Thursday, January 31, 2008

Observing Lent

I've started thinking about Lent. Well no duh, Kate! Of course I have, like sometime back in Advent! No NOT that way, not liturgically, corporately, programmatically. Personally. My Lent. My own private little Lent. As in how will I be "observing" this time. Lent and Advent really vie for favorite times in my life. Sometimes Lent wins. Lent is full of anniversaries for me. Lent was the time when I was fifteen or so that I can remember that I really sensed God's presence and I can say "heard" God speaking to me personally for the first time. It was a very powerful experience of the Holy for me. Lent was the first time, during a Holy Week retreat in high school, that I was able to truly imagine, and enter into the suffering of Jesus on the cross and experience at a profound level the love that went into my personal redemption. One Holy Saturday, during an Easter Vigil renewal of baptismal vows, I felt myself most powerfully called back into a loving personal relationship with Jesus after a lost and lonely time of wandering. Last year, my Lenten disciplines turned out to be signifcant in impacting life changes in ways I never would have imagined going in. I preached my first sermon to this congregation on Ash Wednesday. I baptized my first baby on Easter. Lent is a Big Deal. I like to do Lent well. So I've been thinking about Lent and what to do this year. Richard Foster's book is calling me. First I thought it would be Prayer, but, I kept just "randomly" running across references to the Celebration of Discipline kind of everywhere I went. Bloggers mentioned it, it came up in someone else's conversation really out of left field, C's church is having a book group on I ordered it of course. I read the first chapter last night....I'm hooked. Spiritual disciplines. The things that in my convent life I railed against simply because, I think, no one took the time to explain the "why" of them to us. It was simply a "do this, it's good for you." Well tell that to a nineteen year old! Even a fairly compliant one in the 1970s. I have come to love my own little set of them. Have my own comfort with my kind of prayer life and my kind of meditation practice. I see from what I've read that Mr. Foster and I don't see quite eye to eye on all things. I feel a little push back in myself. I need to settle down and get teachable again. That in itself would be Lenten now wouldn't it?

I do plan to post daily. It worked for gratitude, it worked for Adventing. So I think I'll be Lenting as well. Trying to be conscious about "observing" Lent. "Observing." Watching for the signs of God. And perhaps trying to have some discipline in that effort.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Ever Bigger Story of L.....

What an amazing time L and I had this afternoon. We went to meet J, coworker and friend of my friend M. J is an artist of some notoriety. He has done some beautiful large sculptures in our area, one of which graces a commons on the campus where both he and M teach. When we first arrived, after some introductions, M and I went off to make coffee to give J and L some time to get acquainted. When we came back they were already deep into L's notebook of drawings. J was telling him that drawing was a gift of the Native people that they share, a gift of the Spirit be used wisely to express themselves. It went on in that lovely vein for over an hour. I listened as L explained and J admired the drawings he has done....on notebook paper, typing paper and actual drawing paper over the last several L showed J the dream catcher he made in jail from toilet paper and blanket J talked with L about the giftedness he saw in his work, the potential, the subtle differences from one work to the this accomplished artist and professor offered L the opportunity to come over and "hang out" in his studio, "play around" with his media. As J suggested yet another professor he thought L should meet, this time a Native poet he thought L would enjoy talking to. M and I grinned like co-conspirators more than once.

We could have stayed longer, but L had a job interview to get to. I think J would have been content to spend more time with him. They clearly made a connection. I have never been so happy to be superfluous in a conversation in my life. Widening circles for L. This is what it is all about. Creating a village to help support this young man into a better life. May it be so.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's My 200th Post

It seems I should say something really profound. I was going to rant about winter. But it's 42. Oh. That's Minnesota for you. Just when you think you CANNOT stand one more day of it.... whatever IT is...the cold in winter, the hot humidity in summer, the endless gray, the wind over the stops. That I think is why I stay. That and those two perfect days in October when the light is golden and the air is crisp and, oh well never mind....

But I don't really have anything profound to say on this 200th post. I am fighting my January blahs. I have a touch of that seasonal thing, appropriately called SAD that afflicts a good many of us northerners. It's been a little worse than usual this year. I have been more exhausted, more cranky, less able to bounce back than in earlier years. Teaching took a bigger toll than I even wanted to admit, I think. And it seems there is not much let up in the time demands. This MDG project we have chosen to be part of, exciting though it is, seems to be taking big gulps of time. My whole ministry life seems to have expanded somehow from this time last year. It's not that there are more "duties" exactly; in fact I'm doing less "things," as far as feeling like I am responsible (read over-responsible) for making sure nothing is left undone, but there seems to be "more" somehow in a qualitative sense. It's funny how that can happen. It feels more like I am a priest in a whole sense this year than last. That, I would say is a good thing. Mostly that is a happy thing. But right now, things are kind of frozen over on my spiritual landscape. So I'm feeling kind of quiet. Perhaps like the earth I'm just waiting for spring.

L has been on my mind a lot. He is struggling to find his way out here in the big world. He has gotten past the dog news a little bit, though he is still puzzled and grieving. We are still waiting to hear what's up with the possible $28 warrant. He firmly believes his mom is on his side and far be it from me to tell him anything different on that front. He did join us for worship this Sunday. Since I was in choir this week, I entrusted him to the care of one of my sweet and nurturing parishioners. She's a mom of a college-age daughter and a prof at the college. I knew I could count on her to shepherd him through the intricacies of prayer book and pew aerobics, and she did not let me down. After church L and I talked a bit about how much church experience he actually does have. "Some," he says, but he is not really sure what kind. "Kind of like this," he says. And I noticed he knew the sign of the cross and other fairly high church intricacies, so who knows? He says his mom stopped taking them after his brother died, and that would have been when he was about six or so. After that, his main contact with church was "skateboarding past one" he says with his disarming smile. Tomorrow he and I will pay a visit to my friend M over at the college and her coworker J. J is an artist who has an interest in young talent. He also has some other things in common with L and wants to meet him and see his work. So that might perk up both our weeks. L also has another job interview tomorrow. I'm praying that he doesn't call his mom about this one.

Friday, January 25, 2008

It's a Winter Friday Five

Singing Owl says: "Brrrr! Baby, it’s COLD outside! At least that is the case where I am this morning. We are in a January deep freeze. Have a cup of hot tea and tackle five easy seasonal questions."
1. What is the thermometer reading at your house this morning? We are actually on the upswing, it was only -9 when I left for work this morning. That was an improvement in the air temperature over the -11 yesterday. However, there was the windchill this morning, that was -20. But they are promising 30 by Monday...that is practically a heat wave!

2. Snow—love it or hate it? I would love it more if I never had to shovel it or drive in it or go in it, only contemplate it from afar. And if it was all done by Christmas.

3. What is winter like where you are? Cold. Endless. Snowy. Endless. Windy. Endless. Oh and did I mention endless.

4. Do you like winter sports? Any good stories? No. I tried to ski in the distant past. This provided onlookers with many good not so much. A friend tells me we are going to snowshoe this winter. So she says. Her chances would have been better had she not shared the part about ending up upside down in the snow with the snowshoes over your head and having to do some sort of somersaultish thing to rescue yourself when you fall.

5. What is your favorite season, and why? Any one that is not winter. See #3

Bonus: Share a favorite winter pick-me-up. A recipe, an activity, or whatever. A seven-forty-seven that would pick me up and take me somewhere warm would be a real favorite right now! As a second, I'll settle for what I'm drinking...a mug of Irish coffee.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Prayers for L....

L is having a hard, hard day. He talked to his mom today. She was the bearer of several kinds of bad news. It seems she told him that his dog, whom he shared with a brother of his was killed. Now this happened back in November while L in was in jail. The dog was stabbed to death, she told him, and apparently it had something to do with the crime he was accused of. Some kind of retribution by the friends of the accused. She also found it in her heart to tell him he had a piece of mail from the courts. She says he owes the courts $28 and according to her now there will be a warrant out for his arrest. He believes her. She is his mom after all. I'm not real sure why she felt she had to tell him all this news today. He called to tell her he had a job interview. I'm wondering if there might be a connection. I know that seems a little suspicious of me, but I'm just sayin....

He went to the interview, but needless to say, it did not go well. He was hardly his most shining self. He was listless and down when I saw him afterwards. He feels like chucking it all. "What's the point?" he says. "I might as well turn myself in, I'm just going back to jail...." I did manage to talk him into calling his mom and having her forward the letter to CH so we can look at it. Tomorrow I'll talk to the CH staff and see if we can't find out what's up with the possible warrant. My heart just aches for him. I was hoping he might get just a little longer to bask in just enjoying being free.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday, Sunday

It's a bright cold morning. The church is empty and quiet when I arrive. I like to get there before anyone else does on the Sunday I have service. It helps me stay focused if I can get a lot of the little details out of the way before the rush of questions and conversations starts to build. This morning I notice the poinsettias are looking pretty grim. They have left some leaves in front of the altar, so I clean those up and generally do my little tidy up and get ready thing, making sure the prayer books and the hymnals are spiffed up in the pews and choir stalls, folding the bulletins and stuffing the inserts, getting the lector's book out and having the new page ready to write in the prayer requests, updating the hymn board. The first people to arrive are a couple who serve many roles in my church. She is administrator of our ministry team and the head of the altar guild, he is acolyte master and outgoing junior warden. This morning he wants to talk about the bells we have just started using at the consecration and how that's going and she wants to talk about some team business. Next the organist arrives simultaneously with this morning's altar guild person. Both professors at the college, they chat about a department scandal as the organist warms up and the guild person changes the fair linen. The acolyte slides in and the acolyte director brings him up to speed on the bell discussion. About this time, I realize there is no lector or chalice bearer on the list again and go recruiting among the early arrivals. A few minutes of coaching for one them and it's off to organize my prayer book, vest and have a few minutes of prayer and quiet before service. Then before I know it, it is that moment...that one that always comes that I am always and never ready for. That moment of profound gratitude for the grace of being here, doing this, mixed with the disbelief that I really AM! People tell me I smile a lot when I celebrate. Well, why not? It is a celebration isn't it?

I realize that I love every minute of this tending and prepping and fussing. Of welcoming people in and making sure all the little bits of things are handled. From the minute I put my key in the lock of those very old red doors, I feel a sense of being at home in the very best sense. I have said this before, being the celebrant feels to me like being the hostess at the very best party in the world. I want to do everything possible to see to everyone's comfort. To make it so easy to be here that there would be nowhere else they could possibly want to be, to make all of this so accessible and inviting that to at least "come and see" is easy.

I realized something else this morning. Whatever else is going on with us as a community, in this place and time, it really can all be well. The priest who was our mentor when I was in formation told me something about that....that you can bring it here, to the altar, make it part of this sacrament, and leave it here. It happened for me today with the with the person with whom I have been having the biggest struggle. The one I have been feeling hurt and betrayed by. Today when I gave her the bread and the cup, I truly felt love and compassion for her and an openness in my heart. It is seriously grace!

The only little bump in my road this morning was that L was not with us after all. I'm not sure why. Perhaps the CH staff was unable to transport him. Perhaps it felt overwhelming to him to face a church full of strangers. I'll see him Tuesday and we'll have a chance to talk. It has also occurred to me that he may not want to come to church. He may not be ready for that step. Not now. And maybe not even later. We haven't really had the "church" conversation. We have been taking things one step at a time. And it really hasn't been about that, getting him to church. That was, in fact, until about Friday, kind of the last thing on my list! Having him out of jail, getting him to CH, getting his clothes, having a chance to see his mom, those things were a whole lot more important. Now that those are we can think about church. If he is ready. If he is interested. And if not...well, there are other places where L and I have already encountered God together. I'm guessing we could again if need be.

So that's been my Sunday. Just a typical day full of life's little blessings. How about you?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany

When I was growing up in the Catholic Church we used to have something called “Vocation Sunday.” I don’t remember if it came around this time of year or if it was linked with the Gospels of the calling of the Disciples, although that would have made some kind of theological sense. But what I do remember is that the church would bring in some outside preacher for that Sunday. Usually a missionary from some exotic far-off land to entice the boys of the parish with the idea that answering a call to serve God in the priesthood would be a good thing. And then after church, there would be a sort of vocation fair held in the church hall where there would be equal time for the nuns to have at the girls and probably some other priests to talk to the boys as well. The idea of course was that “the call” to serve God came only to those “with vocations” to what was called in that time and place “the religious life.” This all has that slightly uncomfortable feel to me that I get when I think about that whole way that we understood the world and our relationship to “serving God” back then. It’s kind of humorous, but it’s also kind of sad. And I say that because I think of how limiting it was in terms of how we now understand this whole idea of the idea of a call by God. How we now, for example would read and reflect on every one of today’s scriptures, not being about a narrow call to one way of life, but about being called into relationship.
Isaiah understood this. He knew that he was called…called and named in his mother’s womb. Think about that. When someone calls you by your name, that is a sign that they know you, they know who you are as opposed to someone else. I know that it was one of the most important things to me as a teacher that I get to know my students names so that I could let each one of them know that he or she was important to me as an individual person, not just as another student in the class.
This morning’s Gospel is all about that personal call. It is, interestingly enough, John’s version of the calling of the first disciples. We will hear Matthew’s telling of the same story next week. There must be something about this story that is sufficiently compelling and important enough that the crafters of the lectionary felt we needed to hear it twice, told in two voices in quick succession. In John’s voice we hear the story with ambiguous statements and questions. We are left to draw some of our own conclusions.
John begins with John the Baptist’s testimony, his witnessing. The Baptizer, we might say, has already been called. Called to be in a unique relationship with Jesus. His baptizer, his proclaimer. And called also to release his own disciples and followers to Jesus. And he seems to be persistent about this telling, as the Gospel reports that on a second day as he does his proclaiming about Jesus being the lamb of God, the one who was to come, his two disciples walk by and hearing this, “they followed Jesus.” Wow! Just followed him. Doesn’t it make you wonder just what there was about him that they just….went? And at this point John the Gospeller has Jesus say to them,”What are you looking for?” This is where things in this Gospel start really getting interesting for me. Because instead of the answer you might expect, “the person John has been going on about” or something like that, they ask Jesus what seems like a really strange question, “Where are you staying?” What? They care where he’s staying? I was baffled by this until I did a little reading on the Greek and found that the Greek root word that is used for staying in this case is meno, which has the same root as words like remaining or abiding. So the disciples are perhaps asking Jesus something more like “where is it that you keep yourself… or perhaps what is it that defines you, who is the real you?” And Jesus, rather than telling them anything, simply says, “Come and see.” And again, a bit of Greek might be helpful. The word that is used for see means not so much a physical seeing as it means to experience or recognize, to have insight. Jesus is inviting them to come and “experience” something with him. So the two went with him and they had this experience of (again that meno root )remaining, simply abiding with him that day, and there must have been something that Andrew experienced, something that he saw, something powerfully, I would hazard to say relational, for we are relational beings, for he experiences conversion. He comes to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One. And after his conversion, the first thing he does, his first act of discipleship, of call, is to bring his brother to Jesus. The one who has been called now calls another. Whatever it is he has found in this person Jesus, he wants to share it with someone he loves. And immediately the circle was widened. This was how it began. The one who was transformed by abiding in relationship with Jesus shared that with another and a community was formed.
God called Isaiah into a special and unique relationship as a prophet to set a captive people free and speak God’s word to a nation, God has always been calling God’s people. The Old Testament is the Chronicle of God’s unending Covenant with God’s people and God’s promise of a savior. In Jesus, the Lamb of God, we come to a new chapter in the story, a new way in which we are called and enabled to be co-creators with this incarnated Jesus to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth.
Jesus began by calling a community of disciples. He did not choose to do the redemptive work of salvation in isolation. And the first thing he asked of them was to “come and see,” “come and experience,” find out if there was something there that captured the heart and fed the soul enough to be in this relationship. Because he knew it was not going to be easy for them. In this liturgical cycle we have a very short journey from the joy of Christmas to the crucifixion. It can serve as a reminder that the cost of discipleship can be high for those who follow Jesus today as well. It can remind us of the importance of abiding and experiencing in our own relationship with Jesus. Of being conscious as a community of faith about our own discipleship with one another and in the larger community. About how we can widen the circle as well as being conscious about how we care for one another within our own community. Michael Kinman, the Director of Episcopalians for Global Relief and Development once said we need to be careful with those baptismal vows, when we offer our life to Christ in making or renewing them, God just may take us up on it. Are we prepared? Are we willing? Have we found the Messiah?
We have before us the witness of scripture and of all of those past and present whose lives attest to the reality of God’s transforming love. We have around us an ever-growing community of disciples who can continue to bring us back to Jesus and bring the love of Jesus to the world. Sometimes we simply need to slow down and remember to ask ourselves those important questions from this morning’s Gospel, “What are we looking for? Where is He abiding?” And then to listen closely for Jesus’ answer, “Come and see.”

Thanks to Jan Richardsonfor inspiration and a little Greek help. RDK


That's sung to the tune of Carol King's Anticipation of course. It's 10:30 a.m on Saturday morning. I've been pretty productive. Slept in for starters...till 8, late for me! And that was a good thing...a little deposit on the sleep debt that has built up over the last weeks. I helped Dear One capture the outdoor cat who desperately needs to go to the vet to find out what's up with the creeping skin condition that has been plaguing her. I got my hair cut. I took myself out to breakfast....well it was Hardee's but it was breakfast! And now I am here before the blank screen with a sermon to write and no idea of what I want to say. So instead, I'll blog!

I went out to dinner with L last night. What a lovely simple thing. He has wonderful manners for a young man who has led the life he has. And clearly he has not been jaded by overexposure to the stuff of life. Going to Perkins was a true treat for him. The jellies in their little cups, the sheer variety of the ten-page menu, the choices of soda, all these things were delight and wonder. He says he hasn't been eating much, "kind of tense," or sleeping well either. Although he surely likes being free, feels ok and at peace about his plea and about being at CH, the program he's in. The "usual stuff" there has come up. CH takes all kinds of mental health clients. One of his roommates is decompensating right now....L is kind of leery of him, as are the other folks. One of the young women has been flirtatious, which has made him uncomfortable (which is actually a good sign). I offered him reassurance and the reminder to go to staff with his needs and concerns. I assured him this is not "ratting out" but caring for and protecting himself and them. This will be the hardest thing for him. The change from the jail-think. The CH staff are not guards I tell him, they are on your side. Let them help you.

One of the staff told me about his trip to the store to buy his basic needs. She shopped with him for things like a toothbrush and shampoo and socks. She said it took a very long time as he deliberated over each item and choose carefully. She said it was clear to her that the chance to choose something for his own was a new thing for him. Some of my church folks are taking him out to his mom's today to pick up some clothes and have a short visit with his family. The circle widens. Tomorrow he will join us for worship. And yet again a bigger circle.

My worlds are kind of colliding in some rather strange and interesting ways with L. In the same place that twelve other people call me Dr. Kate, L is calling me Rev. Kate. I want to try to maintain that with him, and am trying to be deliberate about it. I feel protective of him, and yes a little maternal. And yet I need to maintain professional boundaries too. My job there is to be an objective consultant to staff, clients and program across the board. I pray a lot! And keep remembering and asking those who nudge me about these things to remind me that he is in God's care ultimately not mine. But I do enjoy witnessing the joy in the freedom of these moments, complications not withstanding. I wouldn't miss this for the world!

So I guess I'd better write a sermon. Or see if I can find something else to procrastinate on.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Friday Five:Read Any Good Books Lately?

RevHRod brings us a bookish Friday Five with the following questions:
  1. What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?My Soul Sisters Bible study is reading Fritz Kunkel's Creation Continues: A Psychological Interpretation of the Gospel of Matthew. We are moving very slowly through this book as it is thick and chewy and dense. We keep thinking we are done with a chapter and then one of us will say, "No wait, I need to say one more thing about..." and we are off and running again. It was written in 1946 and reissued in 56 and 71, it's now out of print and IMHO, should not be! There is so much depth and beauty in this book. It is re-enlivening the Gospel for me, yet again!
  2. What is one of your favorite childhood books? A Wrinkle in Time. Like so many other misfit kids....I finally found someone who wrote a story I knew.....
  3. Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell! Lately it's been Isaiah, but I'm a Bible-fickle kind of girl and I get hooked on something for a while and then something else. Last year it was John.
  4. What is one book you could read again and again? I read Anthony de Mello's Awareness every couple years because it has something new to say to me each time I read it.
  5. Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why? This Lent I'm reading Richard J Foster's Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home. It was suggested by my trusted soul friend C and it was love at first chapter. It's beautifully written, spiritually sound and very gentle. This Lent is going to about back to basics for me spiritually as well as being more nurturing to myself and this book fits the bill.
  6. And because we all love bonus questions, if you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent? I think it would be poetry and essays about the journey of the last five years. Three of four RevGals gushing about knowing me when I was a mere blogger would be pretty awesome!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Riding the Life Coaster

It has been a roller coaster of a last couple weeks. And more than once I have wanted to yell, "Stop this crazy thing! I want to get off!" The MDG training weekend kind of started things off. The training itself was very intense. I knew what to expect as I had been through a similar version with our team in November. I had been hoping they would have found a way to sneak a little downtime in there somewhere, but that was not the case, and it was a non-stop romp from Friday till Sunday. It was exhausting. I wore two hats through the weekend, heading up my parish team as well as serving on the diocesan leadership group. I felt more than a little stretched. In addition to the pressure of the training itself, a rather nasty interpersonal issue reared its head on my little parish team. It had a significant impact on the weekend itself and on the weeks following. I came home tired and it has not ebbed.

Mixed in with that has been the excitement and joy of L's release and watching his relief at being able to do something as simple as walk outside again. There is a new ease in his face these last three days. His smile lights up the room. He just keeps saying "Thanks." I know. It's going to be a struggle out here, too. But we are enjoying the honeymoon!

And then there is the fact that it is January and it's Minnesota. That means it is dark and cold. I do not like either of these things, nor do they sit well with my psyche. And yet life goes on. I have had a meeting every night this week. I had an article due about the MDG project for the Diocesan paper that is done and in (hurrah!). I'm preaching Sunday, and since the bulletin maker is off in a warm place, I'll be doing that as well.

It feels a bit like one foot in front of the other right now. Lots of my co-workers are heading off to warm places for vacations. C is off to New Orleans to hang drywall with a Presbyterian Flood Relief group. I'd go in a heartbeat. Anywhere. But I'm here. For the duration. No vacation in the offing. In that first ordained bivocational year I didn't figure it out so well...I used up all my vacation time going to clergy conferences and meetings and a week of summer sem. Gotta do better this year. Hopefully there is Ireland in my future in the Fall! And a Festival of Homies...that does count as vacation...geek that I am! But even that is in MAY.

For some of this recent ride I've been feeling pretty alone. The constancy of God's presence that I'd grown so sure of had ebbed a bit. My confidence in myself had, too (an artifact of that interpersonal thing). I know with all my being that this is simply a "feeling" thing. it has nothing to do with reality. Why, I wonder, does that not comfort me in the darkness? But that has been better again the last few days. The comfort of friends, the "nudge" of a phrase of Scripture, a book falling off a shelf that is just the thing to read right now, suddenly coming awake in the night with the sense that, yes, God is here, knowing that I am being held in prayer by people who love me...just as I am. I am feeling a sense of belonging again. A tiny bit of light in my heart... that the darkness cannot comprehend.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Long-Awaited Bathroom Bible Study

The long-awaited Bathroom Bible Study was a great success. My wonderful Soul Sisters and I met tonight at S's and christened the newly remodeled room in question , the progress of which we have been closely following, as the contractors have been CR, also a member of the Soul Sisters, and her hubby.

We laugh about such things as Bathroom Bible Study and the fact that we are moving so v-e-e-e-r-r-r-y s-l-o-o-o-o-w-ly through Fritz Kunkel's amazing book Creation Continues (we keep backing up to review chapters we thought we finished because there is just "one more thing" to say about them), but at the same time, we are committed to each other and take this group seriously. I feel a wonderful and ever-growing spiritual connection to these three women, a feeling of soul safety that is rare and precious. Between us we also share other levels of connection and friendships that vary, but together we are a good match, and it just works. I do love my Soul Sisters, and consider them one of the best blessings that has come with life in this place.

Monday, January 14, 2008

He's Free!

As of 5:30 this afternoon my jail guy is a jail guy no longer. The PD called me and told me he pled to a "lesser misdemeanor" and was released. He said was going to be delivering L personally to the program where he will be staying. I called and gave them the heads up. I also called C so we could have a mutual "yahoo" moment. I'll run over tonight after my meeting to check in with him and make sure he's settling in. Grace has brought us safe thus far.....thank you all so much for your prayers!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Word from Jail Today

I saw L today. Your prayers are needed. He has decided he is better off with a plea than going with a trial after all. He says he has been thinking about it and praying about it very hard and he is at peace with his decision. He surely understands this system far better than I do. I can only listen and assure him that whenever he gets out, however he gets out, we will be here waiting to support him and help him make the transition to life on the outside. He plans to talk with his public defender tomorrow and see what comes. He hopes to be out by the end of the day. May it be so.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Maggie Got Tagged for a Meme

Maggie says: I got tagged by my cool dog buddy Rowan for a me-me. The rules are: To share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself, then tag six people and at the end of your post, link to their blogs, and let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. So here are my six things:

  1. My tail doesn't have all it's hair. (But that turned out good cuz that's how RDK fell for me!)

  2. I purr like a cat when I am happy

  3. I really don't like dog food much at all. (Cat food is better.)

  4. I itch when I'm bored

  5. Quirk-I actually like going to the vet...she's cute and nice and likes me!

  6. I have never dug a hole or chewed something illegal.

I think all the dogs and cats I know were tagged. If you are a human and want to play, I say go for it. You have my permission. I never gave that before, but it's my me-me so I guess it's ok.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Five: Las MaƱanitas

Mother Laura brings us a birthday themed Friday Five. She says: "My forty-third birthday next Wednesday will inaugurate the "Birthday Madness" season in the Grimes-Honkanen household. The next day Katie will turn five and just over two weeks later, on Feb. 3, Nicholas will be eleven. In the middle, on January 30, we celebrate the gift of Grandma Di; Nicholas and I were both due on my Mom's birthday but I was uncharacteristically early and he was little late. We will be doing a trip to Disneyland to celebrate them all in a couple weeks; in the meantime I offer this birthday-inspired Friday Five."

1. When is your birthday? Does anyone else (famous and/or in your own life) share it? My birthday is June 8. I share it with Frank Lloyd Wright, Joan Rivers, Nancy Sinatra, Barbara Bush, Boz Scaggs and Robert Preston among others. As a little Catholic kid I used to get very charged up about the fact that my "half birthday" was on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

2. Do you prefer a big party or an intimate celebration for the chosen few? I am an "I" on the Meyers Briggs. 'Nuf said.

3. Describe your most memorable birthday(s)--good, bad, or both. There was this party. There was this cake. With the candles that won't extinguish no matter how hard you blow. The frosting caught fire. Someone grabbed water and threw it at the cake to put it out. The frosting fire caused the smoke detector to go off and the noise was driving us all crazy. Someone else ran and hit the circuit breaker as that was the only way to shut it off. So there we all sat in the dark with wet cake and laughed. It was very memorable in its own strange way.

4. What is your favorite cake and ice cream? (Bonus points if you share the cake recipe). Or would you rather have a different treat altogether? My favorite cake ever was my dad's sponge cake with seven minute frosting. Sadly he was the only one who could make it. The recipe still exists, but it's not the same, somehow. So now I have ice cream cake.

5. Surprise parties: love 'em or hate 'em? See #2 I wouldn't mind being surprised with a small friendly dinner, but spare me from people jumping out from behind furniture!

Bonus: Describe your ideal birthday--the sky's the limit. The last two years I have been away at summer seminary on my birthday. This year I'll be home. We did the Sunday schedule at team meeting this week, and I discovered my birthday falls on Sunday. I signed up to celebrate and preach that day I think that's pretty ideal right now.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"My Guy in Jail"

I went to see L again last night. He's having a really hard time. It's getting close to his trial date next week and he is getting very very scared. Scared that he might lose this thing and go to prison. And every bit as scared that it might be dismissed and he might be out. He told me some things that make sense. Like how many times before, when he has come close to getting out of jail, or juvie, or placement of some kind, he has done something to mess it up so he can stay inside. And how much that thought has been going through his mind this week. We talked about how much sense that makes to both of us. That there is a kind of safety inside, a comfort with the life, the routine. And also, and this is the really sad, sad part, he tells me with tears running down his face, this is what he feels he is cut out for, the life he feels he probably can't escape, no matter how hard he tries.

He carries so much pain, so much guilt, so much loss. And despite all the harshness that has surrounded him, he feels it all very, very acutely. He has not become hardened.

We covered a lot of ground last night. We talked about what it means to be a man. To have the courage of your convictions, to stand for what you believe. When you should fight for those convictions and when it might be better to walk away. About how much strength it takes to cry. We talked about freedom, and how you can be in jail and be free....and that true freedom is only in Jesus. We talked about all the people he has loved who have died, many in despair by their own hand. He told me he believes that God has forgiven them, because "God so loved the world..." We talked about life now and life after death. He thinks that one is probably a lot better than this one. This one, he says, has not been so good, so far.

I am still feeling pretty scared for him. I want so much for him to have enough hope that he can hang on through this remaining week till the trial without getting himself in trouble. To hope enough that this time might be different from before when he got out of jail and had to walk with one shoe the twenty miles home because there was no other way to get there. That this time there is a place where he can live while he gets his life together. That there will be a caring community to support him. That he is not alone after all. I just kept saying it. "We are here, we are waiting, we are praying, we care." I am not sure he was convinced.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Holding my Goat by the Grace of God

My goat was held. It was by God's grace and not so much my doing. I prayed my way through and spoke a lot less than I usually do. Shortly before the meeting I'd been reminded that I was not in charge here, God was. I felt supported by your prayers and those of my wonderful Soul Sisters from Bible study The issue we had before us was resolved in what seems to be a good way. We moved on and got other work done. But I am still feeling sad and kind of demoralized this morning. It could be just the exhaustion talking. It's been a really long few days.

But sometimes as I sit in these meetings, large and small, or interact in other ways in these difficult interpersonal situations, I wonder what I, who do not like conflict, I who am still squeamish about power and don't really feel like I know what to do sometimes with my own or others, am doing in a role that requires me to deal with all of it on a very regular basis. A role I chose (or said yes to) over and above the one that is required to earn my daily bread. A role that asks me to step out way over the edges of my comfort zone on a pretty frequent basis. I know there is growth and richness here. I know, most days it is a blessing to do this. But right now, I just want to take my goat and retire to a quiet place and rest.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Holding Tightly to My Own Goat

It's going to be an interesting next couple days. I have a meeting with my team tonight and a lunch date tomorrow that hold the potential to challenge me on every skill I have been working on in this last year. Authenticity, not getting all up into my imperiousness when scared, but being able to speak my truth at the same time, staying focused on the issue and not taking it personally... the whole package. I am going to be interacting in situations and with people who as Cheesehead said so eloquently, "get my goat." So when I go to that meeting and have that lunch, there is going to be a picture in my planner to remind me to hold firmly to my own goat in these next days. Your prayers will be appreciated.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Epiphany Comes Again....

The Feast of the Epiphany is a Big Deal for me. It was a day of reconversion of sorts....Several years ago I had come out of a very hurtful church experience. It was long, it was ugly, it was exhausting. We all know the drill. It culminated in my leaving the Christmas service sad and demoralized and in tears wondering if I was really done this time. If I should just hang it up. Give up on God, give up on church. Just go find something constructive to do with my time instead! But I had a friend at another Episcopal church who urged me to come to her church. She knew my struggles, but she told me things were not the same at her place. What, she asked me, other than a little drive time, did I have to lose? So with much trepidation, on Epiphany Sunday, she finally talked me into attending. This is what I wrote in my journal later that Sunday:

Sitting here, two hours after my first service at St. M's. Stomach queasy, feeling shaky and shaken. Tears in church. How many years (other than at baptisms and weddings) has it been?

I am having a premonition of Epiphany. If I go on this journey (to the center of Reality?)...something WILL happen. I am being pulled, drawn, yanked into feels not in my control. I am struck that I have "done church," done spirituality, but I have not allowed myself to be convicted. I am again at that place where I closed the book so many years ago and being asked, being urged, invited, pulled, open it, open me again. To be radical. To be fearless in my fear.

This God is not the polite God that supports and gently nudges. This God wants more, wants me, wants all. This will require something of me, will change me in a way that I am not getting to be in charge of. This God wants conversion, wants to pull me through the tunnel of my resistance into the center of something that I have glimpsed, flirted with, but never allowed myself to be taken to, given to possessed by. This is new and scary business. And I want it as much as I don't!

Though I am Celtic I really don't claim to be prescient. Well not often anyway. But obviously I knew something was up. Of course I had no clue what! I fully believed that I was going settle into that lovely community and happily live out the rest of my churchy little life with them. And God seems to have had a different desire. Because it was less than ten months later that I was packing to move here and begin the journey that led me to ordination and all the truly amazing things that are happening in my life right now.

Including what happened this weekend! A group of us gathered in a retreat center. No big deal, happens all the time. But instead of talks on prayer or developing our spiritual lives, we learned how to strategize, organize and motivate people from community organizing trainers from Harvard who do work with groups like the Obama campaign and the Sierra club and who are teaching us to do this so we can bring it all to bear on a very exciting, visionary and creative MDG campaign that is taking flight in our diocese. We learned the power of using our stories as public narrative. We learned about collaborative decision-making and how important clear outcome criteria is in that process. This was the church-training level of what I went to in November. It extends it out and opens it up. It extends out and opens up my role in this as well. I have a role on the diocesan team. I am the storyteller. I will document this adventure internally as well as tell the world about us! In addition, my church team seems to think I should lead them into our future. So strangely enough in this project, I am a both/and. Yes I hear you all laughing! Just when I thought I was going to have a little free time. I think I hear God chuckling, too.

It was quite a weekend. From Friday night until Sunday afternoon our only breaks were to eat and sleep. Otherwise we worked. It was hard. It was exhausting. It was intense. I laughed with these people and I fought with them. I cried with them and about them. I loved them and at times I did not! I was angry at some of them for periods of time. I was very glad to go and be there. I was very glad to be done and come home. This is only the beginning. There is a lot of work to do.

These two Epiphany Sundays....years apart in my life, but connected by that God who comes and calls and apparently has no intentions of letting me off the hook any time soon.....

Friday, January 04, 2008

Sally says: "Well it had to be didn't it, love them or hate them I bet you've been asked about New Year resolutions. So with no more fuss here is this weeks Friday Five:"
1. Do you make New Year resolutions? I don't exactly make resolutions, I do

2. Is this something you take seriously, or is it a bit of fun? It's....altogether now, for those who know me...a both/and! I take setting them seriously but am trying not to be so hard on my self in the manifesting or lack thereof....

3. Share one goal for 2008. In the Fall of 2008 two friends and I are going to Ireland.

4. Money is no barrier, share one wild/ impossible dream for 2008 If we are going wild and about ending the war?

5. Someone wants to publish a story of your year in 2008, what will the title of that book be? I think it could be something like That First Priest Year: How I was Lured by Liturgy, and Gospelled into Mission

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The News from Jail

It has been a long and eventful day in L's world. I thought I'd give the Public Defender one last shot via e-mail first thing this morning. Imagine my surprise when almost immediately I got a response! He told me that L's hearing tomorrow was a preliminary hearing for a pleading and that he was going over to see him this afternoon. If L would "plead out" (say he was guilty) the PD was pretty sure he could get him released in the morning. At first this seemed pretty exciting. One little plea and he would finally be free! There was just one little glitch in this simple plan. L said he would not plead guilty...because he is not guilty and he will not say he is. Not to get out of jail, not to play the system, not to please the PD. He will take his chances in two weeks with a trial. He explained it all very patiently to me tonight, this street and system smart young man to his seriously naive but quickly coming up to speed pastor.

If he takes the plea, they tell him he can get out, but they don't have to keep their word. He has had this happen before as a juvenile. They promised amnesty on a plea, he pled, and they locked him up for four years anyway. He says he doesn't trust the system. I'd say so! If he goes to trial he may be found guilty, but he has already served a big chunk of his sentence while waiting to even go to he has about four months left to serve....he says he thinks he could manage. I told him I'd be there. The worst part of going to trial he says? The PD wants him to cut his hair! But the good news? The PD is getting him some clothes after all! He says this has NEVER happened in all the times he has gone to court in his life. He is literally scratching his head and asking me "Why is this happening now? Why is my PD getting me clothes for court? He even asked me what kind I liked!" I told him I thought it might have something to do with all these praying women.

So tomorrow morning at 8:30 he will go before the judge briefly and plead "not guilty." This will earn him the right to a trial on January 15th. C will be there for moral support for him in the morning. I'll talk to the treatment people and change the bed reservation...and the visits to the jail will continue for a couple more will our need for your prayers.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Incarcerated Incarnation

This is the Christmas card I was given tonight at the county jail by L. He drew it for me. I cried of course.

His trial is Friday. We don't know what time. L doesn't know. The jailer didn't know either. L and I only know his court date because the jailer in the other county just sort of blurted it out to me the first time I visited him there. His public defender hasn't been over to see him since the last time he was in court for the preliminary hearing in October. The PD never did return my calls. L and I talked tonight about what happens on Friday. It's not like TV, L tells me. They don't bring you nice clothes to go to court in, not in his world. You go in your navy blue jail scrubs over a T-shirt. Rubber sandals and socks complete the ensemble. If he is released they will give him back the clothes he came in. Back in August. He thinks he was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. Maybe a shirt, too. He can't remember. And he is really hoping to get both shoes back this time. Last time he was in jail, he only got one shoe back, he tells me, so this time he tied them together, hoping that will help. He thinks he was wearing his hiking boots that day because he was fishing when they arrested him. He's hoping so, they are warmer than tennis shoes. I sit with my mouth hanging open as he casually tells me all this. He laughs at me. "You really don't know much about the system do you?" he asks. "Not this part." I admit. And I don't. Much of what I think I know about jails is pieced together from TV and word of mouth and the glimpses from brief little Bible study visits. This is the up close and personal version. This is L's real life. The one he has known most of his life. The one he says that he is really ready to leave behind. I believe him about that. I truly do.

We talked again tonight about what he is to do immediately if he is released. Call me! He has the cell number. He knows I may be with clients. He knows to keep trying. He also knows where I work, and where to find the program where we are planning to get him placed for ninety days to get him going on a healthy life. He now also has a backup number for C...two numbers in fact. He knows she can be trusted to help him if he can't find me. He knows that there is a motel room available to him if the crisis bed is full. We also talked about how changing is hard and that you have to think first and act second....that old lives and old habits call you back and call you loud. We talked about how God made him fine and good and for so much more than jail!

Before I left him tonight I told him how much I hoped that the next time I saw him it would be outside and free. We both cried and prayed for that. We also talked about the worst case scenario. He tells me the longest they can keep him is a year and a day. That would be August. I assured him, if the worst happens, I will be there a year and a day, too.

In the face of all of this I am feeling very helpless tonight. I have this tiny little church with little to call on or muster up for resources and a day job that tethers me from just being where I so long to be on Friday. The system is big and crushing and his blasted lawyer will not call me back. On Friday sometime, something will happen for this boy that may change his life. He doesn't have a coat or someone to meet him at the door or sit in the gallery and smile at him and wish him well. I feel like at the crucial moment I am not able to be there and that feels bad. It is hard for me to trust that if he gets out he will call, that he will not just walk away into his old life again. I know he is God's not mine. He has only been given to my care for this brief time....but I have come to care about this cast away child of God in a deep way. I know that you have all been and are praying. L knows, too. He asked about you all tonight, my "pastor ladies on the internet." Surely it is God who saves us....but I think a winter coat would be a good thing, too.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Later Disclaimer

No closets were disturbed between the writing of these blogs. That, I think, succeeds as a day of leisure. I did finally get dressed at about 2 and headed out to the grocery store. As part of that self-nurturing intention, I have decided I need to feed myself a little better and try to ingest something now and then that might have a nutrient or two, so I stocked up on some things that I can turn into quick and reasonably nutrititious dinners. I've been falling down on that lately. We've been eating toast, cereal. Not much redeeming nutritional value. That and actually making a rather healthy dinner was about it for activity. The rest of the day was bits of this and that...a littleTV, some reading, a cuddle or two with a cat and Maggie, even a nap on the couch. No closets, no packing, no laundry. A good start to a slower life? Time will tell.

Hanging Out in the New Year

I am hanging out today. That doesn't seem like much of a statement until I start thinking about how long it's been since I did it. This is the first time since August 28th that I have more than two weeks until there is an immediate deadline before me demanding my attention. There are of course Things To Do. I have things to read for the conference I'm going to this coming weekend, and stuff to take over to church for the person whose leading the service on Sunday, my room needs cleaning (um...the summer clothes are still in the closet!), I need to do laundry and think about what I'll pack for Friday...but there is nothing really pressing. There are no class preps, no sermon for this Sunday, nothing that says "Do it NOW!" I am at leisure. I could watch a movie, go for a walk (except the wind chill is minus 20), start reading Boom (I bought it with my Christmas gift card after Mompriest talked about it on her blog) , take a nap (well maybe later, it hasn't really been that long since I got up). Or I could do something really useful and put away my summer clothes and do my laundry and clean the bedroom.

Or I could do the hardest thing of all and do nothing! This is the point where paralysis sets in. I think sometimes this is why I stay so scheduled. So I don't have to decide, but can just keep moving. I like being productive and busy. Downtime is a little more challenging. Maybe that should appear along with those intentions somewhere, or maybe it already does. Being intentional about staying more unscheduled as a way of being self-nurturing and being compassionately curious about the anxiety that rises up when I am....

But right now I think I hear a closet calling me.....