Wednesday, April 30, 2008

It Is What It Is

I'm guessing you might like to hear me write about something else besides what is going on in my life right now. I'd actually like to write about something else besides what is going on in my life right now. But I'm afraid we are all out of luck as I seem to be in this kind of all consuming foggy place where it is pretty much all I think about, talk about, obsess about and write about here and elsewhere. I am so grateful that God has gifted me with patient and kind friends, in my blog and unblog life all of whom are much kinder and more compassionate than I am to myself.

I guess I am on verse three of that country song. Verse one was the one about how it's nobody's fault and we are loving and kind and riding the high road together. Verse two was the sad and lonely full of empty, heart full of sad. Now we are hitting verse three... the angry verse. Dirty looks and nasty notes, and things done by the other just because they know and they can and they will. The verse where reality hits and reality bites and suddenly breaking up doesn't seem like it was such a bad idea after all. But the chorus is still more sad than anything. Oh, I am angry, make no mistake, but it's a frustrated kind of mad, frustrated that it does not have to be this way. We had some ground rules set to protect us both and they were not kept. I am angry and sad about that, and said so. There was backlash about my speaking up. Now I am angry and sad about that, too. It doesn't have to be this way. We could do this a better way, really we could. So it seems there is nothing more to say at this point. It is what it is. I don't know about the next verse. We seem to be in new territory here.

So in the midst of all of this, because I really do want to write and think about something else, or at least try to open myself to a different way of looking at all of it, this Rumi poem came back into my life this morning. This poem is an old friend from the first time I went to Mexico for the yoga retreat. I think it has something to say to me today about where everything is in my life. I talk to my clients a lot about how nothing is wasted if we can find meaning. So I guess the question becomes for me today, what meaning do I find in this unexpected turn of this change from the "friendly time apart while we work on things" to "mortal combat" in the blink of an eye and without my consent. How do I welcome and entertain this unexpected (and out of control) new business in my life and all that might come with it? How do I deal with this new crowd of sorrows and continue to trust that perhaps this is a spring cleaning, that perhaps there is a point to it all that I can't see. Oh yeah, back to that darn trust and submission.....again! I used to read this daily, sometimes more than once. Convinced I was that there was Big Truth here for me. I think perhaps it is no accident that I opened Explore Faith this morning and there was Rumi with "my poem" right here, right now. At least it gives me something else to think about besides verse three. Anger was getting old.

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Maiden Voyages

Well there always has to be a first time, I guess. And I admit have been dodging this one. "The News" about the separation was announced in the parish newsletter the week before last. I skipped church last week as I had the nursing home in the afternoon, and well, I just wasn't ready. But today was my Sunday to celebrate and preach, so there was no getting around it, I had to be there. Sermon writing was hard. Things have been tense between us this week. As much as we both have good intentions about this being positive, we are both in pain, both edgy, and it does not take much for feelings to get stirred up. We disagree about some pretty fundamental issues and I am feeling some anger right now. This was a hard place from which to write about the commandment to love one another. It was not my best sermon, and I found I couldn't get too stirred up about that. At least not yesterday. This morning was another story entirely. The good news is, I know a panic attack when I see one. I know what to do to get through it and I knew afterwards that asking for help and support would be a good thing. Having done that, I went and did what was before me. My first encounter was with our sweet altar guild person. She was not able to stay for service due to another commitment, but had come early to set the altar. She gave me a hug and told me how much she appreciated that we had told everyone so openly. "I've never been in a church where something has been handled so honestly," she said, "I'm praying for both of you." That made me feel good, and it made me cry. There were very few other people there today as there are a number of things going on out of town that involve members of the congregation. Dear One was there. That was good, but hard. Seeing the face of someone I am finding it hard to forgive while I am preaching about Jesus' mandate to do so...well that was a little disconcerting....and that critical voice in my head? Oh, yeah, took advantage of the moment to call me a hypocrite, she did!

But other than that, and the fact that I seemed to keep finding myself in tears, I got through it. It was the prayers. I know it was the prayers. That and the love and care of my friends is all that is getting me through any of this. I am riding that like a is God's grace manifest. You know who you are you angels and messengers.

So I have made the maiden voyage. The first hard step is over. There will be other ones, other people who were not there today who still must be faced, some in particular whose judgments I fear, some whom I am sure will have things to say to me or about me. But I have to let it go. I can't control this part (as if I can control any of it!). One of the things I found myself praying over and over as I vested this morning was to remember that this is not about me, not this part anyway, that my job here is to get out of the way as much as possible, leaving the space for God.

I am waiting and hoping for this first sort of shocky stage to pass. I'd like to start making some sense of this, finding my self in here again. I have hope that this will happen. I don't know when. I'm told it will be sooner than I might imagine from here. I'd be good with that too. In the meantime, I'm finding my comforts in blogs and e-mails, dogwalks and talks with good friends. I'm trying to pray and knowing others are doing so for me. I'm holding out carrots on short sticks and long and moving through one experience at a time.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Easter

I don’t know how many of you have run across Randy Pausch. He is the professor from Carnegie Mellon University who has become famous for his “Last Lecture.” Last lectures are things that on some college campuses are very popular. Professors are encouraged to give the lecture they would present to their students if it were the last one they could ever give. In Professor Pausch’s case it is particularly poignant because he is 47 years old, the father of three young children and it appears that he is dying of pancreatic cancer. His lecture, which really is quite an amazing and inspirational talk, was picked up on You Tube, and in the way of these things, has spread all over the world, and is now being published as a book.

Our Gospel this morning is in the manner of one of those last lectures. John is recording Jesus’ last words to His followers. I want to remind us, as sometimes the chronology can get a bit fuzzy, that this was all written long after Jesus was gone. This gospel is written for a community for whom Jesus was only a memory. Most of those in John's community had never met Jesus. Most, if not all, the disciples were dead. The temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed- which had been a sign for many of them that the end-time they were expecting would soon come. But the end-time hadn’t come, and life went on and that was, in many ways, the hardest part of all. This community of believers felt pushed to the very edge of despair and hopelessness. The gospel writer knew the dangers of such despair. So it’s likely that John pulled together many of the things Jesus said into this one section of the Gospel known as "The Farewell Discourses," perhaps a bit like the Last Lecture. And the central message of this Last Lecture that Jesus gives his friends is that his gospel is one of radical love, and the reminder that if they are to carry out living as his disciples, that truly is their mission, to carry out Jesus’ work of bringing about God’s kingdom by obeying Jesus’ commandment to love one another as he had loved.

As a good professor knows his or her students, Jesus knew that carrying on this mission would be difficult for his followers. Day in and day out in the three years he had spent with the disciples he had seen how they struggled to understand the deeply countercultural message he preached….love one another, forgive those who persecute you, take care of those who are the least and the needy, watch over the outcasts, give all you have….all of those things that he taught them had been difficult when he had been right there with them, he knew left to their (and our) own devices it would be difficult if not impossible to carry out! So in his last lecture, over and over, he tells them that he is NOT leaving them alone, but is leaving them another advocate, another “Paraclete,” to help them. I remember thinking as a little kid in Catholic school that Jesus was leaving them talking birds….having somehow I think gotten the image of the Holy Spirit as a dove and a “parakeet” mixed up….but the true meaning of the word Paraclete is really a wonderful image.

In the Roman law system, a defendant didn’t hire an attorney to argue his case. Instead, each person was expected to defend himself; he was, in essence, his own lawyer. But how would an ordinary person know the law well enough to present an adequate defense? He would hire a “paracletos”. A paracletos was a professional expert on Roman law. Once hired to support the defense of an accused person, the paracletos would brief him before the trial, and then he would also attend the trial. He would sit next to the defendant, and as the defendant would make his case, the paracletos would whisper advice into his ear so that the defendant would be able to present the best possible case.

So the promise in this Gospel is that each individual would have a “paracletos” in the form of the Holy Spirit who would be with us to be our “advocate”, “comforter”, “counselor” and “helper”. Essentially this Spirit continues the presence of Jesus in our midst. Jesus tells them that that they will know this Advocate because “he abides with you, and he will be in you.” He tells them not only that the Paraclete will be in them, but also that he will be in the Father, the disciples will be in him, and he will be in them. This is a promise of a continuation of relationship, a commitment, a covenant. There is a sense of comfort here….As one commentator has pointed out, the Greek word that is used here is the word “meno”, which has its roots in words like dwelling and remaining and enduring. As he says to them, “I will not leave you orphaned.”
And yet there is a tension here. If we look at how the passage begins, it starts with an admonition. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” It is not all about our comfort.The Spirit will stand by us and empower us, so that we can effectively stand before “governors and kings” and confront the systems as Jesus did to bring about change. Because it is clear as Jesus is no longer physically present, there is an expectation of action from his followers. We, too, are to be engaged in public life – just as Jesus was. We, too, are to call ourselves and others to accountability to be all that God asks. And in order to enable us to do that, Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit – “another Paraclete” – to empower us and give us both the wisdom and the courage to work towards bringing God’s kingdom about here on earth.

The ways we are called to as followers of Jesus to live and love are challenging. Neither his early followers nor any of us could do it without the Spirit. The eternal, cosmic Word of God had become flesh in Jesus. The Spirit, which blew like a wind over the face of the deep in creation, became incarnate and sat and broke bread with them at the table. Serving as a model of servant leader, this Living Word bent down to wash the disciples' feet. Loving us to the end, Jesus gives his life in sacrifice. Greater love than this has no-one…..
Love and the Spirit--these two are at the center of Jesus' farewell message, his Last Lecture Series. "Love one another as I have loved you" and "The Spirit of Truth will abide with you when I am gone." A little later in this same chapter, Jesus says, "The Holy Spirit, whom God will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of all that I have said to you." Jesus was saying, you don't know everything yet. You have more to learn. "The Spirit will be your tutor," he said, "guiding you into all the truth."

It appears that the Apostle Paul was willing to be guided by the voice of the Spirit in his ear. In this morning’s first reading we hear the story of his adventures as an evangelist among the Greeks at the “Areopagus." It might be helpful to know that while the Areopagus a place, a small rocky hill northwest of the Acropolis in Athens, it is also a group of people. Originally, the Areopagus consisted of nine chief magistrates that laid the foundations for Greece's eventual democracy. Across the centuries the Areopagus had changed, so that by Paul's day it was a place where matters of the criminal courts, law, philosophy and politics were decided. The members of the Areopagus ridiculed Paul, who had been publicly proclaiming the Jesus Way, and invited him to explain his "strange ideas." Paul preached to the Athenians that he believed that God "made the world and everything in it", so in his mind there was no sphere of influence outside of God’s care and concern. All of life were part of God’s divine, loving presence —law, literature, medicine, education, the arts, business, government, science, quite literally anything and everything. So, in his own way, Paul viewed the Areopagus as just another place where the Lord of all creation had gone before him and was already present. As Paul said to the Athenians, "He is not far from each one of us."

The epistle for this week hints at the purpose for the evangelism undertaken by Paul at the urging or the Paraclete (and we hope by us as well) as we go out into our mission fields, which is the opportunity to "give a reason for the hope that is in you." Like Paul, each of us daily has opportunities to witness to the ways we also have reason for this hope. Let us pray that we might listen to the promptings of the voice of the Paraclete spirit and respond by keeping the commandment to love one another as we are loved, and live our lives in ways that this is manifest.

Friday, April 25, 2008

An Old Vs. Modern (Postmodern?) Friday Five

Singing Owl says: "Yesterday I had two separate conversations in which people were musing about how much change is occurring. The WW II generation, of which my mom is a part, went from horse and buggy to automobiles, saw the lessening, or even the end of many diseases, went from widespread use of kerosene lamps and outhouses (in the country, and most folks were rural)) to a totally electrified and plumbed society. The fastest means of communication was a telegraph. The second conversation--gulp--was about MY generation and how much change occurred in the last half of the 20th century. The person said his 13 year old had not seen a vinyl record album until a few days before, couldn't remember a time without cell phones, and on and on. As for the questions!"
1. What modern convenience/invention could you absolutely, positively not live without? While I suppose if it came down to it I could really live without all of them if I had to, I have to admit I rather like my convenient little life. I like being able to reach out and have contact with my lovely bloggy community with my laptop (and when it was at the computer doctor I pined). And as much as I whine about people being able to call me at all hours, I surely like the convenience of my cell phone to reach them! If someone said I had to give one thing up, though, it would be my TV. That is the thing I would miss the least.

2. What modern convenience/invention do you wish had never seen the light of day? Why? I'm not sure the Hum-vee counts as a modern invention or convenience, but I fail to see why anyone needs to drive a TANK in regular life. If there are good reasons, and anyone is a hum-vee lover, please enlighten me.

3. Do you own a music-playing device older than a CD player? More than one? If so, do you use it (them)? I still have a combo tape/AM/FM radio that has little earbuds. It's bright yellow and when I take it to the gym I get funny looks!

4. Do you find the rapid change in our world exciting, scary, a mix...or something else? Change is always a both/and....but then for those who know me, you know that most things are always a both/and! One of the places change is scary for people is in the church. So many folks are struggling so mightily with the fact that it simply cannot be what it has always been and survive, and yet it is not comfortable for them (or truth be told for anyone) as we move into an unknown future....trusting, gasp, only in God to guide us! I'm feeling pretty in touch with all this right now myself on a personal level too....some days it's all moving too fast and some days the future cannot come fast enough because then I would know whatever answers there are out there that I am supposed to be discovering through all this change!

5. What did our forebears have that we have lost and you'd like to regain? Bonuspoints if you have a suggestion of how to begin that process. More downtime....we have lost that in the twenty-four seven world. Corporately there is of course no going back, so we each have to take our own stand for Sabbath and rest.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What Makes Me Tired

This was the question the first night on the BE....reflect on what makes you tired. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, because I am....tired. Tired in a way that I have rarely been. The kind of tired that feels like if I slept for ninety days I would still be tired. The kind of tired that makes me look at things that would normally make me fizzy or excited and go "oh." Soul tired. Being a good reflective sort, of course I have a pretty good idea of what is behind a lot of this.

There is the life stuff of course. I am "Going Through Things." And that does take it out of a person. And the number of people (an amazing amount actually) who don't seem to get the fact that even though I fully understand that this break-up is a good and necessary thing (that may have even been to some extent of my doing), it is still emotionally devastating, and to whom I have to explain that I am in pain.

And there is the stew of feelings that come up at time like this towards the other half of the relational equation....once set free of the fact that we are trying to make this work as a going concern right now, it seems to give permission for previously tethered things to surface, on both parts. Both parties seem to hold some strong beliefs about "the way things are and the way things ought to be" and let me just say, they don't match.

And then there is the "doing it well in public" part of all of this. Living my life in this little goldfish bowl, I feel some pressure, induced probably mostly by myself, to do this with grace and dignity and have some meaning come out of this for others as well as myself. For example, modeling direct communication with our congregation, being the "good leader" during this time, all that stuff.

And the cleaning and claiming....which is tiring simply because it is much. Once again I look at all the crap I have accumulated while somehow I wasn't paying attention...and because this seems like a time of a new start, I want to purge and toss and begin fresh. I am tired of being owned by stuff. So out it goes. And yes I am a little obsessed about it. Many years ago when I went through a breakup I became obsessed with the crumbs on the counter tops. I had the cleanest counters in the universe. That was a lot simpler. So far I have done the bathroom, started the laundry room, done half the kitchen and pulled up a rug in a now empty bedroom. This is the deal, I can't stay focused on one place. Yeah. That focus thing again. Tired.

The other part of tired is that it's all caught up with me. All the running I've been doing for all these years in order not to be right here where I have gotten to. The three jobs, the manic busyness, the frantic running so as not to face this place in myself that asks these very hard questions about such very important and scary things. And all it really got me was tired...and I ended up here all the same. I think there is a life lesson in here somewhere.

So mostly these days I am putting one foot in front of the other. Some days that takes like ten minutes or so. I have to think about it. Literally. Put. The Foot. Out. If it weren't for the prayers and love of friends and God's good grace, I'm not sure I could. I hold carrots out in front of myself. On short sticks...."Finish this task and ...... you can see the Soul sisters.....or read blogs.....or sleep." On longer sticks...."Only four more weeks till the Festival of Hommies." I am trying to practice self care, saying yes to less things, taking more downtime. I am reading a trashy novel and a magazine, sleeping a lot, taking my B vitamins, walking my doggie. I am crying a lot....I don't know if that is self-care, but it happens and I let it. I am trying to just tell people what I am feeling and ask for what I need. That also makes me tired because it does not come naturally, but I know it is good for me, so I am practicing and trusting it will all get better in time.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sermon for April 20, 2008

John 21:1-19

The story in this Gospel has always been one of my favorites. I preached about it last year at my own church when it came up in the lectionary rotation, and when I was thinking about something to share with you today, it came to mind, this story of Peter and his conversation with Jesus over breakfast on the beach. We know that it is sometime after Jesus has appeared the second time to the disciples. John tells us the second appearance was a week after the resurrection. We don’t know how long it has now been since that day, but some amount of time has passed. And a group of the disciples decided to go fishing. Not too strange. They were, after all, fishermen. And this must have been an odd time for them. Their leader Jesus had been killed in the most ignominious and shameful way possible. One of their own had handed him over. They were aware of this. And they were also each aware of their own behavior during the time of his trial and crucifixion and in the time after. They had been devastated. Then, then empty tomb, the confusion and finally joy when it became clear to them that Jesus was in some very real way alive among them. Though the Gospels do not make it clear, we might speculate that, even though the disciples were thrilled to have Jesus with them, they likely were also finding this somewhat disconcerting and puzzling, and were possibly not quiet sure what to make of it all, or what their next step was to be. Remember, when Jesus was right there alive with them before the crucifixion, many times they didn’t take direction very well, and were fairly clueless about his, and their, mission. So I am pretty sure that they didn’t just all of a sudden get purposeful right away! So, they did what we do when we aren’t really sure of the right thing to do…they fell back on the thing they knew, the thing that they were sure of and in which they felt comfortable. And who knows, they might have just been hungry and broke and needed to earn a few denarii besides!

Among them is Peter. Peter who very soon after encountering Jesus for the first time falls to his knees and says “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!" Peter, who when he sees Jesus walking toward him on the water says . "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." But then who a few minutes later is sputtering in the waves, half drowned, having panicked and lost faith. Peter, the one who, when Jesus inquires about who it is the disciples believe him to be blurts out, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Peter who wants to build tents at the transfiguration. Peter, who like the others, falls asleep when Jesus asks them to watch with him. Peter, who asserts "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Hotheaded Peter, who on the day Jesus was arrested cut off the ear of the high-priest’s slave to defend Jesus, and within hours denied that he ever heard of Jesus, to save his own skin.

Oh so human Peter, who, in this Gospel, when he realizes it is Jesus on the shore, puts ON his clothes and jumps into the sea and lets the rest of the disciples haul in the catch. This catch so reminiscent of the one on the first day they met Jesus. He must of have been thinking of that day. I wonder what else he was thinking. He had had some time to think. To wonder. Time to regret his actions, his part in that whole horrific drama as it unfolded in front of him. Time to wish that he could turn back the clock, maybe. To have a “do over.” Time to wish he had been stronger, braver, bolder. And he may have wondered since the appearances of Jesus had begun, “how will it be with us when we meet again, how can I face Him, what will I say, what will HE say?” We have no record if Jesus spoke with Him at the other gatherings, but we know that today, Peter and Jesus come face to face.

Jesus has fed them, provided the meal, and the disciples all knew Him in His feeding them, His nurturing them, His loving them. And when they finished that meal, Jesus turns to Peter. “Simon, son of John,” Jesus addresses him by his full name, “do you love me more than these.” These? These what? These other fellows around us? These boats and nets that he used to catch the fish he made his living with? We don’t know. Jesus is not specific. But Peter knew. And he answered Jesus, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love you.” And Jesus responds with a charge for Peter....”Feed my lambs.” But once is not enough for Jesus with Peter. Once is not enough to ask, “Do you love me?” Again, Jesus asks, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter answers again in the affirmative, and again, Jesus gives him a task, telling him to “Tend my sheep.” And again a third time, Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And Peter, who never loses his humanity, has the temerity at that third exchange to be hurt that Jesus needs to keep asking. How quickly we can forget our own failures and betrayals! Ever been there? “Oh, How could ask me, you KNOW I love you!” And Jesus never loses either His patience or His focus. Again, He responds with the task, “Feed my sheep,”

Yes, this story is about Peter. It is about his healing, his reconciliation, his re-conversion and re-call. He knew on that day on the beach with Jesus beyond a doubt that he was forgiven and reconnected to Jesus. He experienced that his act of betrayal was wiped away by a power that was stronger than anything he had ever known before. We know from the “rest of the story” that Peter did indeed follow the call and that he did become a leader in the new faith movement that followed Pentecost and that he did die a martyr’s death “to glorify God.”

Gospel scholars have all sorts of things to say about the symbolism in this Gospel. There is the use of the repetition of the three times Jesus asks Peter “do you love me” being used as a kind of expiation for the three denials, as well as three being understood at that time a symbol of the completion of a dynamic process. There are the fish. Fish are all over the gospels as the symbol for Jesus. There is the wonderful symmetry with the first calling of the disciples and this story. In both stories the men are catching little until Jesus comes along and tells them to cast out the nets and then they are filled to overflowing. There is talk of the use of the language of love in the Gospel, the two words in Greek that are used, agape, which is the love of one for many, and philios, which is the love of friends, and who said what to whom and what that all meant. And that is all very useful and interesting.

But today I am walking with Peter. He serves for me as a kind of “everyone” or even a sort of alter ego in some ways. He is so human. So like me. I encounter Jesus as Peter did, and my first thought sometimes are how absolutely unworthy of Him I am, and my first intention is to push God away, afraid somehow that He will see and reject my sinful self. Forgetting of course that He created me, loves me, knows and graces me, not in spite of who I am but because of it.

I am a Peter who has in one moment such faith, believing that if Jesus commanded it, I too could walk on water, and in the next, screaming in fear and sinking in the waves. I believe I am not alone in this! So sure I am in one breath that God is who God is, but then in the next, faltering, confused, questioning and unsure. Especially since, like most of us I fall into that little trap of trying to conform God to my own image and likeness.

I too have a hard time staying awake, paying attention in the way God asks of me. It is too hard sometimes, too painful to see the things God asks me to pay attention to, listen to, have compassion for, do something about. So, like Peter and his friends, I fall asleep.

And like Peter, it is so much easier to just haul out my sword and whack off someone’s (figurative of course—we ARE in the Midwest) appendages than it is to stand by quietly and own my own truth. Yes, I do stand for Jesus. Yes I am with Him. And them, too. Those He touched, and ate with, championed and healed. Yes, I am here for them, too. Even if it upsets someone, I stand with him. That’s hard sometimes.

And like Peter when I realize it is Jesus on the shore of my life calling me back, I want to hide myself, run away, have a do over. But like there was for Peter, there is something in that invitation that is so gentle, so welcoming, so full of grace and peace….come and eat, be fed….that I, that we cannot resist. And so we do come and are fed. And the conversation can begin….”Do you love me”….not once the question is asked but again and again until the answer satisfies. And not simply “do you love me” but do you love me MORE THAN THESE. Peter knew what it meant. What “these” were. Friends. Boats. Nets. Fish. Being “Peter the guy who catches the most and shiniest fish on Tiberias.” Whatever it was, he knew. We know. And Jesus asks us, “Do you love me more than them?” Hard question. Scary question. Question requiring something in the answer.

And then, if we answer yes, what happens? We are given a task, work….and not easy work. The work that Jesus did…the care and feeding of the least and the hardest. The stuff that got him killed, and he wants us to participate in it, too. It’s no wonder by the third time Jesus asked him, Peter was feeling sad. Just a few weeks out from “He is risen Alleluia!” and we are into the hard nitty gritty of the gospel. We are called to the task of creating God’s kingdom on earth. We are fitted to this task not by virtue of our own great strength or virtue but by grace. God’s promise to us is not that that it will not be hard work, that there will be no struggle, no pain, no times when we will fall flat on our very human little faces. But God’s very real promise to us is that in the resurrected incarnated redeemer, we have a risen One who has destroyed the power of death, the “big d” Death and our own little daily deaths. God says to us in Jesus that He asks us to do nothing that has not already been done for us. This is what we say “Alleluia” about!

Peter finally understood. No fear is too great to overcome, no sin too great to be forgiven. This Love, indeed, conquers all. And so we -- like Peter, and every other follower who has needed and known the grace of God can join the psalmist in proclaiming: "You have turned my mourning into dancing....O Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever!" So in all these spoken, sung, and other ways, we go back once again to the sea shore. Breakfast has ended, and Jesus looks at you deeply, “Do you love me more than these? Do you love me? Do you love me? Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.” Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Five: For Just Twenty Four Hours

RevHRod says: "Yesterday I had the 24 hour flu. I had been told by the people who had it first that it really was a twenty-four hour bug. And so while I dealt with all the blech of the flu, I kept reminding myself that morning would come and I would feel a lot better.
This is certainly a strange way to start out a Friday Five but it made me think about what I might like to do if I knew it would only last for 24 hours. There are no reality boundaries to these imaginings. So here are the five things for you to consider..."

1. If you could dramatically change your physical appearance for 24 hours, what would you do? That is a hard one! So many things to choose from. I might like to be very young to see what that is like now (as opposed to what it was like when I really was), or be a person of another culture, or gender, or be stunningly beautiful just to see people swoon at my feet. Actually I think I might just really like to be tall so I could reach the top shelf in the cupboards for a day!

2. If you could live in another place for 24 hours where would you go? Oh that is easy....I'd pop across the pond and see how RevKathryn's settling in, see her new digs, meet her folks and give her a great hug!

3. You get to do somebody else's job for a day...this was a very good question to ponder cuz I've been sort of grousey lately, what with all and everything, but you know, as I think about it, there is really noboby else's job I would really rather be doing than my own that I can think of. I have the two best jobs in the world for me....therapist and priest....took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up and get here, and there's no place else I want to be.

4. Spend the day with another person from anywhere in time and space...oh, again....options abound....just ONE????? Well obviously Jesus would be at the top of the list, followed by his mom, and any of his gang really, or maybe Julian of Norwich, Theresa of Avila, St. Francis, Thomas More, Martin Luther, Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker, Thomas Merton......

5. A magical power is yours. Which one would you pick? That one that Samantha had on the old TV show where she could wiggle her nose and her house would be clean. Oh, yeah for sure!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A "Jail Guy" Update...L Needs Your Prayers

In all the stuff of my own life I've been trying to stay in close touch with L. I do see him in passing as I'm over at CH a few times a week, but often we just have time for a quick "Hi, how are you?" as he is getting home from work just as I am leaving. I've taken him for coffee a few times, but it's been hard to connect with him. He's either very very quiet or he goes to either a kind of goofy silliness or the hard facade of his "gangsta" persona that just breaks my heart. Technically his time at CH is up as they have a ninety day stay there. The director has petitioned for an extension for him, but they are not often granted. He has to go back to court on Monday. It's a stupid thing (IMHO). The court in the county to the North, where he owed a fine from the past got their little selves in a knot because he suddenly stopped sending his (previously always timely and regular) payments to them. The reason of course was that he had been arrested and was in jail. DUH! So now they want to violate him for that. But he has already paid them off (in full!) since he was released so we think it will be a done deal. However, he is still on probation in that county as well and now they want to tighten that up as well. So he will have two PO's in TWO counties. Goody. The one he has here is not a very nice person. I don't say that randomly, nor am I alone in this opinion. L's CH counselor was appalled yesterday when she observed how he treated L. She used the word "goaded" him. The PO dropped by, just for a visit. L was already having a stressful day. He's been working on a very long court ordered assessment that involves doing some paper and pencil testing and filling out questionnaires that ask very personal questions. It's long and hard and intrusive. Because of L's learning disabilities he needs a staff person to do it with him. So he can't even answer this very personal and private stuff personally and privately. I'm guessing he was already feeling a little raw when PO shows up to deliver a bunch of news that L really didn't need to hear right then and that was delivered in a way that was just guaranteed to upset him. The whole kerfuffle is over where L is going to live. He can't get an apartment due to his legals so he says, ok I'll go live with my mom. The PO says no you won't and if you try I'll violate you so there! L got a little defensive (I got more than a little defensive for him and was biting my tongue HARD!) and said what nineteen year olds say, "whatever." This upset PO and he started making even more noises about revoking his probation. This of course just made things ever so much worse for poor L. At that point, the staff member and I intervened and said perhaps the PO and staff should talk and I should meet with L and he and the PO could sort things out later.

He's talking going to the Big City again. We know what that means and it's not good! He says he has no future, that he "knows" that no matter what he does he will just be locked up again. I am struggling mightily to hold hope for him.....but the system is so stacked against him. It went wrong for him from so early on and it seems it is not getting better. He is so insistent that he did not do this thing he is paying this huge price for, and it seems that it really doesn't matter because he did what he was told to do by the public defender, took the advice given to plead because he simply wanted to get out of jail and he was told that "they" were likely to bring more things up against him from his past that would turn a judge or jury against him if he went to court. And all his hopes for getting out....seeing his baby, getting a place to live, it's all turning out to be fraught with obstacles put in place by that same system.

L needs a miracle. It really has come down to this.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


My Soul Sister A shared this quote from Hugh Prather with us a few weeks back:

"The choice is always between my quiet mind and my busy mind. Whenever possible I will turn my moments of asking into moments of silent listening and gentle watching. My function today is to step quietly around disbelief and confusion. I will stop heeding and reacting to my agitated ego and make instead a peaceful flow of thoughts my goal and my preoccupation."

That seems like a good goal and aim. I seem pretty reactive, even to myself these days and I don't like it. Of course patience with myself has never been my strong suit and I don't know why I think just because I'm "going through something" now should be any different. I find I have a kind of "buck up and get on" mentality that wars with a kind of desire to wallow. Neither of these pleases me. I'd like rather to go with that peaceful flow and gentle watching, just breath by breath, grace by grace doing the next right thing. But even that perhaps is a tall order for one human, slightly battered.

When it comes right down to it I don't know that I've been really really sure just how much "bad" behavior is permitted, how much stamping of feet and raising of voice and qvetching one can do before crossing some invisible line. There was none permitted at home. A mild expression of opinion was "sassing" and merited banishing. There was none at school as ultimate authority was clear and ruled. The sin books didn't really address social behavior, as I guess what we did wasn't all that important as long as we weren't adultering (bold type remember). This brings me up against that disconcerting feeling that I have been having now and again lately that there was something I missed, some instruction, some meeting, some class I didn't get the memo about that talked about how to do some of this life stuff.

I have been having some very helpful conversations with unexpected people. A coworker who out of the blue told me that she has been through a very similar kind of breakup, and that she and her "ex dear one" are now the closest and best of friends, "almost more family than family, really," she tells me. Soul Sister S who shared a wonderful quote with me during our walk of the Maggies. A wonderful surprise call from a RevGal. And a card came in the mail from my MDG guru D offering love and support. And there are all of the e-mails and comments and prayers. I do feel so loved and supported in the midst. It would stop me, I think, from too much foot stomping. It's so hard to do that with any kind of grace. And grace does abound.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sunday Heartache

I think that would be a good title for that song if I ever finish it. I went away for three and a half days. I went to a church meeting on Thursday and a work conference on Friday and on Saturday I did some serious retail therapy in the Big City (IKEA, DSW Shoes, Trader Joes's and my two favorite thrift stores). I hung out with a really good friend, drank a little too much wine, slept in two mornings in a row, and tried to do that "self-care" thing. Then it was Sunday and I had to get in the car and make the three hour trek back to what I knew would be waiting here. A house full of empty, places where things used to be, a sense of sad vacancy. here a second verse in there somewhere?

I have done my usual trick and scheduled myself into a corner. I did get a role in My Antonia. As did everyone else who tried out! The rehearsal schedule is tight, just about every night as we have only two weeks till performance. I'm also supposed to host the bookclub Tuesday night....oops. Next weekend we have a diocesan meeting here on Saturday...I am the hostess, and it's my weekend to preside and preach. Oops again. I looked at the Lectionary....hmmm.

I't's really hard to believe that two weeks ago today I was sitting on a big boat basking in warm sunshine. It seems like a lifetime. So much has happened in so many of our lives. I do not know what I would do without the love, prayers and support of this community. Because of the complications of my fishbowl life, it is really hard to reach out for support here beyond a very small circle. C and my Soul Sisters are so fabulous and are helping hold me together. So many things must just be handled with such great care in my little world, some days I feel like I am walking on broken glass and eggshells strewn across thin ice!

One thing I am grateful for is that this is happening later in life rather than earlier. Because by this time I know that nothing in life lasts forever. This particularly acute pain will pass,
I can survive it if I simply stay with myself and wait and be and breathe and pray. There is really nothing I have to do, or can.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My very own country song....

What do you call your Dear One when your Dear One's moving out...and everyone's sad, and no one is mad, and no one's done anyone wrong?

It kind of sounds like a country song doesn't it? I think I'm kind of in an "if I don't laugh I'll cry" mode, and I'm really pretty tired of crying right now. I got a call just as I was leaving my appointment with LF tonight....the lease is signed, the keys in hand, the deed is done. We are officially, as of Sunday "separated" or at least living in two different places. It's all very surreal. I have never been through anything like this. Oh, I've been through breakups. Nasty ones, endless ones, dramatic ones. But never such a sad and tender one. Never one in which both parties are as reluctant as we are resolute about the need for this time apart. I'm finding that it's a stretch for folks to understand how this works. People like their breakups simple. A bad guy and a good guy. Someone to blame and someone to feel sorry for. Hmmm. Good luck with that. I might be willing to be the bad guy but I doubt you'd get DO to do victim in this lifetime!

So we went over to see the place when I got home, measured for drapes, checked out the closets, the usual new apartment stuff. It's small but clean, there is nice view, and it would be a really fine place for anyone else but Dear One to live. I think I'll sing another chorus.

Monday, April 07, 2008


In need of some distraction tonight I went and tried out for reader's theatre. The production is Willa Cather's My Antonia which is being done as part of the community's Big Read. All kinds of things are being done around this book, which is of course set on the prairie (not in our state, but close) during the month of April, and concluding with the play at the end of the month. The reader's theatre productions have caught on as they are a really low-stress way of doing productions, no memorizing, no costumes, no big sets. This will be the third one of these the theatre group has done. The Invisible Man and Dracula both were well-received last year. I was not in either of those. I had tried out for Drac but got passed over for a better screamer. There seem to be more roles in Antonia for women of a certain age, but who knows. I can handle a little rejection if it comes, I guess. My first stage success here in town as Golde in Fiddler my first summer here came as such a shock to me, it may well have been a fluke. The whole thing from start to finish will take two weeks, which will likely coincide with my first two weeks as a solo occupant in the house. Seems like a good plan. If it works out. Give me something to think about. A good distraction just till the dust settles.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Thinking about Freedom

This poem by Hugh Prather was given to us during the BE for reflection. It hit me strongly the first time I read it and has been part of my meditations this week.


No one grants you freedom. You are free if you are free.
No one enthralls you.
You enthrall yourself
And when you have
You may hand your tether
To another
To many others
To all others
To yourself

Perhaps this last is worst of all
For this slave master is hardest to see
And hardest to rebel against
But he is the easiest to hate
And to damage

I do not know how to tell you to be free
I wish I did
But I do know some signs of freedom
One is doing what you want to do
Though someone tells you not to
Another is doing what you want to do
Though someone else tells you to.

There is so much here that speaks to where I am right now. I have been my own slave master, and the task is to set myself free in the quest for authenticity. In this moment that is painful and rather costly. But there are those signs of freedom that he speaks of as well.

This is going to be a week of transition. Old things are passing away and new things not yet come. I have never liked the in-between, as much as I tend to tell others there are there riches to be had there. Funny how all those things I have been telling others are coming home to roost.

The emotions are complex. Heartache, gratitude, confusion, security....a total stew. It's no wonder I'm exhausted and seem to be having a little trouble tracking the day to day stuff. Getting my taxes done, my room cleaned and my laundry finshed this weekend seems to have wiped me out. The idea of going back to work tomorrow seems a bit overwhelming. Sleep has become my friend, and thank God, I can go there!

I am so grateful for prayer and support. My Soul Sisters and wonderful friends here, the blogger community....I can literally feel the support carrying me through. One day at a time.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Revelation Friday 5

Sally brings us this week's Friday Five. She says, "With this Sunday's gospel reading in mind, that wonderful revelation of Christ to the companions on the Emmaus road. I wonder where you might have been surprised by God's revelation recently.So with no further waffle I offer you this weeks Friday 5:"How has God revealed him/herself to you in a:

1. Book Oh where to begin? God has been revealing truth and Truth to me in the written word since I taught myself to read at age four. In Dr. Seuss and AA Milne, in L'Engle and Laura Ingalls Wilder...all truths about life and living and love as I could apprehend them with my child's mind. And more as life goes on..., poets and mystics, novelists and humorists.....too many to ever remember, in some ways too many for one to be "the one" beyond the obvious. The Bible, the Book of Common Prayer....those places of first solace and last comfort. Right now I am much enjoying Nan Gilbert's Psalms for Praying. God is revealed new and fresh there for me daily.

2.Film Another hard many through time....Brother Sun, Sister Moon had a huge impact on me as a teen. The story of Francis and Clare, it rocked my world. The Green Mile, Pay it Forward, Philadelphia, Mr. Holland's Opus, all at particular times and places were revealed truth. It's kind of a comment on the insane pace of recent life that I can't even think of many films I've seen in the last year or so. One that did strike the chord was Into Great Silence. Different, riveting and powerful.

3. Song Oh, dear. Can't have just one there either. The big stuff always says God to me, Handel, Bach, chorales and symphonies. But so does chant. Music has been woven into my spiritual life from so early on. If I am at all on the edge I can be reduced to a weeping heap by almost any hymn at any time....doesn't even matter if it's sung well! One that has been very dear to me lately has been Fernando Ortega's Give me Jesus. It rode with me through Lent as a result of one of the Wednesday evenings I shared with my Presbyterian friends, and it brings me such comfort whenever I hear it.

4. Another person Well you know I just have to plural this one up and say other persons.....the persons who shared the aft starboard and other various and sundry spots aboard the BE ship. God was revealed over and over among us in sharing and laughter and tears, in conversation and dancing and seeing beauty together, in making new discoveries and finding common ground. We each had a word for the week. Mine was "Advocate." Among other things, it made me think about Pentecost and the birth of the church. At our closing Eucharist, I shared this with the group and told them that I thought that the way we were there might have been kind of what Jesus had in mind.

5. Creation Forgive me if I "go BE" again. The picture above is sunset in the Gulf of Mexico. And that was only the first night. The incredible endless shades of blue of water, the lovely variations of brown and tan and white and pink of skin of people of many nations all getting along pretty well together on our floating island. Birds and flowers on Cozumel. The struggle back to life in NOLA. The creation of new friendships. Grace abounds!

Bonus answer: your choice- share something encouraging/ amazing/ humbling that has happened to you recently! Again it is hard to narrow could be twelve blog posts! But as I look at these three words, I have to say that there is one thing that fits all three. There is a lot going on right now in my life. A lot of upheaval and changes, a lot that is hard. The person most affected by this (other than me) has every right to be angry and mean-spirited about the whole thing but instead is choosing to see this as an opportunity for growth. Instead of being blamed and recriminated, I am being encouraged and supported and offered the understanding that I am making the choices I am making because I really could make no others. That is encouraging/amazing/humbling. That is blessing. That is God revealed.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Re-Entry from Liminal Space

The "Liminal Space" that was created on the BE as Mary Beth so beautifully put it in her reflection was a threshold space, a space between. And it seems to have been, as liminal spaces often are, for many of us, a very sacred and transformational space. We went away. Not just to a retreat or a vacation. Not just to NOLA or Cozumel on a cruise, but somewhere different. Somewhere where the world is a different place than the one we live in on a day to day basis. And not just because it moves when you walk on it, or seems to never sleep. In this world moving in and out of conversations had an ease to it, a comfort not found in my daily life. And those conversations were incredible. Silly, sublime, sobering, sweet and above all safe. Someone said that the Lido Aft Starboard group was like an amoeba....people came and went, it grew and expanded and moved back in, all depending on the need of the moment. In this world, as someone else has mentioned, there was a quality to the listening. It was tangible. There was attention being paid, there were resonances and ahas. And there was so much laughter. Obviously we are very funny people, we have wonderful senses of humor, collectively and individually. We find much about life that is funny and wry. We do not take ourselves too seriously. We know that sometimes the choice is to laugh or to cry and we choose to laugh. And just as obviously, we have not had the chance, many of us, to laugh enough lately. To find enough joy, to find enough lightness in life. And in this lovely open space, it was there and came bubbling out.

My yoga teacher, with whom I spent a week in Mexico for four consecutive years at her retreat center, would give us the advice to "change states of consciousness gently." Re-entry can be hard from these transformational, out of time and space experiences. Reality can bite. (As does snow on the bare ankles I refuse to cover. I will show off my tattoo!) Coming home to all the things that were there before, jobs and relationships and all the issues we left behind, when we are so wide open can be hard. People keep asking me, "So how was your cruise?" And I say the usual and expected answers and find myself tearing up. I keep wearing my heart and my bracelet, my scarf and my Cozumel if to have these things with me will keep me connected for longer moments to how it was. My body is still holding on to the sea as I am still rocking and woozy if I sit too long in one place....I find I almost treasure it as a reminder.

But life is here. There is a decision made on the homefront, we merely await completion of paperwork for a final moving date. And L is struggling. He is in desperate need of prayers right now as the system is messing with him....yes, yet again, and I think there is pretty much no hope of an appeal despite the fact that I feel that there was such a miscarriage of justice here. I fear so much that we may lose him in the worst possible ways. Last night he told me has stopped drawing. My heart broke for him. We both had tears for a moment before he reverted to the gangsta' persona we are seeing far more of than we wish lately. And once again, I placed him in God's hands.

I am coming through the place where the shields are needed most. It's bumpy and a little scary. But I remember how much I feared the sea until I had the courage to go and face her on Friday morning. And how I realized then that not only was she beautiful, but that she was going to protect me for three days from going anywhere or doing anything but taking care of myself. And in that moment she became my friend, too.

There is so much more to say and ponder. But life and tasks call. To be continued.....

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Grace Abounds

I'm home. A day later than planned, but this too is part of the grace story. There is so much to tell....but I have been up since 3:30 and can barely string two words together. Suffice it to say that there is no place I could have been, nothing I could have been doing, no-one I could have been doing it with, that could have been for me a better gift to myself at this particular point in my life. I so feel that God has given me this fabulous gift in being there and getting to know people on a different hear stories of courage and transformation and hanging in there and sheer laugh and be silly....and be in solidarity... to feel cared for and caring resonance that echoes deep in my soul.

My first stop on arrival home was Soul Sisters Bible Study...the SS's asked me if my soul was fed...oh, yes, indeed it was. Thank you all.