It seems so presumptuous and audacious. How I went from the distant man with his back to us, to me and the dollies and stuffies floors my adult brain! How I did not think I would be struck down dead with lightening is beyond me! But it seemed the most natural thing at the time. We played house and I was the mommy, we played school and I was the teacher, we played church and I was the priest.

Of all the things that shaped and formed me I think the church of my childhood is one of the most powerful. I steeped in it so long the stains will never leave my soul. Like all the things that shape us this has both its glories and its shadows. As I grow into my own priesthood both are emerging in interesting ways.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Blogger's Block

I seem to have blogger’s block. And from what I’ve been reading in some of my sister blogger’s comments, I’m not alone. Of course having nothing to say doesn’t seem to stop me from trying to say it. Apparently I’m not alone in that either, according to the very apt cartoon over on Barbara B's Views From the Road. Though I am full of thoughts, full of words. They kept me awake, populated my dreams. But when I have tried to gather them in some sort of an orderly fashion they have flown off and refuse to be written. I hate it when I can’t write. It makes me feel wifty and insubstantial. Like I am drifting along and somehow missing part of what’s happening. Disconnected somehow from some essential part of myself. I am noticing that I am losing a bit of Witness Consciousness these past few days. I feel dull. Bland and blah. And at the same time I’m feeling more hyper and edgy. Spiritual practices are of the going through the motions sort. Bring myself to the mat, to the prayer book, to the Scripture. Sit. Breathe. Pray. Show up. But it is not all as grim as it could be. There are things I know now that I did not used to know that bring me some comfort. One is that this matters. It counts to show up and just sit. And breathe. And pray. Even if that prayer is just simply, “help, I’m here and I don’t like it.” The other thing I know is that this will pass. Nothing lasts. Not even blogger’s block. I’m writing, after all.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Twenty Eight Days and Counting!

I am going on retreat! All by myself to a yurt on an organic farm run by nuns for two whole days of mostly silence. I am almost beside myself with the thrill of it all. My SD and I have been talking about this getting away since about January, but with one thing and another it just hasn't come together. I admit to some foot dragging, but mainly it's schedule. This full-time day job of mine does get in the way now and again. And a lot of vacation time has been spent going to diocesan convention, clergy conference, summer school and other events that educate, edifiy and enrich me in many ways, but do not meet the need for retreat! So last Sunday, when the lovely college age daughter of congregants told me of the yurt on the farm where she is interning this summer, and that it is available for private retreats I began to envision the possibility. I called and talked to one of the very nice sisters, and their schedule fits my schedule, and it's really going to happen! I'm told there are trails to walk, work on the farm if guests are so inclined (weeding can be contempletive), communal prayer and meals and otherwise you are left to just be. Twenty-eight days till Earthrise Farm Retreat!!!!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

What I'm Pondering Today

9 The First Song of Isaiah Ecce, Deus
Isaiah 12:2?6

Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.
Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing *
from the springs of salvation.
And on that day you shall say, *
Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name;
Make his deeds known among the peoples; *
see that they remember that his Name is exalted.
Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, *
and this is known in all the world.
Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, *
for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.
From Morning Prayer, Rite II, BCP

Some things are just such anchors. This canticle is one of them. Through the ups and downs of the last several months it has been my daily companion and reminder. Sometimes when I am flying along, getting a little too big for myself, it is the reminder I need that it is GOD who saves me, a reminder to be grateful for all these good gifts that seem to be landing on my head, for just how fine I seem to be doing. Sometimes I am drawing water with rejoicing, and in the next breath I am drowning and it is my life preserver, and I am crying "God save me!" in the midst of whatever I have gotten myself into. There have been those stretches that have been all about the joy, singing praises and exhalting, and just as surely,there come those times when I feel like I am hiding in the shadows with God as my only defense and stronghold. In those times it can be hard to generate my own prayer, and I feel mute and wordless before God. It's one of the things I am grateful for in Scripture. That others have gone before me, have found the words, and I can simply pray along with them.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Five Hasty Edition

After walking the balance beam this week between tantrums and thanks, I was happy to see the Friday Five up and ready to play. Reverendmother asks:
Today, what are you:
1. Wearing: Well since it's supposed to a scorcher I thought I'd go with a summery theme. So I pulled out a great Hawian shirt I picked up at my favorite thrift store a few years ago (and recently shrunk back into-yee-haa!). Paired it up with my really spiffy Christopher and Banks splurge denim capris and my .75 garage sale Italian sandals.
2. Reading: For the light summer reading category, just finished A Severe Mercy, now revisiting A Wrinkle in Time which so enchanted me in high school. Trying to read the two texts for the History of Psychology class I'm teaching in the fall....but I keep falling asleep. Continuing John Sanford's Mystical Christianity for Bible Study and Sue Monk Kidd's When the Heart Waits for the church book club, while waiting for A Vision of Light to arrive.
3. Eating: Lunch soon, I hope. This afternoon I go do my consulting gig. The staff brings potluck, so it's always interesting to see what turns up.
4. Doing: Working hard on all fronts. Trying to stay in balance. Looking forward to more time in the hot tub this weekend. Trying not to worry and remember to trust God. Blogging a lot!
5. Pondering: Why can't we all just get along?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Litany of Thanksgiving

On July 15, 2007 the Bishop will confirm or receive six new members into our beautiful little church. For a place with an average Sunday attendance of about 15, six is a lot. They are a wonderful group. I met with the "confirmation class" tonight. They are two of the greatest guys you would ever want to know. C came to us on a long journey. Mental illness, abuse, a sense of being different and alone in the world have left him feeling ostracized and isolated at times. But he tells me has felt welcomed here. He says has felt that this is a place where he might be not only welcomed as a member, but as a minister to others. Blessed be God.

N too has a story to tell. Raised in dual traditions, he tells of being scared to attend church as a child because of the hellfire with which he was threatened. He also tells of his uncle, a faithful minister for many years, who, falsely accused of child abuse, with his wife, turned on the car one day in the garage and died of shame. He too comes to us because he feels that he is welcome here, all that he is, all that he brings. Blessed be God.

The rest of the newcomers group also tell us they are so happy to be with us and remind us of all the things that we are doing right and doing well. It is good to be reminded of this now and again. We thank God for new voices and new life among us. Blessed be God.

And there are other joys that remind me that God is good. My spiritual director is celebrating today. Off in her home church she is rejoicing as she celebrates her anniversary of ordained ministry of word and sacrament. I am blessed to know her, as are so many. Blessed be God.

There exists in this funny strange world of cyberspace a supportive community of women (and pals) who minister to one another, using technology in marvelous ways to preach the Gospel, witnessing to one another, holding one another up and bearing one another's burdens, sharing wisdom, tears and laughter. Blessed be God.

Through pain and rants, and even tantrums I know myself to be held and loved and kept in the arms of the One who will not let me go. Blessed be God.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Right Thing

I've been thinking about that commercial (can't remember what it's for), but there is a big dog who sits and waits ever so nicely while her person gets an ice cream cone, and the voice over sings something about, "Sometimes it hard to do the right thing." I'm there. On that edge. And there is a chance I won't do as well as the nice big doggy. I don't want to do the right thing. I'm having a hard time with the whole concept. I don't want to sit and stay. I don't want to breathe and pray and respond from my center. I think I may feel a bit like Tandaina's horse, wanting to rear up and toss whoever is on my back. I want to throw a tantrum. I want to yell and scream and kick and pound. I want to talk back, to say, "It's not fair! I did not! And you did, so!" I want to give vent to all the pent up frustration I am feeling right now. And I want to do it in ways that are neither nice nor adult, never mind even remotely appropriate to any of the roles I play in any of the situations that are triggering all this.

God, as always, has a hand in this. I can see it, much as I keep wanting to put my hands up over my eyes and hide, or turn tail and run (or even rise up and buck away). But, as always, things keep finding me. The coming Sunday's Gospel, the comments of friends, a "random" blog that I happen to find. Oh, yeah, God is not letting me off the hook here. And now that I think about it, I might like to include God in the tantrum, too. My comments in that direction might be along the lines of "You expect too much! I'm tired and I want to quit and every time I try to hide from You, You go seeking me out and finding me!" Perhaps I should have thought through this surrender business better. I find I am thinking longing thoughts about that bag of armor and weapons I finally left behind. Oh how they are missed. Why did I think they would be the thing to leave behind, what was Jesus thinking to ask that? I had a feeling I might need them again some day. But it's too late now. They are gone, left beside the road back there, and I moved on. I'm too tired to go back for them, and certainly no-one will be delivering them, so I'm afraid I might have to make do without them. Somehow. At some level, I know that I have to, like Tandaina's horse allow myself to continue to be moved forward so I am in less danger of rearing and bolting. I must breathe and I must pray. I must do without the bag of armor and ask God to see me through this as God has been seeing me through so far. I must sit and stay.There really is no other option. But today I don't have to like it. And today it's kind of shakey. Sometimes it's really hard to do the right thing.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence

You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convicing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.

I always wondered. Obviously I am not putting whatever kind I have to very good use tonight. I'm feeling restless and unfocused. Wandering around randomly reading blogs and playing with how to get things to post on mine. This is not my usual self. Perhaps I am resting up, taking a holiday. Is it possible it's so long since I've done this that I don't remember what it's like?

The Pb

I just finished watching Bill Moyers interview with Presiding Bishop Katharine. As always when I see her, I was totally impressed. There is just something about the woman! Obviously bright, articulate, poised, of course. But more than that. She speaks from that deep calm center of faith that appears to be simply unshakeable.
One of the other priests on our team sent out the link (http://www.pbs.org/ moyers/journal/06082007/watch2.html) to our whole congregation. We've had a couple responses from our newcomers that have been very positive about her ability to articulate our present dilemmas as a church in ways that both helped them understand the situation better, and as one person said, "love this church even more." In many ways this is a hard time for us in the Episcopal church as we struggle so publicly with one another. And yet there are gifts in this church like Pb Katharine that give me hope that whatever happens, all will be well.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A Different Kind of Sabbath

I found myself tearing up in church today. That used to be a pretty regular occurrence, especially in those first days at St.M’s back in the Big City when I had found my way back, found my way home, had such an Epiphany. I would cry almost every Sunday then. Tears of joy and wonder that there could be such a place, that I had been taken in by them, and more importantly, by God. Those tears were transforming, the beginnings of the soul-turn that brought me to this place, that opened my heart to finally be able to hear and respond to God’s call. Lately, tears have come in church at those moments of strong feeling...ordinations, mine and others, leave-takings, but not so often during ordinary times. One guess about this I would make is that I so rarely have the time to merely “be” at a service, that to sink far enough into what I am feeling to even access tears is rare. But today, I had nothing to do. No roles to play, I was not the priest, there was no choir, all was taken care of by the capable others and I was able, for once to “let it be.” This has been a struggle for me sometimes. I seem to need to “do” when I am in church. And as I observed the tears beginning to well today, seemingly all of their own accord, I couldn't help but wonder about the role of all that doing in holding at bay the feelings.

There is so much here that is grace and blessing, wonder and miracle. As I hear the history of the years that the “faithful remnant” struggled to keep the doors open with a supply priest now and again, doing morning prayer, hanging in with one another, I am grateful and amazed for their faith and tenacity. When I remember how long the original team was willing to hang in with mentor after mentor, not really sure of when or if the day would come when they would be launched, my own impatience with systems and processes is silenced and humbled. And when I look around and see new faces, remember that we are receiving and confirming six new people in just two weeks, I feel great joy and wonder at the work God is doing among us. But we are human. And we are in change. And we are not always graceful with each other in this. We do harm sometimes. We bruise one another, sometimes unwittingly, and sometimes, sadly, with at least some intent to silence or push back someone we think is hurting or threatening us. Sometimes we forget who and whose we are. And our history too haunts us sometimes. There are those among us who carry wounds from the past. And then there are those that are simply gone from us whom we cannot heal, but about whom I have now been told, and whose ghosts sit among us, mute witnesses in our pews to the times we were not Christ to one another in some very big ways.

It’s been a little bumpy. Growing pains, I think, a lot of it. We are doing a new thing. It makes us anxious and edgy. It makes us forget. What we know. Who we are. Whose we are. How to be with and for each other. As I sat today with nothing to do but be, I saw these people around me whom I love and struggle with. God has given us to each other to be church together, given us the task of working it out together in this place, but not just for this place. So today I was grateful to have nothing to do but bring myself here, to be really ok with a few tears, to let go of the need to push it back with doing and let others minister while I simply sit.

Meme -- Four Things

Something in me that cannot resist a meme apparently. Saw this one with an open invitation to play over at Mompriest's and it looked like fun on a hot sunny Sunday afternoon. So let's see now...
Four Jobs I've Had: Cashier in a Drug Store (first job), Bill Collector (blech), Hardware Store Manager, Customer Service Rep for the student loan folks....blasts from the past, long past, all!

Four Movies I Can Watch Over and Over: Ummm....I don't think there are any, not for a long time....I used to watch the Sound of Music annually but not so much any more...I seem to be losing my attenton span.....

Four Places I've Lived: Dubuque, IA, Reston VA, Silver Spring, MD, St. Paul, MN.

Four Places I've Vacationed: Puerto Morelos, Mexico. Seattle, Boston, The Badlands

Four of my favorite dishes: Lasagna, Pad Thai, Green Chicken Curry, Chicken Mole

Four Sites I Visit Daily: RevGals, Episcopal News, my bank, my various e-mails and blog

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now: All in all where I am is not bad. Sunday afternoon and all the doings done. Lawn chair, good temp, nice breeze, cold drink, doggies lolling....but ok, for the sake of it, anywhere on vacation would be good, I'd like to be in the Badlands, or back in the Black Hills again, or out in Boston, it's been some years, or hanging with my friend Sue on the farm in WI would be good too.

I'm going to just tag birdele over at Splashes of Color so she will blog again for heaven's sake.