Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Five: Seasons Change....

Reverendmother says: It's Labor Day weekend here in the United States, also known as Summer's Last Hurrah. So let's say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn. (People in other climes, feel free to adapt as needed.)

1. Share a highlight from this summer. (If you please, don't just say "our vacation to the Canadian Rockies." Give us a little detail or image. Help us live vicariously through you!) One of the highlights of my summer was one day of winter! Back in June in the Black Hills at Summer School we had a lovely blizzard. Yes those are people pushing a car. It snowed most of the morning. By noon it was over. By two it was gone. That's my kind of winter. Another highlight was my mini-retreat at the yurt In August. Two and a half lovely days of solitude, unscheduled time, peace and the noisy quiet you can only find on a working farm , run by two sister-sisters (bio-religious?) in this quaint little round structure that just brings you in and wraps you up. The bookends of my summer!

2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?
Weatherwise, I never really like to see summer end, as I am this strange creature, at least among the northern folk who LOVES the heat and humidity. Fall is pretty, but, oh the season that follows it....that one is not my friend! I like my fall clothes, though not the wearing of shoes (I hate giving up my toe ring!) I always like the forward movement into fall, back to school (well until this week anyway). And liturgically fall on into winter is Advent on into Christmas, that's all good too.

3. Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.
In mid-September we have a Diocesan meeting the Saturday preceding clergy conference. Since both are across the state, running back and forth seems silly. To occupy myself on the day between, I'm going to be a wench at the Renaissance Festival, helping M, co-priest on my team here who has a brass rubbing booth. The Ren Fest used to be A BIG annual event in my life, new costume every year and all, so this will be blast from the past as well as time to hang out on hopefully a great fall day with my friend whom, though I share ministry with, I don't get to just hang out with as much as I'd like! And then at clergy conference I've been asked to run a workshop/discussion on "best practices" talking about our Total Ministry experience. Since this CC comes on the one-year anniversary of my ordination I'm a little blown away by this. Flattered and a bit nervous!

4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away summer clothes, one last trip to the beach) Putting up the plastic on the porch windows. Putting the emergency gear in the car. Making sure the AAA membership is up to date. Have I mentioned I hate winter???? Stay tuned!

5. I'll know that fall is really here when that magical quality of light appears out here on the prairie. I have been trying ever since I moved here to capture it, in words, in my camera lens. It is my annual fall project. It is a visceral experience for me and part of why I fell in love with this place.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

School Daze

It has not been my finest week. School is off to kind of a rocky start. The first class went well enough. Thirty more or less friendly faces, thirty names to try to sort into people as time goes by. Some, even on the first day, stand out as friendlier,warmer, and some as a little more challenging. But the one that got me came out of left field. Before class she and her friend, the other "non-trad" were chatting with me me, joking about sitting in the back. I picked up nothing untoward from her throughout the class. We reviewed the syllabus, did some self-intros. She said she was finishing up this semester, returned to college after twenty-seven years as a hair stylist. Said she figured if she was going to listen to people's problems, she might as well get paid for it. It was after class when she nailed me. On the phone. Started out by saying, "I don't want to be a trouble-maker but...." Uh-oh. Why is it whenever anyone says that, you know they are going to be? She then pretty much deconstructed the class and told me why I should not be teaching it the way I am (interactive with lots of student groups) and that she didn't think she was going to be getting her money's worth "learning from other students." Said if she wanted to learn from TAs she'd go to one of those kind of colleges, and if she wanted to be a teacher she'd be in ed not psych. Said quite a bit in that vein. Listened very little. Told me she could not drop as she has to have the class to graduate and she is in her last semester. Cut me off in the end and pretty much hung up on me.

I have not been sleeping well these last two nights. This is the kind of stuff that gets the Critical Voices off on a major toot. They were jumping up and down and hootin' and hollerin'. Especially at three in the morning. I felt sick all day. By class time I was ready to panic. So I sent a prayer request out to a friend, took a deep breath and went to school. She was not in class. I don't know what that means, if anything, at this point. On paper (or more accurately, on-line) she is still registered. There is no e-mail from her telling me she dropped, like there was from her non-trad buddy from the first day who did drop, telling me she overbooked herself. Um-hmm. Now I find myself wondering about her. Wondering about the next class, true. But also wondering what's going on in her head today. Wondering what kind of first week of school she is having and if it is as disconcerting as mine. I know that I was not the only one being prayed for. I'm glad.

Monday, August 27, 2007

'Twas the Night Before School Starts

I am feeling very mellow tonight. This is really nothing short of a miracle when you consider that I start teaching tomorrow and I am not perfectly ready, my materials are not perfectly prepared. I don't know. Maybe it was the half hour in the hot tub watching the striated clouds play peek-a-boo with the stars in the dusky sky. Maybe it was the two fingers of Chivas reverently sipped. The Chivas gifted to me by someone "just because I appreciate you and all you do." Maybe it is because I am, for once, listening to my own sermons and letting God be God.

Oh, it's not as if the Critical Voices didn't want to Start a Little Something. All day I could feel it sitting just south of my heart, threatening to rise. The panic, the last minute meltdown, the "I can't do this, what was I thinking, I will fail and look a fool oh woe is me" rant that accompanies any endeavor of note in my life. I thank them for their concern. It is concern. In their misbegotten and misguided way, my Critics truly believe they need to protect me from these wild forays into the world I keep insisting on. "It's not safe out there, you might get hurt." My poor Mother. For it is her voice they channel in my mind. She was afraid for me in the world. Her baby, girl born late, last chance to mother, she would keep me safe. She could not understand that it is a fine line between protection and smothering. I have teetered on that line most of my life, fearful of many things. But in the last few years there is a counterpoint to her voice in my head. "Be not afraid, it is your Father's good pleasure to bring you the kingdom." "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you." "I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly." "Surely it is God who saves me, I will trust in Him and not be afraid." More and more I am able to invite the Critical Voices to hush, comforted by God's word and presence.

And God does speak to me in many ways. I ran into a retired professor today at the coffee shop. He left me with these words of wisdom about my class. "If you have fun with it they will, too." Amen Professor, I think that will preach!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Just Hanging Out in God's Country

After I finished my sermon last night I decided to take a break and Dear One and I went to see License to Wed. What a letdown. Aside from a couple of slapstick moments involving robot babies and body fluids there was nothing funny about this movie. And on a lot of levels I actually found it kind of disturbing. Apparently in "Rev. Frank's" (Williams') world, it is OK to be cruel, insensitive, smarmy, manipulative and even break the law to achieve your "godly" goals. And it's good to have a little sidekick "junior minister" there learning the ropes with you. Even his supposedly "redemptive act" involved doing something outside the law. So what's the message here? If you're doing it for a good cause (or think you are) all's well? Ummm....seems I've heard this somewhere before, "God told me to, so it's OK." I guess I expected better of Robin, my fellow Episcopalian! The good news is all it cost me was a box of popcorn as I had won the movie passes at a work party!

This morning the service was all ligthness and wonder, gift and grace. The sermon that seemed "ok" on paper felt better delivered. Feeding my people on word and sacrament I found myself loving them all over again. A blessed morning.

After church I took advantage of the great weather to get what will likely be my last sunburn of the season and attended the parade for our summer festival. I don't know if all small town parades are like this, but sandwiched between the bands and the drum lines, ours consists of a lot of the local business people, churches and service organizations driving decorated vehicles of all sorts and tossing stuff to the parade goers. Now most of the "stuff" in question is candy for the kids, and that is a show in itself watching them scramble for Tootsie rolls and Jolly Ranchers, and the occassional frisbee or nerf ball. But the merchants don't all cater to the kiddies. Today for example, I scored a mini-flashlight from the Pentecostals, a pair of cute pearl earrings from the new jewelry store, a 20% off coupon for the Maurice's, a rubber ducky from the mortuary (!), a magnet from the Catholics and a couple tootsie rolls I beat the kids to. I wore my "Episcopalian by the Grace of God" T- shirt as I often do to casual community events. It's been a conversation starter more than once. I noticed that most of my mainline brothers (and in this town it is most brothers) had a presence in the parade. Three Lutheran churches had floats, as did the Pentecostals who had a Christian rapper on their flatbed with a good loud sound system along with the flashlights they passed out. The new missionary alliance church planting folks were passing out tracts and candy, the Catholics had a float representing the church school and they were giving pencils and magnets. Many of them were playing catchy praise music. Got me thinking....the homecoming parade is not too far off. We are already planning to sell hot dogs for an MDG fundraiser. The street in front of church is on the parade route. Maybe we should be IN the parade as well. One of my congregants has a pickup, we could ride in the back, we could have a sign! What should an Episcopalian toss to the crowd? What music should we play? All suggestions will be considered.

It's been a long few weeks. Lots of intense emotion, time pressure, heavy stuff with clients. School starts Tuesday, and I know that things are going to get moving fast again in my life for awhile. But today for that hour or so in the sun in my post-worship languor I felt perfectly content to just be, remembering why it is I love small town life and practicing the Sabbath I preached.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sermon for August 26, 2007

Isaiah 58:9b-14
Luke 13:10-17

This Sunday’s Gospel message seems to be at first glance a much easier one to deal with than the one we were faced with last Sunday. Jesus seems to have settled down. He is no longer ranting about bringing fire and division and turning people one against another. He is, at least initially, back to doing what is expected, teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Oh, but wait a minute. It is the SABBATH and this is Jesus we are seeing here. There have been struggles between the religious leaders and Jesus over proper Sabbath observance since almost the beginning of his ministry. Jesus preached his first upsetting sermon on a Sabbath. Remember, the one that got him almost pushed off the mountain? It was also on a Sabbath that Jesus was confronted for letting his disciples pick and eat grain. But one of the things that Jesus gets into the greatest trouble for however is daring to HEAL on the Sabbath. The man with a shriveled hand? The man by the pool? The man with dropsy? Every single time on the Sabbath. Every single time upsetting to the status quo.

The law was important to the Jews of Jesus day. It was how they knew who they were and what they stood for. It helped them make sense of life. It kept life moving in an orderly fashion, and helped them understand themselves in relationship to themselves, the world and even to Yahweh. Sabbath-keeping was an important part of this. As followers of the Mosaic law they observed it as one of the commandments: “Remember” in Exodus or “observe” in Deuteronomy, the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Traditionally this “remembering” aspect was performed by declaring the greatness of the day, having festive meals and by engaging in Torah study and pleasurable activity. The aspect of “observance” was performed by abstaining from certain creating or producing activities or labors which later were codified into law. Many rabbinical scholars have pointed out that these labors have something in common – they prohibit any activity that exercises control or dominion over one's environment.

So suddenly, Jesus is back in the midst of division and struggle again. Because he dared, on the Sabbath, to engage in an act of healing, setting a woman free from an ailment that had kept her captive to her own body for eighteen years, “bent over and quite unable to stand up straight.” She stands up and begins praising God, as I imagine did many others around her. But suddenly, the leader of the synagogue steps forward, “indignant because Jesus had cured on the Sabbath.” Whoops. Jesus has done it again. Once again He has made the point that the Law does not exist for its own sake, it is not more important than people, suffering can’t wait, compassion can’t wait, courage can’t wait for the opportune time. Jesus knew the significance of the Sabbath as He knew the other Law. He was first of all a Jew. He had read the same reading we read this morning in Isaiah, he knew the commandments and the Torah. But He had a bigger picture. Perhaps THE big picture? The one of the wholeness, or holiness that all of humankind, all of us are called to by God.

“Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy.” What does that mean for us? First of all what does it mean to keep something holy? I’ve been mulling that around in my head this week. One thing the dictionary says is that: “Holy refers to the divine, that which has its sanctity directly from God or is connected with Him.” The word “holy” itself, is derived from the same roots as the words health, happiness, and wholeness.

Keep the Sabbath holy…. Declare the greatness of this day that God has created, have a festive meal and engage in the study of God’s word. This sounds a bit like liturgy to me. And obviously we are all here, so we get that part. But then what? How do we “keep” the Sabbath when we leave this place? And what is it that is expected of us?

Sometimes it is interesting how things in the ancient laws have a kind of wisdom for us that sometimes gets misplaced. Over time the law becomes codified, becomes law for its own sake, things get lost in translation. But something that struck me this week was that bit about the activities prohibited the Jews on Shabbat – how so many were those that were about not exercising control or dominion over one’s environment, about, in my mind, not letting God be God, about continuing to act and fret and worry and stew as if I am in control and in charge of it all and don’t quite trust God to take care of things. We each have our own variations on this theme. We must… work more hours, be perfect, look better, earn more, win approval, never stop, never say no,…. and somehow we think it is in our control and up to us. It is, we tell ourselves all about our doing, and we should, we must do always just a bit more, harder, better, faster, longer….. Perhaps a worthy Sabbath activity would be to ask God to set us free from that. Because you know it really is a kind of bondage. It does bend us over and keep us from being able to stand up quite straight. And when we are not freely standing and seeing straight we cannot be about the work of the kingdom, the work that God is calling us to do.

It keeps us yoked, and in the pain of that affliction, it often has much to do, I think with the “pointing of the finger and the speaking of evil.” It also has, I think, much to do with our lack of holiness in the sense of “wholeness” with ourselves and by extension, with those we encounter. If I am caught up in me it is so much easier not to see the one in need. I heard an interesting interview on MPR in which the individual being interviewed made the point that, in his opinion, much of the angst that modern humans feel is caused by our doing things to avoid seeing others’ pain, and that we then in turn do all sorts of things and acquire all kinds of “stuff” to further keep us away from knowing what it is we are refusing to see. (Radical American philanthropist Zell Kravinsky talks to Steve Evans on The Interview-BBC) His particular, and rather radical answer has been to keep giving things, including most of his money, and one of his kidneys, away to strangers. Keeping Sabbath?

Isaiah tells us if we keep the Sabbath holy by letting God be God, by removing the yoke there will be rewards in store for us. Like the woman Jesus healed we will find our bones strong and our parched places satisfied; our ruined selves will be rebuilt so that we might be strong foundations, repairers and restorers, so that like her we can stand up tall and strong and offer praise to God.

This Gospel offers us more than one character to identify with, and as is so often true, I find a bit of myself in each of them. I want to be the woman who is healed, grateful and praising. But honesty compels me to admit, there might be a little temple leader in me, too, that need for control, for compliance, for doing what is right and proper, I could just as easily be the one who is saying “But Jesus, you’re disrupting the service….” Held in bondage to the law, or custom as strongly as she was held in bondage to her ailments.

So whomever it is we identify with today, my hope and prayer is that we can come before God to be healed and set free from whatever bondage holds each of us on this Sabbath day.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Cultural Friday 5

Sally writes: I have spent the week at Summer School studying the Gospel and Western culture, we have looked at art, literature, music, film and popular culture in their myriad expressions. With that in mind I bring you the cultural Friday 5.
Name a
1. Book The First book that popped into my head was The Divine Milieu by de Chardin. I am way dating myself here, but it was popular culture once, honest! I read it at the Academy and it blew my socks off as far as my ideas about God. Picture one small midwestwern Catholic girl suddenly realizing that GOD IS EVERYWHERE, from deep within my own soul's still silence to the farthest reaches of the galaxies....wham!!!! went the synapses and I am forever changed!
2. Piece of music The entire choir CD from the Church of my Heart that is the theme music for my Epiphanal return. I still play it when I need to remember, revisit, revitalize.
3. Work of art The Catholic church of my childhood had a large reproduction of the Pieta that sat in its own little annex. I remember standing and staring at it for what seemed like forever, captivated by the detail and expression, "engaged" with the reality of the situation represented...I was maybe all of ten at the time. Art is powerful.
4. Film Philadelphia. Saw it just after a friend had been diagnosed HIV+. Was asking all the "why, God?" questions. Didn't get any answers. Cried. A lot.
5. Unusual engagement with popular culture. Whenever I pay attention to my daily life this seems to happen. Things that make me go "hmmm...."
...that have helped/ challenged you on your spiritual journey.
Bonus: Is engagement essential to your Christian faith, how and why?
Yes, I am incarnate in this place and time, and if I am not engaged, as in "participating, bound up, engrossed, interested and involved"(all dictionary definitions for engaged) with it, I think I'm kinda missing the point.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I have been a bit skittish about appearing on the yoga mat. The mat is one of the places where I have a no-holds-barred agreement with myself and the Spirit. No access denied. “I am open here,” I say, “do Your work.” I mean this. I want to be worked with, changed, transformed. To be healed, made new and born again. I want the chance to clear away all that is not true, all that is not authentic, all that would stand in the way of being who God created and calls me to be.

And mostly, I do my best to honor this agreement. I come with the intent to be open and conscious, present and willing. And certainly God has honored God’s part! The Spirit moves in powerful ways, particularly when given invitation and a conducive environment.

But I’m a little skittish this week. The storms of the weekend were fierce and persistent. A continuous steady drizzle and gloomy oppressive overcast dragged along with me into a week that cannot afford such things. There is just too much going on right now for a rain out. Sometimes there is a push to this soulwork, a timeliness not always of my choosing. Often things come in their own time to be healed. And sometimes it is simply the urge of my own impatience to be quit of these old demons once and for all. But when I grow impatient, or become afraid I will miss this chance to make things aright, I offer myself the comfort of what I know to be true. This is not the last chance, these opportunities to go deep, these offers of transformative, annealing passages return again and again. I know where the doorways of my soul are now. I hold the keys to the passageways, and my Guide holds the light at the ready. So perhaps then it is all right to be a bit reluctant – to genuflect only briefly into child’s pose, to choose a quick ablution of morning yoga rather than a deeper plunge. Because when the time is right, when I am ready, I am here, the mat is here, and God, I know, is always ready and waiting.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Joys and Trials of......

Tandaina over at Snow on Roses tagged me for this rather challenging meme about beliefs.
1.You have to use your own belief system for the meme. No fair using someone else’s to make a joke or satire. Being humorous about your own religion is encouraged!
2.You have to have at least one joy and one trial. More are encouraged. And no, they don’t have to be equal in length, but please be honest.
3.You have to tag at least one other person. More are appreciated!
4.Please post these rules!

The joys of being a liberal,evangelical, feminist, mystical, mindful, slightly Anglo-Catholic, Episcopalian-by-grace.
1. I can bring all of who I am to faith, to church; I am not asked to leave parts of myself behind in order to be acceptable.
2. There are no easy answers to any of the questions.
3. I feel like I live in a great banquet hall of the spirit, so much to see, to touch, to experience, all gift, all grace, all freely given by the God who longs for me to know how much God there is.
4.Eucharist every Sunday.
5.Being ordained (the gift of that still knocks my socks off on a regular basis!)
6.Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am called by God not in spite of but because of who I am.
7. Finding community among my sisters and brothers in amazing places; discovering ways we are connected and diverse.
8. I get to be an unapologetic liturgy geek.
9.Nothing is definite, things are ever-changing, ever-new.

The trials of being a liberal,evangelical, feminist, mystical, mindful, slightly Anglo-Catholic, Episcopalian-by-grace.
1. Many Episcopalians are uncomfortable with PDAs (public displays of affection) about Jesus, and get real squirmy when I start talking about having a "personal relationship" with Him.
2. There are no easy answers to any of the questions.
3. Sometimes walking in so many worlds, I feel like I don't really belong to any of them.
4. Sometimes people think I am just plain weird!
5. Living in ambiguity is challenging, oh let's face it, sometimes it's just plain tiresome and I'd give anything for some good old black and white!
6. I get tired of having to think before I speak. But then I don't much like what happens when I don't either.
7. No, Henry VIII is not our founder!
8. Nothing is definite, things are ever-changing, ever-new.
9. We don't have altar calls.

I am tagging Diane and Mompriest. Others, feel free to play as well. If you don't have a blog please play here in the comments! If you do play please leave a link.

Monday, August 20, 2007


In an earlier post I had written about some of the experiences of confession that came from my very Catholic childhood. The morning after a rather intense session of spiritual direction, in which I was reminded once again that just because something is old does not mean it is done with you, this poem came almost whole with me from sleep.

Church at 9

Who the demon, who bedeviled?
Who the stalker, who the prey?
His the power of absolution.
unforgiven, drives away
weeping penitential victim.
Whose the penance yet to pay?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Weather Report

Storms were predicted today. That was also the weather forecast, by the way.

A simple trip to the yoga mat. Child's pose. Often a tricky one. Sometimes the trigger for deep oceans of prayer, opening to waves of Spirit. Or torrents of tears coming from some primal place so deep and raw it's staggering.

The lectionary this morning. John 5:1-18. "Do you want to be made well?" Oh.

Sometimes God is doing a new thing. Sometimes God is mucking about in very old things to transform them and perhaps, finally once and for all release them and set the captive free. Either way it can be a scary, messy business.

Work can be salvific. The Life of the Mind and demands of the syllabus provide a safe retreat today; a welcoming place for my head to stay busy and focused while my soul rests from the storms.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Five:Word Association Redux

Reverendmother gives us a Friday Five patterned off one written by Songbird, the RevGals Friday Five Creator Emerita. The Instructions are: Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story.

1. where the laborers are needed, where there is pruning to be done, where grafts sometimes take and sometimes do not, where decisions must be made, requires discernment to get a harvest
2. root....ground of my being, connection to source, deep, hard to eradicate, dig deep and deeper still
3. rescue....Need (mostly from myself). Consistently pray for. Recieve in abundance from sometimes strange and unexpected sources.
4. perseverance....Must be God's best virtue. Note stories in the OT; never mind, stories of our lives!
5. divided Hmmm....all in how you look at at it, divide a house against itself and it cannot stand, but divide up the loaves and fishes and you feed the multitude.
(Each of these appears in one of the readings from this Sunday's lectionary.)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


I think I am getting older and wiser. Well, there is no doubt about the former, but I am hopeful about the latter. I have evidence. I have been in the tunnel the last week or so while I have been doing some serious prepping for the class I am teaching this fall at the local University. My frontal lobes feel like they are pumped up like Schwarzenegger’s biceps, as I have been living the Life of the Mind. This has caused me to feel a bit unbalanced, as at the same time I have been doing all this mind life, I have not been living so much my spiritual life, or my yoga life, or my dog walking life or my personal relationship life or my blog life.

But here is where the wiser part of this thing comes in…. while I am missing those things (a lot in some cases) I am not panicking, or otherwise freaking out as I am really clear that: a) this too shall pass; b) this is all a natural consequence of earlier choices and procrastination, and as such can be a valuable learning experience if I stay conscious and pay attention, and c) I am getting a strange sort of pleasure out of the process of observing the process moment by moment and noticing myself not panicking and freaking out, but rather talking myself through it in encouraging ways. The critical chorus who wanted to harp about “just desserts” and the “wages of procrastination” have been duly noted and sent off to play pinochle in the corner. The Meltdown of Certain Failure that that always accompanies big projects in my life was dispatched in about three minutes with a few gentle pats and a “there, there deary.” The desire to continue to put things off was gently dealt with and I got to it and "got-er-done." The good spiritual disciplines that have come to mean so much, and in the past that have become victim to these kinds of projects were maintained, albeit in a somewhat abbreviated fashion, and I have been able to be okay with that this time, with little interference from that distorted shaming voice that masqueraded as my conscience for so long. Finally getting the difference between humble and humiliation seems to have helped! There really is a world between black and white. WOW! Who knew!?!

There is light at the end of the mental tunnel. The syllabus is mostly complete; the course has taken shape in my mind in almost final form. Yes, there are a few more resources to be found, a few more lectures to be written, but for the most part the heavy lifting is done. I know, as I have been reminded, I will be glad during the semester that I did so much of this work up front. It will make the rest of teaching life so much easier. That too is part of the wisdom. Work smarter, not harder. Listen to advice from others, don’t reinvent the wheel. It's truly amazing how some of those old slogans have something to say that bears listening. And how I’m finally getting wise enough to pay attention.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Please Remember

This came in my e-mail from a friend this morning. Since she and I have many friends in common, and she was already passing it along to them, I'd thought I'd ask your prayers, too

I don't usually forward emails but this one I will. My grandson is due to come home in two more weeks from his third tour in Iraq and you have prayed for him on the prayer list for a long time. Thank you.

Prayer Request:
I understand that life in Iraq is very difficult to bear right now. Our troops need our prayers for strength, endurance and safety. Send this on after a short prayer; please don't break it: "Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen." When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops around the world. There's nothing attached; just send this to all in your address book. Do not let it stop with you, please -- of all the gifts you could give a US Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine deployed in harm's way, prayer is the very best!!!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

As I Look Back…

The Dear One and I are celebrating today. Eleven years together.

I am not easy. Ask anyone who knows me. I am intense, serious, a major introvert, more than a little selfish. By all rights I should probably have stayed single. But sometimes you find someone, and you are just plain bowled over by them, by where they came from, what they’ve been through and who they became despite (or because) of it, and you just lose your heart, and that’s all there is to that. So for eleven years we have been going forward together. It has been a ride.

In year one the kid moved in upstairs with the four year old. Bad plan. The kid moved out in a huff and left for California.

In year two we grieved together the loss of my mother and coped with the internship from h*ll, during which I thought I was going to lose my mind, and likely would have if not for Dear One's calm and sensible presence steering my ship.

In years three and four we got me through the completion of my thesis, my licensure exams and the launch of my career as a therapist, at the same time we dealt with the premature end of Dear One’s academic career due to the effects of a brain injury.

In year five, Dear One’s long lost mom was found and came to live with us for nine months.

In year six, we came to the decision that the only way I could deal with my horrifying student loan debt was to join the National Health Service which meant that we would probably be living apart for at least the next five years.

In year seven, the year I lived alone, I began the process for local ordination. This call came as a kind of surprise to us both and meant that we needed a serious rethink about the future as it no longer appeared that my relocation was temporary.

In year eight we put the house on the market in the city and relocated the whole kit and caboodle of our lives to this small prairie town where I had built a life and community, and Dear One was a stranger. Two months after the move we grieved the loss of Dear One’s mother, known such a short time after a childhood apart.

Years nine and ten have flown by as we have built this little life we never really planned in this place we never thought we’d live. My Dear One, non-liturgical Norwegian Lutheran by birth, Southern Baptist by detour, now yoked up to this liberal, mystical, liturgy-geek Episcopal priest, not quite sure what to think about it a good percentage of the time. Easygoing to my hyper, flexible to my not-so-much, we seem to work. There have been some rough patches. Times we have both wondered about the wisdom of this undertaking. Of the two of us, I have come closer to giving up. That fits. I am the less hopeful, the less tenacious of us. But I have learned to be faithful, to hold on. I have learned from Dear One, that it does matter that we wait, and waiting together is better.

And so it goes for us. And on this eleventh anniversary I say, thanks Dear One, you’re teaching me a lot. It’s a good ride, let’s go again.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Five - Stress Busting Edition

Sally at RevGals asks us to reflect on how we deal with the stress monster.

1. First, and before we start busting stress, what causes you the most stress, is it big things or the small stuff ? My first thought was it depends on the day. Today, for example it seems to be all things. Overslept, stepped in something icky that came from a kitty's tummy, and I have to look nicer than usual (this takes time-trust me) 'cause I have to sing at a wedding right after work. I had to deliver the keyboard for said wedding to the church on the way TO work as it's too hot to leave it in the car, the gas gauge is going ping-ping I'm empty.... But really, it's not the stuff that stresses me at all , today or any day, but what I do with the the stuff, big or small. And since I'm still in a little bit of a pink post-retreat haze, all things are not as stressful on this particular morning as they might be otherwise. I'm kinda going with the flow. In general though, what causes me the most stress is me. When I can't/don't stay in the moment. Try to change reality. Worry about what other people think too much. Take it All Very Personally. Now that's where the stress all comes from!

2. Exercise or chocolate for stress busting ( or maybe something else) ? All things in moderation. Especially that exercise. I have always felt that one cannot be too moderate about that! I seem to be endorphin deprived and don't think I have ever experienced that high thing people talk about from exercise. Nope. Don't get it. Sorry. Yoga now, that is my destressor. Changed my life, it did! (If someone out there thinks of yoga as exercise, please don't tell me and ruin it for me). If someone did make me exercise under duress I'd do something dance-y or Pilates that would give my brain something to do also--otherwise it would cause more stress. Chocolate is good, too. Or ice cream. Or pasta. Or a good glass of wine. Or that getting back in the moment and breathing thing.

3.What is your favourite music to chill out to? Two extremes depending on mood, either something very quiet and meditative, chant or harp or piano, flute, something like that, or something BIG....choral with a big chorus, a great organ, a wonderful symphony. And sacred music always works, almost anything, especially old stuff.

4. Where do you go to chill? Lately my hot tub a lot. Or my "pastor's study" a little room I claimed and remodeled in my house that is my space to pray, think, meditate write, be.

5. Extrovert or introvert, do you relax at a party, or do you prefer a solitary walk? Oh please don't make me go to a party, pleeesepleeesepleeesepleeese don't make me go to a party, I'll be ever so good if you don't! OK, so it's not really that bad, not quite. But I am a serious "I" and find parties, coffee hour, etc. rather taxing and would find myself much more relaxed in the company of one or two others for good conversation, or would do really well alone on those walks.

Bonus- share your favourite stress busting tip! Mindfullness meditation: Be in the present on purpose. Sit with your breath. In and out. In and out. Stuff comes up, notice it, let it go, breathe again. Repeat as needed.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Being There

While I am stunned by joy at the blessedness of my life, the contrast between my own experience and that of some of my clients is sometimes overwhelming. I have a client who is having one of those times in her life that leaves me as a compassionate bystander reeling. In the past six months:

Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Her dad was in a serious trucking accident and had to be hospitalized on the other side of the state.

Her developmentally disabled daughter's behavior got unmanageable at home and she went to live in a group home. A short time after she moved in, the group home provider, who should never have been licensed, behaved inappropriately with clients, and the home was closed. Another placement could not be found in the entire state.

She found out her mother's cancer had spread to her bones.

After only a few months at home, her daughter lost all her caregivers due to an administrative mess-up, and my client, who by then was also taking her mom for chemo, became totally responsible for her care.

The engine in their van blew up.

Her husband, who two years ago had a kidney transplant, collapsed at work and had to be rushed to the hospital with a potentially serious kidney infection. He did recover, but for a few days it looked as if he might lose the kidney.

She found out her mother's cancer had spread to her brain.

Yesterday, while watching her mother, who is now having seizures (due to the radiation treatments she has to drive her for two hours for every day) she was served with a warrant for her arrest. it seems that she had lost a library book a while ago, and what with everything else that has been going on, it slipped her mind to go in and pay the $12.99 she owed them. She was supposed to appear in court a few weeks back as she had been charged with "theft of library materials" as a result. That was the week they found out about the brain cancer. She forgot to go. Now she's a fugitive. And she owes the library $200.

This lovely young woman was abused by her grandfather from the age of five through her teens. She came to therapy to deal with that. We haven't had a lot of time to get there as life keeps getting in the way. All I can do is be there for her as she tries to cope with the stuff of her life. One thing after another. I hope it's enough.

Interfaith service at St. Mark’s Cathedral draws more than 1400 by Susan Barksdale

On August 1, the sudden collapse of the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River brought the Twin Cities communities together in shock and disbelief. On the evening of August 5, a service at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Minneapolis (just a few minutes from the bridge site) brought them together in prayer. More than 1400 people packed the nave, overflowing into the aisles, the narthex, and the side chapel for what was called “an interfaith service of healing.” The rear gallery was also jam-packed, but with reporters and camera operators, who were covering the service for local and national media.Like the tragedy that had drawn together so many diverse people, so did the service draw from many faith traditions. It was sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches, the [Roman Catholic] Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the [Minneapolis] Downtown Clergy association, the Hindu Society of Minnesota, the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of Minnesota, and the Minneapolis Caucus of ISAIAH [a family service organization]. Readers and prayer leaders came from the Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Native American, and Hispanic communities.

The music was diverse as well. A trio from the Minnesota Orchestra played before the service. Folk singer Ann Reed performed and led the congregation in song. The Bethesda Ensemble Choir, a gospel group, offered several selections during the collection, which was designated for distribution via the Minneapolis Foundation to victims and their families. Canon Musician Raymond Johnston ended the service with a Bach prelude and fugue on the cathedral organ.
The service reached out to all. In addition to faith leaders, city and state elected officials were also present. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak both spoke. Representatives of the police, fire department, and other emergency responders were invited to join the procession. Survivors, families, and many others affected by the tragedy also attended.“A spiritual mortar” for rebuilding“Sometimes words that are so comforting for us are said so often that they lose their meaning,” said Minneapolis mayor R. T. Rybak, a member of St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church in Minneapolis. Such is the case, he explained, with the words “Our prayers are with you.” Still, he added, it meant so much to hear those words from all over our country at this tragic time. “Prayer is what binds us, becoming a spiritual mortar,” Rybak said. “Will our prayers give us the faith we need to comfort someone, not just now, but in the days and weeks to come? Prayer has brought us together. I think we can always say in this community that prayers will be with us.”After these words, the stone walls of the cathedral almost shuddered as the voices of those assembled joined in the stirring hymn “O God, our help in ages past.”Most of Sunday’s speakers touched on the uniting of the community during the aftermath of the bridge collapse. “Our city has suddenly become small,” said Rabbi Sim Glaser of Temple Israel, Minneapolis. “When tragedy strikes, there is only one way to turn, and that is to each other, because [God] is in all of us.” Shashikant Sane of the Hindu Society noted that the prayers that began at the Hindu temple in Maple Grove early Thursday morning were still continuing. "If a bridge made of iron and steel and cement can fall down," said Hamdy El-Sawaf of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council," then a human bridge of faith, trust, confidence, and hope must be established." A commitment to patience — and a blessingThe Rev. Peg Chemberlin, Executive Director of the Minnesota Council of Churches, gave thanks for all who responded in minutes after the bridge collapse, as well as for “those who stayed behind to tend to the tragedies of our everyday life.” She asked all to commit themselves to a time of profound patience — patience in rebuilding and patience in healing.

Bishop James Jelinek of the Diocese of Minnesota offered this benediction to the congregation — survivors, grieving families, officials, responders, and all those who had simply wanted to come together on this night:

May the God who created the universe and all of us help you to build
bridges of faith and knit each other together in love.

May God, who has given us those who lead with courage and hope and
endurance, inspire you in your own lives to live well.

May God, who had given us those whose selflessness reveals to us the
commonwealth of Heaven, move you to work for the common good.

And may God, who did not make us for darkness and death, take you by the
hand and lead you to life, today and forever. Amen.

From the Weekly News of the Diocese of Minnesota, August 8, 2007

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Yurt Journals August 5-7, 2007

The First Day -- Evening
Despite an inauspicious beginning, I have arrived and settled in to my beautiful yurt.* But for a while there tonight, I thought this whole thing might be turning into another one of those good ideas come to naught. While driving back from our trip to the Cities, the Dear One had developed some alarming health symptoms, which culminated in a trip to the ER upon our arrival back home. When it became clear that all would be well, I was dismissed to get on with the yurt trip and called a friend to take me home to get my car and get on the road. The drive up was gorgeous, with the first real sunshine all day, and at one point I decided I just had to stop, late for the yurt or not, and get some pictures of my beloved prairie light. It was then that I realized that that the camera had been left in the other car when we made the ER run! But, thanks to the miracle of cell phones, the camera fairy has been summoned, and the camera will arrive tomorrow and all will be well on the photo front.
Upon arrival at the farm, I was greeted by two barking dogs, cats of all denominations, a passel of goats and no discernible humans. After some wandering around the farm I did turn up one of the sisters, who it turns out, was home alone with the elderly parents while the other was off with The Only Remaining Intern putting back the swing sets that they had mistakenly believed they could remove along with the schoolhouse. They had, as I feared, forgotten I was coming and there was that one awkward moment of “who from where?” until it was “Oh yes! The intern’s mom’s priest!" And all was well.
This yurt is probably the cutest little thing I have ever seen. Imagine a round room with lattice and canvas walls decorated in Girl Scout camp meets Martha Stewart at VBS. It is light and airy and has the best and most sacred energy. The Only Remaining Intern has just brought a jug of fresh water (no inside plumbing, though we do have electricity) and some free trade coffee for morning, along with the grinder to grind it! In the “kitchen” there is a tiny little dorm frig, microwave, toaster oven, a fan and a heater. A huge shelf of books tempts from the other side. A skylight above lets in the stars and the crickets are singing in lovely chorus through the screen door. The “facilities” are down the path, though I’ve been told I’m welcome to use the real indoor ones in the sister’s house any time. One of the cats has already adopted me. I immediately unrolled my yoga mat and decided to live here forever. Or at least till Tuesday.
The Second Day -- Morning
Sometimes it appears that I manage to get myself actually in some kind of sync with God’s wavelength for my life. This morning’s reading from God Calling made me lose my breath:
Dwell Apart
Rest more with Me. If I, the Son of God needed those times of quiet communion with My Father, away, alone, from noise, from activity – then surely you need them too. Refilling with the Spirit is a need. That dwelling apart, that shutting yourself away in the very secret place of your being – away alone with Me. From these times you come forth in Power to bless and heal.
So I am away, in a place that while possessing a certain personal solitude is far from quiet. The rooster woke me at what passed for sunrise on this foggy morning. He was soon followed by calls and songs and all manner of vocalizing from every feathered thing for miles, one of which sounds like it is saying over and over, “Hey!” in a very imperious tone. The goats are now in the act, as is someone revving a tractor. Silence, may be golden, but it is also relative.
Early afternoon
The camera fairy came right before lunchtime. As did the rain. We need rain here on the prairie. Very badly, so I really can’t complain about the fact that in the early afternoon, having been well fed by the sisters on all sorts of good locally grown food, including a chicken who used to live here (but I tried not to think about that part), I am back in the yurt listening to rain on canvas, hard rain on canvas, that appears to have arrived for the duration. It may be a good thing there is well-stocked bookshelf as I could run through my own allotted two sooner than planned at this rate. There is only so much simply sitting in silence one can do in a yurt in the rain. The rain on the roof sounds like being inside a drum. Strangely comforting, soothing.
The day has passed. The rain stopped. The camera broke and has been replaced with a new one. I discovered that I meditate with a camera. It helps me focus on small and beautiful things, to look, to really see. This was a new learning recently and helped me make the decision to take the hour round trip to get a replacement camera. That was the shortest and most disciplined shopping trip I have ever taken. Into the little town with the big box store, into the camera department to find the one that is the closest to the one I have, buy it and out, back to the yurt! Here at the yurt it has not been hard to be quiet, though it has been hard to be still at times. What I miss most is being connected. Not TV or radio, no surprise, but my net access. I have a niggling sense I am not making “good enough” use of my time, whatever that might mean. I have read, walked, simply sat and did nothing, wrote a bit. I think the “not doing” part is engaging in more doing of prayer, but that refuses to be forced beyond a certain point. I can bring myself to this place and arrange all the pieces to be conducive; I can be willing and open, have intent and practice as far as the disciplines are concerned. But beyond that, there is no forcing of the emotional component. It is what it is.
The Third Day -- Morning
There was intention of Compline last night. It was over ruled by sleep, deep overpowering and sudden. I don’t recall it as a decision. I was reading on the couch, I was sleeping in the bed, there was no transition. The night after an initial period of something apparently resembling coma, was fitful, punctuated by dramatic dreams all themed around not being prepared for things and being invaded. A sharp contrast to the first night’s deep, peaceful and seemingly dreamless or dream forgotten sleep. I awoke feeling hung over and disoriented, beleaguered by the ghost of the last dream.
Note to self (as if I did not know this already): Forty hours, despite its biblical symbolism is too short for a retreat. I am getting into the rhythm of slow down now that it is almost time to pack and go. This morning was very fruitful once the cobwebs of the night were dispersed with good doses of the Book of Common Prayer, asana and caffeine. My reading for this retreat has been Graham Standish’s Humble Leadership. It was a good choice as there have been many “ahas.” Standish says: "Humility is the recognition that we are made of the same stuff as the rest of the universe. We are nothing but carbon molecules strung together in a human matrix. We are distinct and special not because of any qualities or abilities we ourselves possess. Our unique qualities are gifts from God that come from God’s Spirit breathed into us. This is the second part of understanding humility – that what makes us unique has nothing to do with our own power, but only what God has given us through the gift of the Holy Spirit..... Humans are endowed with a spirit that allows them to transcend their created nature. Transcendence is a gift from God and it alone sets us apart from the rest of creation. (pp. 12-13) Throughout the Gospels Jesus teaches others how to live in humility by loving others, especially enemies, giving generously, praying regularly, refusing to let anxiety rule their lives, respecting others rather than judging them, relying on God’s grace, seeking the narrow way of surrender to Christ."(p.14)
What really came together for me was the connection between shame and humility (or the struggle with it). I have always had difficulty with so many parts of what this humility stuff is about, as humility and humiliation got very mixed up (and I think messed up) by some people in my past, who may or may not have been well meaning, depending on my level of charity on any given day. But as I result of extreme Catholicity and alcoholic parenting, I came out, shall we say, a wee bit shame based. This has made it difficult to accept the shadow in me, as every time I try to go there, to say, as we all must for true humility, “yes I am flawed, I possess these characteristics that get in the way of true authenticity of holy union with God and others,” I would fall over the edge into some level of shame and find myself wanting to overcompensate in some way, to be, or at least try to act, as if I am more perfect, more holy…. a design flaw for any kind of spiritual life for sure! Ordination has made this in some ways more profound, more difficult, as the “accretions” of the past as Standish calls them, become more important than the realities, take on lives of their own and become barriers to the very thing I seek.
The good news, and I have to take a deep cleansing breath before writing this, is that I am doing a lot of things right. I am not perfect. And I don’t have to be. It is ok that I am a bit selfish at times , a wee bit histrionic, a little over-sensitive at times and tend to think it really is all about me. I feel like it is confession time, and once again I am not quite sure of absolution. Ah, but those are ghosts of the past. The truth is, despite the shame voice, perfection is not required, and those traits, according to Standish, can all find a place in ministry with the rest of our less than perfect but wonderful human selves! But it goes back to humility, not shame, not humiliation, but humility, which really is a virtue. Remembering, as I keep preaching (mostly to myself) who and Whose we are…. and yeah, that we are all made of the same stuff as the rest of the planet, adamah, hummus. Earth. We are all carbon strings that God, for some reason known only to God, transformed and infused by Spirit to be in God’s image. To be like God, as much as that is possible for the adamah we are. Oops, almost got myself lost there in lofty theology, but the point of this paragraph was, (another deep breath), that it appears that I seem to be doing something right . Standish points out that the things we need most to keep us from veering off the humility path are prayer, self-awareness and someone or ones whom we can trust to be honest with us about ourselves. Wow. Blessed again. On a good day it 's three for three. I can only say, it’s grace that’s bought me safe thus far…. amazing, amazing grace. God is good, all the time. And I have time for one more walk, one more look at the prairie I love before the yurt adventure (this time) ends.

* A Yurt, for those new to the neighborhood, is a round nomadic dwelling. There's a picture posted back on July 8 that I would link to if I knew how!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

A Pause to Reflect

We went to the Twin Cities this weekend. It had been planned a while back. A friend was having a birthday, and we just hadn't been there in a while. It was time to go hang out, catch up, visit my favorite bookstore, thrift shop. Attend service at St. M's again (my former parish and still Church of my Heart). Just a regular visit to the old home town. But this time there was an extra stop. After church, during which the Bright and Shining Rector preached one of her splendid sermons, we went over to as close as you can get to the site of the bridge fall, a park overlooking the river. It has become a sort of pilgrimage site. It was a place where people watched the first events on Wednesday and have been coming ever since. Where they have erected a small shrine to those who are lost and those who serve. It is a somber place. The walk way spirals around a hill there. This is a new place for me, built since I moved away. As I walked to the top, I thought about my last post on the pilgrim way. People are very quiet, respectful, helping one another up the hill with strollers, waiting patiently for parking places and slower walkers. At the top, they stand, silent, and just look at where the bridge simply stops, where space is where bridge was. It's really too far for the camera to capture, but I felt the need to try, to somehow make real for myself, it is not here, it's really not.

The Bright and Shining Rector's sermon was a wonderful weaving of the readings from Ecclesiastes and Luke with the quote from Mary Oliver about "what will you do with your one wild and precious life." It left me breathless with gratitude. As I listened to her, I realized how totally blessed I am. I have found the place that Buechner talks about, the place where my passion meets, if not the world's, at least, some folks in this small place's need. And I love most of what I do a good percentage of the time. It was particularly poignant and apt this week. As she said, how could she not preach this sermon this week, the deep questions, it is just here before us, in the air to be asked, in the Scriptures and in our lives. This is good to be reminded of now and again. And a good place from which to head off on retreat. So taking all your prayers and thoughts, yurt-ward I go.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Friday Five-Post-Pilgrimage Edition

Reverendmother gives us a pilgrimage theme for Friday Five after her trip to the isle of Iona. In need of a good distraction after the sad events of this week in the Twin Cities, I'm ready to pack up and go!

1. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? (however you choose to define the term) Share a bit about it. If not, what's your reaction to the idea of pilgrimage? I can't help thinking about the Pilgrims Progress and "all of life is a journey" kind of motif here. So in that sense, yes, I have been and continue to be on one continuing pilgrimage. I can't remember where it is, but there is some holy place where the pilgrims take a spiraling walk around a mountain. That spiral is a good metaphor for me....seeing the same things but at a different level (deeper I hope) as I come around again. But as for a travel sort...not in a formal sense, though "plain old trips" have turned into pilgrimages in unexpected ways for me sometimes. I keep getting called back to the Badlands (a thin place for me) and so that's sort of a pilgrim place, my four trips to the yoga retreat in Mexico have had life changing impact, moving here certainly was a pilgrim journey. Stories for another day! I think any journey can be a pilgrimage if you travel expectantly.

2. Share a place you've always wanted to visit on pilgrimage. Back to my roots for sure. Ireland. I want to see the monasteries and the wild thin places. I wouldn't mind England, Scotland and Wales either if it worked out. That whole part of the world fascinates me, and is part of my Anglican roots as well.

3. What would you make sure to pack in your suitcase or backpack to make the pilgrimage more meaningful? Or does "stuff" just distract from the experience? As little as possible. Walking shoes, good camera, my journal and a sweatshirt (I'm always cold!)

4. If you could make a pilgrimage with someone (living, dead or fictional) as your guide, who would it be? (I'm about this close to saying "Besides Jesus." Yes, we all know he was indispensable to those chaps heading to Emmaus, but it's too easy an answer) My first inclination is to say I'd go alone, big old introvert that I am, but then I'm thinking maybe it would be good to have a guide or two along the way. So, ok....I would take my three Tuesday Bible study gals and my SD, they would be the PERFECT tour group...spiritual, well-read, practical, and hysterically funny!

5. Eventually the pilgrim must return home, but can you suggest any strategies for keeping that deep "mountaintop" perspective in the midst of everyday life? (don't mind me, I'll be over here taking notes) I don't think we can keep it. And when we try we are apt to lose it. What happens on the mountain stays on the mountain. However, having said that, we can bring with you what we take into ourselves from it, because it, like everything that happens to us becomes part of us. And I think we can enhance that becoming by doing some things like having "transitional objects," things to look at to remind us, doing lots of journaling while in the experience and then re-reading, and doing what my yoga teacher called, "changing states of consciousness gently." She advised gradual re-entry after a retreat or intense experience rather than a plunge right back into daily routine. Good advice!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Before and After

The bridge was there and then it was not. Cars, trucks, a bus full of kids coming back from the beach. Four are known dead so far, many are hurt, many are still missing. Another reminder that life is so very fragile.

Almighty God, we entrust all who are dear to us to thy
never‑failing care and love, for this life and the life to come,
knowing that thou art doing for them better things than we
can desire or pray for; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Book of Common Prayer