Friday, February 29, 2008

Look Before You Leap, It's the Friday Five!

will smama and Songbird say: Hello from your Fifth Friday Five team, It's Leap Day!! Whether you're one of the special few who have a birthday only once every four years, or simply confused by the extra day on the calendar, everyone is welcome to join in and play our Leap Year Friday Five.Tell us about a time you:

1. Leapt before looked...I think I used to do quite a lot of that. I hated to make decisions because I didn't trust that I could make good ones, so I would put things off till the last possible minute, then just sort of close my eyes and plunge. Sometimes the results were good. Sometimes not so much. I ended up in my doctoral program this way....just dilly dallied around for about a year trying to figure out a direction and two weeks before the application deadline, got the materials and ran around like a madwoman getting everything together and amazingly, got accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history! I think if I had really thought about it I would have convinced myself I couldn't do it, wasn't worthy, and all those other old bad stories I told myself then, and that in retrosepct, this really was a graceful, death-defying leap

2. Leapt to a conclusion...This is another one of those that I used to do a lot, and hopefully am doing less of as I attempt to live more mindfully. Although full-disclosure compels me to admit, some days are better than others! The critical voices in my head are still too happy to go a-leaping, especially when I am tired or stressed or vulnerable, and tell me in loud and certain tones that the casual comment or the well-meant remark is intended as a very negative personal slam, or that someone is Really Trying To Tell Me Something. I'm learning that when I have taken that leap and landed hard it's not irrevocable. I can get up out of the bramble bush and go back over and check out what really happened before I went off the edge.

3. Took a Leap of Faith...October 2, 2002. Got in that moving van and drove southwest into the life that God was calling me into. Had no idea what was waiting. Still don't. Mostly ok with that.

4. Took a literal Leap I am not much of a leaper, as I am afaid of heights in a big way. I am willing to get up on those ropes come spring though, and so perhaps leaping is coming my way as I am not quite sure exactly what all this will entail. I don't know that I want to know....I'll just go along and trust the process and my guides and do what I am told. That seems to be working pretty well in some parts of my life. As the picture says....."there will be a net." (Of some sort....I hope!)

5. And finally, what might you be faced with leaping in the coming year? That is a hard one. I am facing some things that may well result in some big leaps of faith, life, and trust in God, myself and others. It could be a very interesting year. I am very glad for the net.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lent day 18

My day job took me to out to the school where the bus crash was today. We are providing some extra counselors for them for a few weeks. It's been nine days since the crash. I saw one teacher, and my co-worker saw one child. The regular counseling staff who are better known to and trusted by the kids told us they are talking to about six or seven kids a day right now. The last of the funerals was this afternoon. The biggest concern now is for the teachers who all seem to feel they need to keep up a brave front for the students and don't seem to think they can take any time off, even for their own grief. I encounter this a lot in my regualr counseling practice, among lots of people, this caregiving at any price. This need to "be strong" for others.

Since things were a little slow this morning I went back to reading Healing Through the Dark Emotions. I think Greenspan is right when she says we have "emotion-phobia" in our culture, with the ambivalence that tells us, as she says on the one hand to medicate our feelings out of existence any way we can, and on the other to express them at every opportunity. She suggests a third alternative...that by mindfully and consciously experiencing the so-called "dark" emotions of grief, fear and despair we will be released from the grip of their suffering. This book has been sitting around on my bookshelf. I bought it a while back and started reading it and then got distracted by the eighty other books I started reading. It floated to the top again recently, and, it seems, at a good time. There are some things going on right now that are engendering those very emotions in my life, and I am finding some of the things she is saying about them to be very apt and accurate. I am finding myself encouraged by her words to want to move forward in being mindful in entering into what is transpiring and embracing these "dark emotions" rather than running from it or trying to ease through it with a lesser engagement. I am not sure how much I will share here about the content, but I will try to talk a bit about the process as it unfolds if that doesn't prove too unwieldy.

One of my favorite quotes so far from Greenspan: "A culture that insists on labeling suffering as pathology, that is ashamed of suffering as a sign of failure or inadequacy, a culture bent on the quick fix for emotional pain, inevitably ends up denying both the social and spiritual dimensions of our sorrows."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lent Day 17

Lent seems to be kind of clipping along. February got lost somewhere and is almost over. The disciplines of trust and submission that I was so worried about finding a "how" for are being taken care of nicely, thank you. Now why I ever doubted that I have no idea. Life has slipped into a Lenten rhythm. I seem to be spending a lot of time with my Presbyterian friends, which is a good thing. I feel very comfortable in my second church home. So much so that when my Soul Sister asked my help with the Lenten program she was leading tonight I said "sure, why not." We did Prayer for People Who Can't Sit Still. There were four options, prayer walking, dance as prayer, journaling as prayer or making prayer beads. A introduced the evening, then people could go off to their chosen activity for a time, then we reassembled to share with a partner how it went. This is a multigenerational group....from two to seventy and everyone really did participate. I led the journal group. We reflected on and responded to the Twenty-Third Psalm from Psalms for Praying. My group seemed to really enjoy their time being quiet and writing. After we gathered again it was fun to hear about the other's experiences as well and it sounded like overall it was a good experience for people. She was asked to do some of the activities again next week while we have the Labyrinth walk going on, so she has agreed. It's amazing what you can get a bunch of Minnesotans to do on a cold winter's night in Lent!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lent Day 16

I have been honored by Tandaina with this award. There are so many great blogs in this ring, I do appreciate this recognition. Thanks!
I have also been tagged by Katherine E for a meme. Since things have been a little heavy in life these last few days I think this might be just the thing to lighten up a little before turning in for the night.
Having a long middle name ( Katherine is my middle, have a "first" I don't use) will make here goes.
1. You have to post the rules before you give your answers.
2. You must list one fact about yourself beginning with each letter of your middle name. (If you don't have a middle name, use your maiden name or your mother's maiden name).
3. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag one person for each letter of your middle name. (Be sure to leave them a comment telling them they've been tagged.) I think I may cheat on this one given that length thing....I'm not sure there are enough of you with the right names to work this one out!
K--Kids.....think they are fabulous but never had any of my own.
A--Awe....what I feel every time I celebrate the Eucharist
T--Trust in spiritual discipline along with submission for Lent. God is giving me ample opportunuties to practice them.
H--Heights....I am afraid of them, but willing to try a ropes course thing come spring in the name of facing fear and practicing trust
E--Excitement....what I still feel about life most of the time along with gratitude
R--Ritual and liturgy.....I am a serious and proud geek thereof
I--Intense....I've been accused of being an "intensity junkie" at times in my life. I am in recovery.....mostly
N--Noise....There is still more of this in my life and my head than I would like
E--Extrovert.....I am often mistaken for one.
Now as far as tagging.....
K for Kathryn
T forTandaina
E for Eliza and
R for the Crimson Rambler and that is about the best I can do! So anyone else in the alphabet who wants to play, feel free!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lent Day 15

L's baby's mother stood him up today. Then she didn't return his calls. I got the call this evening from his staff at CH. I found him sitting outside and I could tell he'd been crying. I got clearance to take him out for awhile. I told him I was taking him to the place I always go when my heart is breaking and I need peace, and we went to church and sat in the dark. We talked, and cried and prayed. Initially it was pretty bleak. He went to the dark place where he so often goes....why bother, nothing will change, people judge, there is no future....but he was able to hear some hope and to move from that in time. When he finally smiled I knew I could take him home. We went by way of McDonalds as I'd also been tipped off that he hadn't eaten all day. By the time I dropped him off he was saying that he knows he needs to let it go, move ahead with the new job and the other things in his life. I think we dodged the bullet again for another night. Thanks be to God for that. It was a close call.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Third Sunday in Lent

There is some good news on the L front these days....the biggest and best is that he got a job! He starts Tuesday at one of the local sub shops. Thank God for my Soul Sister C and her willingness to be a part of his village! She was able to be a link for him, "put in a word" and help him get past those gates that were keeping him out of so many places. He applied, interviewed and off he goes. Another piece of potential good news is that he is scheduled to see his son tomorrow! The social workers told L and the baby's mom that they should try to work it out between them first....and they were able to have a conversation and set up a visit. We are now all praying very very hard that she will follow through. He went shopping for a little outfit and a stuffed animal, has borrowed a camera....if it falls through, his heart will break. But we remain hopeful until proven otherwise. The artist from the college has been by to see him and has taken him to the studio a couple times. He has given him some "assignments" to do and books to borrow. L's been to church almost every Sunday. He showed up in a suit this morning! He looked rather stunning if I do say so! I love looking out into the congregation and seeing him's so much better then seeing him in jail! The struggles he faces, of course, go on. The appeal on his case is still not looking feasible unless some big hearted attorney who is dying to do a pro bono falls out of the sky, and even then, we've been told we don't have much to go on. His mom is in the hospital with severe asthma and he's worrying about her. But overall, we are seeing the return of the megawatt smile a bit more often these days, and he's telling goofy jokes, these are all good signs that L is feeling a whole lot better about life.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent

We just never know when life is going to change forever, do we? This has come home to all of us in this community as we heard the horrible news on Tuesday about the bus accident. There was no way on Tuesday morning to imagine that before the end of the day four young lives would end and countless others would be changed forever by that event. And that is just one public example that is fresh in our minds right now. We all can think of others, both public and private that have changed us unexpectedly in some profound way. When we deal in our lives with things like the tragic loss of loved ones to accidents or illness or war, or when we are deeply impacted by the other kinds of struggles that can shake our lives out of their predictable orbits….problems in relationships, issues of forgiveness, dealing with our own woundedness and all too human weaknesses, we might be able to identify with what happened to the Samaritan woman when she encountered Jesus at the well.

Imagine yourself for a moment in the place of the Samaritan woman. It is an ordinary day for her as she goes to draw water at the well. Various scholars have speculated about why she is there at midday, not a common time to be getting water….most people would go in the early part of the day when it is cooler. It has been suggested that she is there at this time because she is ostracized from her community, that she has either chosen or been forced into isolation from them because of what is identified about her status as woman with several marriages. So she is there doing a thing that must be done, but in a time and a manner that is a bit out of the ordinary. Thus the stage is set for this extraordinary meeting.
Jesus and the disciples are traveling. Jesus is hot, tired and thirsty. He has stopped at the well to rest and have a drink while the disciples have gone off for food. The fact that they are even in Samaria is a bit strange. Samaritans and Jews have long been enemies and it would have made a lot more sense for Jesus to avoid that area all together, had he been a conventional person, doing the expected and conventional thing.
But there they are….a woman who is out of place in so many ways and Jesus. Prophet, messiah, who would not be contained, who kept doing the unconventional, the unexpected in his….and continues to do it again and again throughout all time.
He asks her for a drink. To us this might seem innocent enough…but of course we must remember the time and the place. Men and women did not speak in public together. Nor did Samaritans and Jews. And yet here they are.

The passage begins with this wonderful encounter , almost dance-like, between the Samaritan woman and Jesus, and again, it is not what we would expect from either of them. She is almost bold with him, not what we would expect from an ostracized Samaritan woman to a Jewish man. And it seems as if they are missing each other at first…Clearly Jesus is talking a spiritual metaphor and she is talking WATER! She is even so bold as to ask this stranger for the gift of this water he talks of. But then something happens…. things shift…Jesus and the women have that moment of conversation in which he sees beneath the surface of her life. He knows things about her that she has not shared with him and she acknowledges that there is something about this man….”Sir I see that you are a prophet.”

And this lovely dance continues… she dares further to engage with him. This woman who has been either by choice or force isolated from her community finds something in this Jewish stranger that is so compelling and yet safe that she engages with him in what might be considered theological discussion on one the hot topics of the time. Pretty outrageous, we might say. And indeed it is bold on her part. If women didn’t talk to men, talking theology with them might be even more outrageous! Was she dancing the discussion back to a safer more intellectual level? Do we like to do that when things get too close to our souls sometimes? Jesus answer though, takes the dance back in another direction. And here I think a different translation might be helpful. Listen to Jesus' answer from The Message, "…the time is coming," Jesus says, "it has, in fact, come – when what you're called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It's who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That's the kind of people God is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before God in their worship. God is sheer being itself – Spirit. Those who worship God must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration." And apparently this clicks for her. I imagine her at this point just wondering in her mind….”Could this be?” as she says, “I know that the Messiah is coming…..” and then we hear Jesus make this amazing and clear proclamation to her as he says for the first time in this Gospel….”I am he.” “I am he, the one who is speaking to you.” Suddenly, she was placed in the presence, not of the one who was to come, but the one who was there with her now in the THAT moment.….and for her it was a transforming moment, for we are told that she left her water jar and went back to the city and testified to the people, “Come and see. Come and see a man who saw me. Who saw all of me. Everything. Everything I had ever done.” And what of course is unsaid but implied is “and accepted and embraced it.” Because if that had not happened, there would not have been the rest of the story, there would have been no transformation. That was her testimony….”He told me everything I have ever done.”

In revealing herself to her he revealed his Godself to her, and in revealing himself as God to her, he allowed her to see the image of God in herself. This was the transformation, the conversion. It is here, as it is always about in the incarnation….this great both/and. Jesus telling us who God is and who we are and can be. The Jesus who is God-with-us is the one who died for us, as it says in our reading from Romans today, “while we were still sinners” seeing everything we have ever done, and loving us, perhaps not in spite of but because of ourselves, perhaps choosing to reveal himself as the source of endless living water because he understood our thirst differently himself after that day at the well.

She left her water jar and told others and they came and stayed and saw for themselves that there was something to what Jesus said. She had encountered something, or more accurately Someone in Jesus and in that encounter been transformed. In her encounter she was moved to action. We too encounter and are encountered by the living God. In those encounters our authentic selves are laid bare….our souls in all their glory as the imago dei, the image of God as we were created, but also in our weakness and our sinfulness. And all of this is the Good News. Because God does prove His love in that while we are still sinners Christ died for us. Jesus answers the question asked by the people in Exodus, “Is the Lord among us or not?” He is not only among us, but becomes us, so he can sit with a woman at a well in the heat of the noonday sun and tells her, as he tells us all we have ever done, who he is and who we can be. Thanks be to God.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"A Heavenly Friday Five"

Singing Owl is preparing to attend her sister's memorial service who died of complications of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. She says: "I am not grieving much, since the shock and tears and goodbyes and losses have been many and have occurred for a long time now. I am mostly relieved that my wonderful sister and best friend is free from pain and confusion, and I am thinking of eternity. That sounds somber, but I don't mean it to be. I decided to have a little fun with the idea. So how about we share five "heavenly" things? These can me serious or funny or a combination of the two. What is your idea of a heavenly (i.e. wonderful and perfect):"
1. Family get-together Lots of love and laughter, kissing babies and hugging everyone all around, music, talk, getting fed.....hmmm this could make for great liturgy, too!

2. Song or musical piece anything played with passion....and a fair amount of expertise can be heavenly....but there is nothing like chant by monks to make me think that perhaps I have without knowing it actually arrived.

3. Gift The honesty of true and loving friendship....those who nurture the tiny fledging sprouts of our best selves and help us flourish into the people God created us to be.

4. You choose whatever you like-food, pair of shoes, vacation, house, or something else. Just tell us what it is and what a heavenly version of it would be The heavenly vacation....hopefully the one I'm Ireland....with enough time to see some sights but also just to "be there" and experience this mystical and ancient land where I have my roots.

5. And for a serious moment, or what would you like your entrance into the next life to be like?
What, from your vantage point now, would make Heaven "heavenly?"
First, to have the sense that all is well as I cross from this life to the next, that I somehow "know" that I have done what I was here to do, some assurance of that, and then just sinking (or is it perhaps expanding?) into the God of the universe, the Love from whence I (and all) came....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Lent Day 14

The Journey quote today says: "Silence is more musical than any song." Christina Rosetti

Richard Foster has a rich section on solitude in Celebration of Discipline. He says: "One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are so accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. If we are silent who will take control? God will take control, but we will never let him take control until we trust him. Silence is intimately related to trust."

This is a particularly apt reminder to me right now as I am dealing with people who are struggling with grief and loss and probably need my silent presence more than any words I could ever say. And Foster is right. Words, at least for me, have been my medium. I have used them to control, defend, entertain, impress, bedazzle, cajole, and just about anything else I can think of. They have been my buckler and my willingly give them up and give them over to silence does indeed take radical trust that God will save me....or already has.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lent Day 13

The community grieves today as the awareness sinks in. The details of the kids who have died have been released...a third grade girl, a fourth grade boy and his seventh grade brother and another seventh grader. They have names and we know who their parents and grandparents are. The connections and degrees of separations are few. A friend worked with one of the moms, grandparents are in another friend's church. As always the "how could this happen?" questions are being asked. And unfortunately judgments are being made and some aspersions being cast against one of the drivers in the accident. "Judge not." We don't know, we can't know. Even those who were witnnesses to the horrible event cannot know more than what was seen at this point. Only God can know, and it is only God's business, really. It's ours to pray and offer what we can to those who grieve and wait for loved ones to heal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lent Day 12

In a small community not too far from here, four students were killed and several others seriously injured this afternoon in a school bus crash. This is a place so small that the first responders knew the kids they were taking off the bus. It hits hard whenever something like this happens, but in these little places where the connections are so stuns the whole community in an instant. Please pray for all those impacted by this terrible accident.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Lent Day 11

I've been continuing to think about this whole idea of self-examination and the obstacles to facing oneself. One of the books I'm reading for Lent is Brennan Manning's Ruthless Trust. In the final chapter of the book, itself titled "Ruthless Trust," Manning spends a bit of time talking about sin. He starts by quoting John 1:1:18 "If we say we have no sin in us, we are deceiving ourselves and refusing to admit the truth," and then goes on to say, "In a world where the only plea is 'not guilty' what possibility is there of an honest encounter with Jesus 'who died for your sins'? We can only pretend we are guilty and thus only pretend we are forgiven. To knife through our pretense, cowardice and evasions, to see the truth about ourselves and the true state of our souls before God--this requires enourmous courage and ruthless trust in the merciful love of the redeeming God. Put simply, sin must be acknowledged and confessed before there can be forgiveness and real transformation" (pp.170-171)

I made reference in yesterday's post to the fact that I was finding some joy in acknowledging myself as a sinner. This acknowledgement really is quite a radical move for me, as it's something I've come to realize that I've put quite a bit of energy into avoiding for much of my life, and for some pretty good reasons. Sarah Dylan Breuer used the term "church-damaged" in a post I was reading today as I was doing some sermon prep. I'd say that kind of captures it. I pretty clearly remember my first introduction to sin. I was eight. In second grade. We were preparing for first communion and we were given a little book that had questions to help us "examine our consciences" to go to confession. Each commandment had a list of questions. The ones against the sixth commandment (Roman Catholic version) were in bold as they were ALL MORTAL SINS. May I tell you as an aside that the sixth commandment is the only one I ever really was sure of numberwise? I knew about the others, sort of....don't kill anybody, or steal anything, or covet stuff...oh yeah and keep the Sabbath was one....hmmm...I know there were more, but that SIXTH, I knew that one! Being an advanced reader, I learned to use the book really quickly. Some kids had a harder time. But we knew that we were supposed to look hard and deep at our little souls to find every possible offensive thing we had done. Because we were, after all essentially BAD by nature. Evil and fallen with that Mark of Cain upon us. Our dead relatives were in purgatory, we were busy praying them out daily, our poor unbaptized babies went to a specially created place called "Limbo" where they did not suffer the fires of hell but did not see the face of God either. God was quick to judge and punish and when we heard about Jesus dying on the cross it was the suffering for our sins and weren't we terrible to inflict that on our precious Lord Jesus? We really did hear a lot about how bad we were, "shameful" and "shame on you" were heard a lot. Perfectly innocent things were demonized into "sin" and, I think in retrospect, some things that were really sinful were ignored.

I don't think any of this was intended to create in me a sense of poor spiritual self-esteem, or make of any of us people who were not inclined toward wanting God to see our authentic selves (likely believing that God would be repelled by them at any rate), but sadly this was the outcome. I carry to this day, despite some pretty strenuous efforts to the contrary, some rather potent voices that, in my shakier moments, throw an ugly wet blanket over the imago dei in me and scream shameful messages so loud in my head that the Still Small Voice of my loving saviour cannot even penetrate.

So one of the true wonders of this Lent really has been this small but steadily growing sense of joy and wonder of finding myself in this position of ruthless trust that Manning talks about. Able to stand before Jesus in radical fearlessness as a beloved sinner and simply say, "Here I am."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lent Day 10

The Journey Through Lent for today says; "Lent is a season for self-examination. Not always fun but necessary." As a bunch, we humans do tend to do just about anything we can manage not to have to stop and look at ourselves. I had that very conversation in two different contexts with two very different groups of people yesterday. It came up in a group I facilitate when a young woman in the group asked my thoughts on why she could not stand to be alone with herself. She says she has to have someone with her, or noise, or preferably both at all times or she feels like she is going to come out of her skin with anxiety. She sleeps with the TV on, always has a radio going, never, ever, has silence. We also talked about it in the group that is gathering in support and prayer for our spiritual disciplines during Lent. We were talking about fasting, how countercultural it is, and that it seems like part of the reason for that might be that it runs counter to that whole business of keeping us away from whatever it is that might be at our center, that we might find in stillness if we stop and examine ourselves.

I think part of the problem lies in the fact that at least at some point in our lives so many of us think that we are truly, at bottom, shameful horrible people, tried, judged and found wanting. By ourselves, by others, and even, truly sadly, by God. Not of course that this is true, but this is the message we heard. Whether it was the one that was intended to be was the one that got through. And if this is who you expect to meet if you go to meet yourself....well, finding any way to avoid that seems perfectly sensible to me. So why be silent or fast, pray or meditate, or engage in any other kind of behavior that might bring you in any kind of close proximity to yourself? Seems like it would make a lot more sense to find anything at all that would take you as far as possible in the other direction.

The idea of being compassionate with myself was a pretty revolutionary one for me the first time I heard it. Some days it still is. Even though I always knew in an academic kind of way that "God is love" I continue to wrestle sometimes with the fact that part of the great commandment to love as God loves includes loving myself. I'm still connecting the dots on the fact that acknowledging myself as sinful is not shameful but joyful. The Lenten disciplines all factor into, submission....definitely a connection, as well as the self-examination that today's Journey talks about. The traditional disciplines like fasting and prayer are circumventing the all-too-human urge to run from myself and give in to the old shaming voices and instead take the time to stop and breathe and remember again who God is and who I am in relation to God....known, beloved and saved by....and so Lent goes on.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lent Day 9

The Journey says it's the feast of Thomas Bray...having not a lot to say, and some curiosity, I thought I'd share him with you, as he's a pretty interesting fellow:

In 1696 Thomas Bray, an English country parson, was commissioned to report on the condition of the Church in the colony of Maryland. He spent only ten weeks in the colony, but he radically re-organized and renewed the Church there, providing for the instruction of children and the systematic examination of candidates for pastoral positions. He founded thirty-nine lending libraries and numerous schools. Both in Maryland and upon his return to England, he wrote and preached in defense of the rights of enslaved Africans, and of Indians deprived of their land. Back in England, he worked for the reform of prison conditions, and for the establishment of preaching missions to prisoners. He persuaded General Oglethorpe to found an American colony (Georgia) for the settlement of debtors as an alternative to debtors' prison. He founded a missionary society, the SPG (Society for the Propagation of the Gospel) and an educational and publishing society, the SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge), both of which are still active today. James Kiefer

I found all that prisoner info particularly interesting of course. My little "ex-jail guy" is having his struggles. Life on the outside opens no easy doors to those with a past. The latest hard thing he's discovered is that filling out on-line applications for the local retailers is a no-go...they kick him out automatically due to his record. Wham! No discussion! No interview! Even if, as in one situation, the guy actually wanted to interview him because he knew of him...he couldn't without an application. And his appeal is not looking promising at this point based on info from some attorneys. He says his stomach hurts, I can surely see why! He wants to see his son so badly and we haven't even been able to pull that off....the social workers are "working on it"....sigh...and meanwhile he waits. It's a long hard Lent for L.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lent Day 8

The Lenten Journey today said, "Find a way to celebrate the good news that God is love." That could be kind of a tall order for a cold Thursday in February. But then I got to thinking about some of the wonderful people in my life who manifest God's love to me, and I decided to celebrate by getting them all a cow for valentine's day. Well not a whole cow....much as I'd like to be in the whole cow league, we are not quite there yet, so it's shares in a heifer from Heifer. Heifer calls them "gifts of hope." And that gives us all something to celebrate on St. Valentine's Day.

The Book Meme

It's lunchtime at the day job and since part of my Lenten disciplines is finding more Sabbath in my life, I am trying to play more. I have been tagged for this meme by Mompriest and have decided to play now rather than work through the rest of lunch! So here are the instructions and the play:

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more: The book is Healing Through the Dark Emotions:The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair by Miriam Greenspan. (It's a really good book by the way!)

Find Page 123: flip, flip, flip......
Find the first 5 sentences: 'k here we go......1, 2, 3, 4, 5......
Post the next three sentences: "I believe this is one reason reason we currently prefer to see despair as a medical condition. In a culture that condemns despair, it's hard to look at this emotion in a way that honors its dignity, power and wisdom. Viewing it as an illness beyond our control, we don't have to feel to blame for it. "

Tag five people....I tag:
Mrs. M
and anyone else who hasn't played and wants to!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lent Day 7 Which is Really About Day 7 (This Time)

OK, I'm caught up now, since this is my second post today. I was a Presbypalian tonight, and went to my second church home for the Wednesday night Lenten program. One of my Soul Sisters was presenting on using music as prayer. We listened to a whole variety of different kinds of music from contemporary Christian vocal music to instrumentals and she shared how all of this enhances her own prayer practice. It was a really lovely evening and I got to hear some music I hadn't heard before as well as some things I really love. As I listened to Fernando Ortega's beautiful Give Me Jesus I couldn't help but think about my first meeting with the COM and smile. To say that Jesus and I have come some distance in our relationship since then would be an understatement. It amazes me to this day that these people moved me forward into the ordination process given some of my responses on the "Jesus questions." One of the things I love about the liturgical seasons (oh what don't I love about them?) is the opportunity to think back to "this time last year", or that year, what kind of place I was in and I am delighting in finding these "random" reminders that take me back to other times and places triggering just those kinds of memories. So as this first week ends, I would say I am relaxing into the rhythm of Lent. I'm more ok with not having it all together as far as the "how" of the "what" goes. God, I am finding, is providing plenty of opportuities for practice. And just why did I ever doubt that?

Lent Day 7 Which is Really About Day 6

Yes I kind of missed yesterday. I let the cartoon stand for the day and that was kind of cheating I guess. But there were Things Going On. The Day Job. Bible Study with the Soul Sisters. An article to be written in my Storyteller of the MDG Project hat. Minutes to be done in my Secretary of the Diocesan Region hat. By the time all that got done, it was bedtime. So there you go. I did think about what I would have written. I was actually composing a post in my head while I ate my dinner. I do that sometimes, write things in my head that never get here, I mean. The one I was writing last night was about mindful eating. One of my Soul Sisters is doing this as part of her Lenten discipline....really slowing down and focusing as she eats, reflecting on where the food comes from, who all went into bringing it to her, praying for them. I was thinking about that last night as I ate my rice (90 second microwave in the packet) vegetables (also microwave in the package) and chicken breast (from a bag of them...all frozen as well). I thought about how it would be a lot easier for me to get in touch with the sources of my food if it were as it is when I go to the yurt. When I eat there I am invited to be very intimate with the sources of my dinner. Almost uncomfortably the sisters remind me that the chicken we are having was trotting in the yard just a few days ago, or the pork chops lived down the road just last fall. But it is good too, to know that the grain from the bread is grown by the farmer next door, and milled in the next town, and the bread is baked locally. The vegetables are the direct result of the sister's efforts, the butter is from Daisy the cow across the road. All the people whose labor feeds me have names, and I could meet and talk with them if I wished. But last night this was not was all from somewhere distant and disconnected....from me. From me. But not from God. God knew each one of the people who grew the rice and the vegetables and the chicken that made up my little frozen repast. God was aware in that moment and this moment of them and me and all of us. It was a very wonderful connective little "aha" that I would have written about last night, had I written.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What Time Are YOU?

And just for a bit of fun this early morning.... Thanks Eliza!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Lent Day 5

It's always fun to go visiting other people's churches, especially during liturgical seasons when there is likely to be "stuff" going on. Saturday we were at a meeting at another church in the Diocese where they are doing the "Join the Journey through Lent 2008" as a parish activity with both youth and adults. It reminded me a bit of the "Live Life, Love Lent" from the Church of England I've been following over at Kathryn's blog, and I picked one up to bring home to add to my Lenten cache. Today says: "In Lent we are called to prayer, Pick ten people you will pray for each day this week." OK I can do that. I'll be posting the some suggestions from the Journey poster as they strike me. I also found the "L4" on Facebook, and will be using some of those too. It's a regular Lent buffet out here. It's true I fear what C said about me, I really am a geek. More all the time. Sigh.

The poster is by Jay Sidebotham and is published by Morehouse Church Resources

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The First Sunday in Lent

The high this morning in Minnesota in wind chill temps was minus 33. The low was minus 54. We were somewhere between there depending if you were in a relatively sheltered area in town or out on the unprotected prairie. It's cold! And the fierce wind blows the snow up over the driveways so you can't get out, and onto roads reducing visibility to nothng or polishing pavement into glass that can make cars into sudden spinning tops. So faced with all of this, plans are often changed on short notice. Thus it was that CT, today's celebrant who lives a ways in the country was forced to stay home and I found myself, at 9 a.m called upon to preach. I'd mentioned to M yesterday, as we drove home from a Diocesan meeting on our own sometimes interesting journey through intermittent whiteouts, that "in the event" this happened, I had the Lent 1 reflection from the feminist blog I could fall back on as a sermon without too much alteration. So she and I celebrated together, as we are doing every chance we get these days, I preached, and we ended up with a hearty band of fifteen souls who braved it to be fed on word, sacrament and spirit. We'd decided last night already to cancel the kick-off for our Lenten MDG Soup and Story Gathering based on the grim forecast. Had we known how hardy the fifteen souls would be we might have gone for it, but the soup bringer was one of the weather bound, so maybe it was just as well.

L was with us again today. That was a good thing. I am praying even harder than usual for him right now. He met with his probation officer for the first time on Friday. He asked me to be there. It was all I could not to simply sit and weep. There are so many many implications of his situation. I'm not sure how much of this he was told, or grasped, or got. I'm not sure I have a very clear picture of it all yet. The mind boggles. He is sad and discouraged. Wanting to give up, feeling that there is no end to this long tunnel he finds himself in. It does feel like a catch-22 in many ways, like somehow justice got missed here. His PO says it does not matter now, what's done is doesn't mattter if you are innocent or guilty, the probation has point being angry, just do what is expected, pay the fines, don't get in trouble, tell me your plans, don't go anywhere without permission, do what you are told by the CH staff and the therapists and doctors. It took about an hour after he left to see any light at all back in L's eyes. He is trying so hard, and running up against people who are less than helpful at every turn. Last week it was his son's mother, this week the PO, the week before that his own mother. And yet, today he showed up for church on the coldest Sunday of the month, smiling that smile. And tomorrow he has a job interview at 3:00 at the taco place. Such a Godsign he is for me, his hope, his trust that it will get better.Pray hard?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Lent Day 4

"Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return." It's still with me, the Ash Wednesday thought about all of it being of a piece. The ashes, the dust, the stars, the earth, our wonderous human selves....all the stuff of God. Then early this morning I was listening to a podcast of Speaking of Faith about Rumi and I heard this poem:

Listen to the story told by the reed of being separated.
Since I was cut from the reed bed, I have made this crying sound.
Anyone apart from someone he loves understands what I say.
Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back.
At any gathering, I'm there, lingering and laughing and grieving,
a friend to each, but few will hear the secrets hidden within the notes.
No ears for that.
flowing out of spirit, spirit out from body, no concealing that mixing.
But it's not given us to see, so the reed flute is fire, not wind.
Leave that empty.

And another piece fell into place.. Perhaps not only the stuff of God, but separated and longing to return at some primal level that we don't even we really know we know. Our hearts restless till they rest in thee....? And so we rush and strive to fill ourselves with all the other junk to dull the pain. If so, as an antidote, then simplicity, giving away, fasting make sense, in order to leave room, leave space, leave emptiness.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Five: What Are You Doing for Lent?

Mother Laura brings us this Lenten themed Friday Five with the following questions:
1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How? The Mardi Gras turned out to be our caucus...and it was kind of a wild party. Way more people than expected, lots of energy, laughter, a feeling of celebration. There were even some happy dances when the election results were annouced. We also celebrated Ash Wednesday in the traditional fashion. As I blogged about earlier in my Ash Wednesday post, it was my first time to be the one to "impose" the ashes, and I found that term strangely discordant as it felt like such a gift to remind the people I love that we all are of God, come from God, are in God and go back to God.

2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent? A few years back I was in Mexico during Lent and it was wonderful to see the street celebration in our little village. The festival is a moveable feast that lasts for several days and manages to be both solemn and festive. One person explained to me that it starts in one village on Ash Wednesday and then moves throughout the area all through Lent, each village also venerating their own particular saint. There was food and dancing, lots of church, but also lots of feasting in the square and a parade with a band each night that went around with banners of the saint along with banners of Jesus and Mary.

3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it? I was raised Roman Catholic in a town that called itself "Little Rome." We Took Lent Seriously. From Ash Wednesday on no candy touched our lips. It was no meat on Wednesdays in addition to the normal Fridays, Stations of the Cross every Friday at three. Weekly confession was encouraged as well as the taking on of some other kind of spiritual discipline. Thise who were laggards about daily Mass were urged to get with the program. Often we would be encouraged to take the money we would have spent on candy and put it in a jar for the poor, or towards our "pagan babies." If you were tempted to slide, Sister would be happy to encourage you with stories of the martyrs who "gave their lives for Christ and you can't give up a little candy or a little sleep?" While I'm not sure I got the "celebrated" part as I do now, I always got that it was important, and in later years, I am grateful for that grounding.

4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between? They are so intertwined. It's hard to say. Not giving up just for the sake of, but to make space for, or to open myself to. And the same with taking on. not taking on something just to take it, but holding it for a purpose, to support something, or to add something. The disciplines it seems are not ends in themselves but there to prepare be, to do...if they are not doing that, they are just busy work.

5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year? Very carefully. I have the what but not the how all sorted. I know the focus:radical trust in God and figuring out how to better manifest that in submission to God's will. The actualizing of that in practice is, I am beginning to think, going to be the Lenten discipline, one day at a time. I'm going to be posting daily, meeting weekly with a group of people who are gathering for support and prayer in support of the spiritual disciplines we are all practicing this Lent, and I'll be going to some additional prayer and reflection services. The rest will evolve in God's time.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lent Day 2

At the end of this second day of Lent, I have been reading Brennan Manning's Ruthless Trust. He says that one of the marks of true radical trust is gratitude. I like that. It reminds me of the NaBloPoMo gratitude posts and all the joy I found there. Somehow it seems important to find gateways like this. Gratitude into trust. Trust into submission. I am a house divided. Part of me longs to rush headlong into one discipline or another, while other voices would urge a less intense approach to this whole business of Lent. It would be easier to just give up chocolate and be done with it than to wrestle with how to manifest radical trust and submission.

On the Godsigns front today, I got to hold little S, the beautiful eight-week old daughter of one of my clients. This is definitely one of the best benefits of my day job. That and watching the growth in S's mom as she has come into her own as a powerful young woman taking responsibility for protecting this young life that God is entrusting to her. I am grateful for the infinite possibilities that humans are graced with, that we are resilient and able to heal and grow in amazing and wonderful, unexpected ways.

Day One...a postscript

Even though I am writing on Thursday morning, this is really more of a p.s. to yesterday than a reflection on the second day, as that is just beginning. Our Ash Wednesday service was profound for me. M and I shared the service. We had a traditional Ash Wednesday service which for us includes a litany of penitance, receiving ashes and the celebration of the Eucharist. I had the privilege of being the one to "impose" the ashes as the prayer book says. I had to go look the word impose up to see if there was something I was missing here, but all the definitions had the same sense of the word that I am familiar with, that of bringing something on someone with force or at the very least authority, pushing it at them. I did not feel that! I felt instead that I was giving them a splendid gift. The opportunity to remember by word and symbol the fragile and brief nature of this earthly life. How precious it and we are before God. And how God holds us in that life...and that we can indeed trust God to do that.

As I spoke each person's name and said those sacred, sacred words, "remember that you are dust and to dust you will return," I kept thinking about something that was said in our prayer workshop on Sunday, that essentially the "dust" that we are is the stuff of the universe, the same matter as supernovas and stars, glaciers and canyons, the very ground we stand on and air we breathe...the stuff, could it be....of God? "Remember that you are of God, and to God you will return." It was all I could do to hold back the tears as I looked into each face in this wonderful quirky bunch and traced on their heads a cross of ash to carry with them into the night as a reminder of how very much they are loved.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lent Day 1 Ash Wednesday Discernment

Lent has officially begun and I am still discerning the exact “how” of the discipline(s) I’m embracing. I’m pretty clear on the “what.” It is the need for submission and trust. That is becoming more and more clear. God is offering me opportunities to reflect on that as God is wont to do when I open myself to such things. The fragilty of life and just how little we really are in control as brought home by some unexpected deaths recently in our community, and some of the thoughts brought up as I wrote my reflection for the feminist theology blog Feminist Theology in an Age of Fear and Hope initiated by Mompriest, have given me yet another chance to stop and remember why it is that radical trust in God is really the only thing that makes sense, and that somehow this whole idea of submission is how that gets actualized. I just have to meditate a bit on the actualizing in my real world.

One thing I do know is that I will post daily. I will be looking for Godsigns in my world. How is God manifest and perhaps something about how I am doing in manifesting God as well. As for the rest, well I think that might be a work in progress. And that might be a lived discipline in itself for this person whose will it is to have things figured out. That “letting it be” might be part of exercising the radical trust. The other thing I know is that I will be doing this with an intentional community of people who will come together once a week to check-in and pray together about our Lenten spiritual practices. That feels good…to be for each other the stair-rail that Joan Chittister talks about, to keep ourselves from falling and getting hurt as we practice our disciplines.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Thinking About L Today

I've had some opportunities to spend time with L again lately in various settings. He was in church Sunday, and since I had no churchly roles to fill, he and I shared a pew and a prayer book. That was nice. He stayed for the lasagne and adult education seminar on contempletive prayer afterwards as well. It was interesting watching this young man who has had so little in his life that we would consider "normal" social interaction behave so appropriately and be so engaged. I'd given him some notebook paper and a pencil for "notetaking or doodling" I'd said in an aside. He did neither. He just sat and simply listened, making a comment now and then. As part of the workshop we sat in silent prayer for fifteen minutes, then at the end talked a bit about how that was for us. He said it went quickly for him and was "peaceful, not like how time went when I have been in dark places." After the workshop I took him to run some errands and we talked about some serious stuff, but also just laughed and enjoyed time together. He has a very quirky sense of humor, but it is also clear that he has seen way too much of life's darkness for his age. He is an odd moment all intensity about how he will ever get his life together in time to be a parent to his son, the next getting excited about matchbox cars. We both agree that this all beats hanging out in jail. Things are moving forward. He's job hunting, although without a lot of success. Given that his last job was summer of 06, he's got a record and not even a GED, he's not exactly anyone's target market for hiring around here. On the upside, he now has a social worker, a doctor, a therapist. He is making friends in at CH. He is starting to trust the staff there a little bit. One of the people at church has offered to take him out to coffee and has commissioned him to do a drawing. He 's started at Adult Ed for his GED. That I think could be a long haul. Near as we can tell, last time he was in "regular" school was some time back in elementary, and no one is sure how far back. In addition to all the other challenges we suspect that he may have some learning disabilities. We're working on seeing if we can get some objective testing done for that. The emphasis on "objective" rather than the kind that sets out to prove that he can not achieve as he's already been subjected to some of that as part of his involvement in "the system."

I have always know that the world did not operate the same way for those who have and those who don't. I work with many people who receive some type of public assistance, and I know that things are not equitable. I have always cared about this. But with L I feel the injustice of this all so acutely coming together in many systems in one life. Poverty, racism, the legal system and how that works (or doesn't) when you are poor. The impacts of intergenerational issues on learning and the ability to support oneself. L and I had a little inside joke in jail, that he was teaching me about "real jail" not "TV jail." I think it goes beyond that. I think he is teaching me some pretty important things about real life as well. I'm grateful to him and I'm scared for him. It's so much to overcome. I feel amazingly protective toward L. Some days I have to hand him back to God more times than I can count. But his village is growing and I hope and pray it is big enough to be the community he needs.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Submission and Trust

I am still gnawing away on this whole idea of Lenten disciplines. I finished the Chapter on "Submission" in Celebration of Discipline before church this morning. That was a discipline in itself. Just the title was enough to engender hyperventilating. But he does a good job with it. As I read I could almost hear his, or perhaps the Spirit's calming voice saying, "Yes that's right, just breathe, it's ok, you don't have to do anything now, you are only reading about it." One of the things that Foster said that I found comforting was this: "Jesus calls us to self-denial without self-hatred. Self-denial is simply coming to understand that we do not have to have our own way. Our happiness is not dependent upon getting what we want....Self-denial is not the same thing as self-contempt. Self-contempt claims that we have no worth, and even if we do have worth we should reject it. Self-denial claims that we do have worth and shows us how to realize it.... self-denial means the freedom to give way to others. It means to hold others' interests above our interests."(p.114) This is clearly different from what Foster refers to as the "mutilated" teachings about submission that I learned in my earlier religious teachings. It is partly those earlier teachings that trip my trigger when I think about this whole idea of submission. And it is partly my own will that trips me. I don't like to think about that part as much. But it is there. My first yoga teacher shocked me in about my fifth or sixth week as her student when she told me that my greatest struggle in yoga would be to finally come to peace with the fact that unlike most things in my life, yoga was one thing that I would not be able to succeed at by the efforts of my "prodigious will." That was the first time anyone had ever used that phrase, or accused me of having any sort of will at all, but it sat so true, I knew she was right. Last Lent, I learned some interesting things about that will as a grace-filled gift of Lenten practice. Perhaps it is time for another round.

Another book that calls to me is Brennan Manning's Ruthless Trust. I've lost track of where I heard about it, but I think it was on someone's blog. It is all about trust in God. Complete and total and utter radical trust. The kind of trust that is the perfect companion to submission, if this is indeed a discipline I choose. Submit and trust. Manning says: "In first century Palestine the question dominating religious discussion was, 'How do we hasten the advent of the kingdom of God?' Jesus proposed a single way: the way of trust. He never asked his disciples to trust in God. Rather He demanded of them bluntly, "Trust in God and trust in me" (John 14:1)." (p.5)

There are things stirring. Things to be prayed about, thought about, decided and discerned. Things that will affect my life and lives that intersect with mine. My intention is to use this time of Lent to be very prayerful and deliberate about those things. Not that I think that a mere forty days will be enough time to resolve them....but it's a good time to start....and maybe submission and trust is as good a place to start as any.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Friday Five- options, options edition"

Sally says;"There is so much going on this weekend that I thought I'd provide an options Friday 5!!!!.First Superbowl ( someone explain to this Brit the significance)- love it or hate it?5 reasons please!!!!!.Second Candlemas/ Imbloc/ Groundhog day/ St Brigid's day- all of these fall on either the 1st or 2nd February."

1. Do you celebrate one or more of these? Certainly not the Superbowl! (Sorry Sally, I can't explain the significance, I don't get it myself!) I did have good intentions of learning about football at one point in my life in solidarity to Dear One, but finally came to the conclusion after having to be patiently retaught the basics at the beginning of every season that it was not sticking because I really couldn't care enough about the game to learn it.

2. How? Having said that, however, I am going to a Superbowl party Sunday. I have been assured I won't have to watch too much of the game! We will enjoy the commercials and those of us who are not football inclined will chat and do other things to save our sanity for the duration.

3. Is this a bit of fun or deeply significant? The fun of gathering with friends and giving a bit of a a hard time to those who do take it all Very Seriously!

4. Are festivals/ Saints days important to you? Growing up Roman Catholic Saints Days and Saints in general loomed large. But it was the Big Ones. The saints who had gone through that exhaustive process to be canonized. Moving to the Episcopal church, I really like our take on it....saints are all of us first of all, but the ones on the calendar are people who have served God or humanity in some way and get recgnized for that...but they don't have to have worked miracles or go through "canonizing" the way the ones of my childhood did. New ones get added...there are people from the civil rights movement as well as clerics from two hundred years ago. I like the egalitarianism of it as well as the fact that "sainthood" is seen as doing God's work on earth in many different ways. I like to notice and recognize whose "day" it is in the lectionary...if I have time look them up if I don't know who they are, say a quick "thanks" on their day.

5.Name your favourite Saints day/ celebration. St. Francis of Assissi and blessing of the animals...I keep hoping we can get our act together and do it at our church.

Bonus- 2nd Feburary is also my Birthday- I will donate £1.00 for every comment on my Friday Five Post to the Methodist Relief and Development Fund. Thanks Sally, and Happy Birthday!