Saturday, May 31, 2008

Git 'er Done

In my part of the world that is phrase that shows up on feed hats and T-shirts. It is, apparently, a good thing to do, to " git 'er done." As anyone who has been here for a while knows, my status change has engendered in me a need to purge and clean and claim and get all sorts of things done in my house. This has resulted in a ginormous project list that some days threatens to roll right over me. But today I realized that I actually have made some progress and have gotten some things done that have been sitting around here staring at me for a very long time. So I thought I'd make a list of all the things I can think of that I have gotten done since coming back from the BE and started living alone:
  • Pulled everything off the shelves in the laundry/storage room, purged, tossed, cleaned and reorganized the space
  • Took down the plastic on the front porch, swept it and got it ready for summer
  • Took down the plastic on the back porch and gave it a good deep cleaning, including scrubbing the floor twice, and moved some furniture in.
  • Rearranged the dining room so more light can get in, and scrubbed the carpet
  • Created a library space in an empty room where some furniture "moved out."
  • Painted the lawn furniture
  • Scraped and painted the fire pit
  • Touched up the paint in the kitchen
  • Organized some clothes I want to advertise for sale
  • Purged, cleaned and reorganized the bathroom cabinet
  • Purged and reorganized the kitchen cabinets and pantry
  • Pulled up the rug in the empty bedroom
  • Tried (and failed) to hang bifold doors (the guy comes tomorrow)

Seeing it all in a list like this makes me realize that I am getting things done. It also helps me understand why I am tired! This seems to be kind of a lot to accomplish while working full time, serving my congregation, and being gone to the FoH for the better part of a week! And that's kind of good to know, because I tend to think I'm not really doing anything as I look at all there still is to do. I have whole rooms that I want to paint, closets that I haven't even thought about yet, and then there is the basement., also known as the pit of despair. So I guess I'll just keep chugging away at it, the big projects are yet to come, these are just the warm-ups! I want to sand floors and paint, change out light fixtures and do a whoel bunch of other stuff to make this place feel more mine. But for now, maybe I could just go over to the Fleet Farm and get me a shirt like the one I saw at the grocery store today. It said GOT 'er done!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Five: Garage Sale Edition

Songbird says,"Welcome to your irregularly scheduled Fifth Friday Five, hosted by will smama and Songbird!Since will smama is preparing for a joint garage sale with her parents, and Songbird's church had a Yard and Plant Sale last Saturday, we have five enormously important questions we hope you will answer:"
1) Are you a garage saler? Yes and no. There have been times in my life when I have been "seriously into" garage sales and they have played an inportant part in furnishing my places and clothing me. Now that I am in purge mode I am avoiding all sources of acquisition of "more stuff," garage sales included.

2) If so, are you an immediate buyer or a risk taker who comes back later when prices are lower? I usually go to sales in clumps, making a circuit, so if I see something, I buy it, cuz I'm not coming back!

3) Seriously, if you're not a garage saler, you are probably not going to want to play this one.(That wasn't really #3.)
3) This is the real #3: What's the best treasure you've found at a yard or garage sale? 50 cent blue Italian sandals. They were cute, comfortable and well... Italian!

4)If you've done one yourself, at church or at home, was it worth the effort? Some have been, some have not, and it's always hard to predict. Weather, traffic, the stuff you have vs the stuff they's such an amorphous mix! I'm in discernment about this very thing right now as I watch the "to go" pile grow on the porch....garage sale or Goodwill? Just don't know.

5) Can you bring yourself to haggle? Absolutely, it's half the fun!

BONUS: For the true aficionado: Please discuss the impact of Ebay, Craig's List, Freecycle, etc... on the church or home yard/garage sale. Clearly I don't make this cut as my first response was, "there's an impact?"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Life also goes on here....

I went back to the day job today. I'm finding I'm still dragging a bit from last week, and it's another of those transitions from one way of being to another. Though I have to say, having NG commenting on my last post really gave me a giggle this morning. Who knew! Yesterday was kind of long and meandering. I got a couple projects done, mainly painting my very old lawn chairs and my very rusty fire pit. While I was painting, I noticed that I was doing something that's been going on a lot lately. I was talking to myself. The increase in this behavior coincides temporally with living alone, so I am implying causality, even though I do remember from my stats classes that correlation says it ain't necessarily so. But if not, then something more ominous may be implied. My impending birthday that is taking me over the speed limit? Or worse? Mostly whenI am talking, I cheer lead myself. For example when I painted the chairs and the color and the texture really did match the existing chair finish I said "I rock!" I also talk to myself about things I need to do, give myself pep talks, and such. The thing is, I do some of this out loud. Which is fine if I am home alone, but I have caught myself doing this in public a couple times. I also have displayed a couple of other disturbing signs of possible impending neurological decline that have me a little worried. Word finding for example. When I am not nattering away to myself, sometimes I can't seem to think of the words I need. The other day I could not come up with "chain link fence" to save my life. And I needed that phrase! And people's names. Well forget that one! Back in the day when I led workshops, I could have forty people's names down by noon the first day. I am mortified to admit that when I was teaching recently, there were students whose names I wasn't really really certain up right up to the last day of school! I have been assured (by people I usually trust) that I could easily attribute it all to stress. I hope so. Because I am really not ready to lose my mind just yet. For one thing, I kind of need it for my livelihood for a while yet! So let's hope the talking to myself is just a sign that I am just getting very comfortable with myself and caring less what others think and willing to be my authentic slightly quirky self more publicly, and that other thing....what was that, oh yeah, the word thing, that it really is stress, and will get better as I do.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Digesting the FoH Part 2

Experiencing the Holy: The God Voice in My Head

It's funny the stuff that grabs a person out of a week of incredible richness. I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of my CDs so I can listen to all those fantastic lectures and sermons again. They were so good and so dense and there was just so much to take in. I used to think I was a pretty good note taker, but when I look at what I wrote, well, let's just say, I am grateful for those CDs.

What surfaced this morning (in the shower of all places--where BTW it's really hard to write stuff down!) was a piece of Nora Gallagher's lecture. She was talking about tips for writers and the importance of avoiding "churchy" language, and challenged us with the assignment of writing about "Experiencing the Holy" without using the words soft, whisper, breath, God, gentle or eternity.

I got thinking about that....and how it really wouldn't be too challenging, other than the "God" one, most of those words really wouldn't be the first ones to come to mind when I think about my most recent and frequent encounters. It seems its more often like the reaction I mentioned at the end of my last post. The Spirit-within that I seem to keep encountering on a rather regular basis lately really doesn't whisper, it isn't soft or breathy. Rather it sort of chuckles. The best way I can think to explain it is know when you need to say something? Confess something? To your BFF, your anam cara, your SD. You don't really want to but you know you must and you know you will -- and you know in the end it all will all be well. Partly, maybe mostly, because you know exactly the response you will get? That totally loving semi-exasperation that it took you so long to tell them what you and they both already knew and knew you would tell them in the end. And that is followed by that completely unconditional acceptance of all that you are while holding you accountable for your behavior--not to them--but to yourself -- and to everything in you that knows. That voice. The one that kind of has its hands on it hips right before it bursts into hugging you, and you just know you could not be more loved but you just better not try getting by with less than your best? Well that's the Spirit voice in my head these days, not the shaming sin counter of childhood, but surely not "soft" in a let me off the hook way. But soft as I can fall into it and be saved. Well, Nora, I'm afraid I might have to break the rules after all.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Digesting the FoH Part 1

Soul Sister S and I were out walking our Maggies last night when I mentioned how tired I was after a day of sermon writing. She said she was surprised by that as she thought I'd come back from the FoH "all fired up and ready to preach." Well....yes, sort of and not really. Can one be fired up and flattened, fully ready and fully not, full of zeal and completely overwhelmed? Then that's where I am post-FoH.

I'm not sure what I expected from the Festival. What I got was more than I ever might have been expecting, certainly. More, but different, as well. While it was very cool to see the people I spend a lot of my Saturdays on Textweek with doing exegesis and getting inspired by, in the final analysis, it wasn't the lectures that were necessarily the best part. There were in fact lots of best parts....starting with being with a sheer hoard of preachers! To be in places (beautiful places to boot) with over 2000 people who do what you do (more or less), who are committed to the same overall goal in life of bringing the Good News of Jesus to the world....who are willing to take the time to come and hang out with other people for five days to learn to do it better....well the magic starts right there! And when those 2000 plus people pray and sing together in well-planned worship, well, there's nothing else for this geek to do but cry! So I did. Pretty much every day, every service, all week long. It just undid me to be there with all those people praising God together. That was for starters. Then there were the sermons! Oh, my. Soul food at it's finest. Every one a feast. And the music!!!! Folk, praise, Gospel, Jazz, Celtic, acoustic, organ traditional....the whole realm of creative expression. Such amazing gifts we were offered. And offered back. This gang could sing! My lovely congregation of fifteen or so Episcopal folks, good Midwesterners that we are, make a very polite little noise before the Lord. At FoH, we rocked the house and it was good!

Walking back to the hotel on Thursday a woman said to me, "You know, it's like Thanksgiving. You are so stuffed, you really can't eat another bite. But everything is so good, you just have to keep trying." She was right. It reminded me of a Middle Eastern meal I was invited to once. There were courses and courses and courses. One wonderful thing after the next, each more beautiful and delicious than the one before. At some point of course, I started to feel a little overwhelmed by it all, but afraid that something wonderful would be missed, I had to keep going and sampling and tasting. There came a point of feeling a little overfull of FoH, like the mind and spirit could not hold one more word, one more thought. But I just had to keep going back for more...what if I missed something! More than one person commented on the "stamina" of the group. Yes it was tiring on the one hand, but oh, so sustaining on the other.

So to my Soul Sister I said, "Not so much fired up as filled up." Contented, surfeited, replete.

My sermon writing process was different this week. It was me, the Gospel and the Holy Spirit on Saturday. Oh, I had done my reading, done my research. But I put it away, and did not cling to it for security as I usually do when writing. I decided to go up on the high board with Jesus and dive into the water and see where we ended up. The result of this was that the sermon I wrote was not the sermon I planned, or the one I originally thought I was going to preach a week or two ago. I abandoned the safety zone of my head, because if I heard one thing this week it was that testimony and witness and story have power that exegesis and didactic heady words do not. And when I preached this morning it felt in my very self like it came from a different part of me…as if I were embodying the Gospel more fully. And the voice of Spirit who comments in my head (more on that in a later post) says, “Well, what did you expect, my silly Beloved preacher girl?!?” Indeed!

There is so much more to say….and I will soon, but we have a graduate in the congregation and after a wee nap, there’s a party calling my name.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sermon for Pentecost 2

Matthew 6:24-34

In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus repeatedly says “Do not worry, do not worry, do not worry.” Have no anxiety. Not about your money or your life, or your food or drink, not about your clothing or even your tomorrows. He reminds us that we cannot accomplish anything with worry, that it does not give us control over anything. And more importantly, that worry and anxiety will only make us slaves to the false gods we think will fix our concerns.

In my day job, of course, I am intimately acquainted with the wages of anxiety. Worry and stress, allowed to run rampant through our bodies narrows our arteries, swells our waistlines and shortens our lifespan. But we all know, don’t we, how hard it is to stop those anxious thoughts, especially when they come calling in the wee hours, taunting us with all those things we really do have on our very full life plates…. finances, health, jobs, kids, the future? All the things that are important to us. All the things that we can do nothing about by worrying over. All those things that we sometimes deal with by doing what one of my therapist friends calls the “spinning behaviors” of life….. Things like shopping till you drop or gambling or drinking or working to exhaustion. All of those things that can easily become our masters and our Gods if we let them.

I am a worrier by nature and upbringing. In a family that wanted to make sure I knew the world was a dangerous place in order to insure my safety I learned to be anxious and fearful about life. In a church that wanted to make me holy, I learned to be anxious and fearful about God. The formative God of my upbringing was much more a God of judgment than a God of comfort. I knew a lot more about how to determine whether or not I had supposedly offended God by breaking some rule than the fact that I was loved by God. And I am sad to say that I carried this incomplete and distorted version of God for a very, very, very, long time. All the way up to the point in fact, where I really met and encountered Jesus. Jesus, of course, gives us through his Incarnation as recorded in the Scriptures the clearest possible picture we can have of God and God’s desires for us. Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount we have a glimpse of Jesus’ vision of what God’s desire for His kingdom manifest among us might look like. Those who mourn finding comfort, the meek inheriting the earth, those who have hunger and thirst for righteousness being filled, the merciful receiving mercy, the pure in heart seeing God, the peacemakers being called children of God, those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake coming into their own. Jesus reminds his hearers this vision of justice and mercy is not just for some but for all. Today’s Gospel is not simply a “don’t worry, be happy” message. It goes deeper than that. Yes, Jesus asks us to trust in God for our needs. The God he knew intimately as the God, as theologian Walter Bruggeman says, of exuberant generosity and inexhaustible well-being. The God who loves us and has been in covenant with us from the beginning of creation. The one of whom Isaiah writes, “Yet I will not forget you, See I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” Jesus says to us in today’s gospel, “Trust this God who loves you and cares for you and keep your priorities in order.” “Be salt,” he said, “Be light. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “Turn the other cheek.” Do these things and do not be anxious and do not worry so much about the things of your life.

This is not to say that nothing is going to go wrong in life. Of course we know that! It just does not work that way. We have only to listen to the news for a few moments as the death tolls climb in China and Myanmar, as we hear the ongoing news about war and unrest in so many places. And closer to home as well, there are all the worries and concerns we hold, public and private. The lilies wilt and are tossed away. The birds of the air get eaten by cats….it happened in my back yard this week. Illness strikes and sometimes a cure is not in sight, we pray for yes and get no, sometimes the story does not have a happy ending. And in our pain and anxiety we say, “Where is God?” Jesus was incarnated out of God’s love for us, to be a living and enfleshed witness of God truly pitching God’s tent among us, a fulfillment of the covenant, God-with-us. Human life in all its messiness became God’s life, too. Not to help us escape it, but to live with us in it, and to show us how to be with one another in it as well.

Jesus call not to worry about our lives in the Gospel today is a call to discipleship. Let us pray that trusting in God’s exuberant generosity, inexhaustible well-being and never-ending love for us we can be co-creators of God’s kingdom in working for righteousness, justice and mercy. Amen.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Meme of Fives

I am back from the Festival of Homies. It was so amazing and fantastic and I will write about it, I will. But not tonight. Tonight I am playing! I have been tagged for this meme by three people, Eliza, Midlife Rookie, and Mary Beth at Terrapin Station, so I'm thinking, I'd better play! Here goes....

What were you doing five years ago? May, 2003. I'd been in my new small town life about eight months. I'd just moved "into town" (13, 000) from the very small town of 190 people 12 miles out and was much happier. I'd bought a pick-up and was taking horse-back riding lessons. In a few weeks I would try out for Fiddler and get the part of Golde. It was the beginning of the ongoing adventure that continues..... The other version of the meme asks about TEN years ago! That would have been 1998. I was finishing my doctorate, and had never heard of the place I now call home. If someone had told me I'd live here, be a priest, and had tried to give me most of the details of my present life I would have had a very hard time believing any of it had any connection to me at all.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)? I'm going with tomorrow since all that's left on today's list is sleep!
1. Finish unpacking from the FoH
2. Write Sunday's sermon
3. Walk Maggie with my friend and Soul Sister S
4. Do laundry
5. Pay bills

What are five snacks you enjoy?
1. Trail mix
2. Good chocolate (dark)
3. Sesame stix
4. String cheese
5. Almonds

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
1.Pay off all my bills and my mortgage
2. Buy houses for a few people who need them
3. Make my church accessible
4. Do lots of microloans
5. Go to Rwanda and see our MDG center and give them at least some of what they need.

What are five of your bad habits?
1. Messsy closets
2. Not finishing projects I start on my house
3. Perfectionism
4. Worry
5. Self-criticism

What are five places you have lived?
1. Dubuque, IA
2. Cedar Rapids, IA
3. Silver Springs, MD
4. Minneapolis, MN
5. St. Paul, MN

What are five jobs you've had?
1. Retail clerk (Drug store)
2. Program Aide for handicapped/developmentally delayed children
3. Bill collector
4. Hardware store manager
5. Professor

If you haven't been tagged and you want to play...go for it! I'd love to know more about every and any one of you fascinating RevGals and Pals.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Again

I've had a really good weekend. That's always a good thing. Right now it's a really good thing. It has been, I think, the best weekend I've had since I got back from the BE. There wasn't a lot scheduled so I had time to work on some house projects...the laundry room is done! All the shelves are cleaned off and reorganized, a whole bunch of junk has gone off to Goodwill, my little plastic boxes are all scrubbed up and neatly labeled with what is actually in them, and I managed to eliminate two whole shelves of storage! The dusty old miniblind is gone, replaced with a cute curtain. The adjacent porch got a sprucing too, the plastic is off, the windows are open, the floor got scrubbed twice, I put a table and a couple chairs in there so I can have my coffee or do some writing overlooking the back yard. Having done all that physical labor, my body needed some tending, so I broke in the hot tub on Friday night for the first soak of the season. Watching the moon rise over the trees while sipping a nice glass of wine was pure bliss.

Saturday I went to a new yoga class in town and....did my first headstand! Well technically it was a shoulderstand, but I was upside down and was that ever a trip! I discovered that when my perspective changes that much I have no clue where my body parts are! Hmm...there is a metaphor in there somewhere, I think! It was a very physical class, especially since I have been shirking on my practice, but it was also very much like coming home spiritually in yoga as it was very similar to the way my original teacher ran her classes, so I liked it a lot. Today, I can hardly walk and I am sore in places I forgot I had, however. That is the price I pay for practice shirking!

Today I had no church responsibilities, so I decided to be Episcoterian. My Presby friends were hosting a young praise band made up of youth from several local churches and their youth group was doing the service. Since I know some of the kids from the Lent series and it just sounded like fun, I thought I'd go. The plan was church, then home to laundry and packing for the FoH and maybe more house stuff. A friend was coming over to mow and Dear One was coming along to play in the dirt (we are sharing custody of the yard). Halfway through service, I remembered that I had the jail service this afternoon. Since it's basically a Bible study, there is not a lot of planning involved, so I wasn't too panicked, but it did mean I needed to rearrange the day. The jail turned out to be quite fine, I knew one of the guys from my day job and three of us had a very nice time talking about next Sunday's readings and why God needs to be our priority where ever we are in our lives.

There was finally packing, and the day ended with a doggie walk and another soak in the tub. For as much as that hot tub has been kind of a pain in the pocketbook, I do find it has its joys now and again. It was even nicer sitting there tonight smelling the newly mown grass.

I realized that I felt content a great deal of the time this weekend and that several times I actually felt happy. I think progress is being made. Grace continues to abound. God continues to shower me with blessings and hold me in love.

And tomorrow at noon we will hop in the car and head off to the big city for that amazing festival where I am going to see some of you....again and anew...and that will be a good thing as well. But for now I am aware of sleepy gratitude and a sense of peace, so it's off to bed.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Grand Tour Friday Five

Songbird writes:One of our original ring members, jo(e), wrote yesterday about a trip she and her sisters are taking overseas with their parents, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Many other RevGals are headed for the Festival of Homiletics in the coming week (click here for information on a RevGals meetup!!). In honor of these upcoming trips, herewith your Grand Tour Friday Five.Name five places that fall into the following categories:

1) Favorite Destination -- someplace you've visited once or often and would gladly go again: The Badlands of South Dakota. The first time I saw them it was unplanned. We were on our way to the Black Hills, our "real" vacation destination, and we decided to take the side trip and do the loop that takes you down through the Badlands and back again to the main highway as it only takes a few hours and we weren't really on any kind of schedule. The minute we crested that first rise and I saw those eerie primordial shapes rising out of the prairie, I was in love! There was something about the colors, the energy, the age, the sheer "thereness" of them that captivated and enchanted me. Our three-hour tour lasted the rest of the day as I kept begging for stops to see them closer, to touch them. We did finally get to the Black Hills, which for some reason were not nearly so enchanting to me, and we cut our time there short and made arrangements to come back and stay at a campground right in the midst of the Badlands. I was in heaven. I have been back twice since. I have hiked them and ridden them on a trail ride ending at sunset. Each time they have called me and soothed me. They are a thin place for me, a place where God is very close, where my soul quiets. I think I feel a road trip coming on....maybe this summer will be a Badlands summer!

2) Unfavorite Destination -- someplace you wish you had never been (and why): I think I must be the kind of person who "makes the best of it" because I am having a hard time thinking of anything here....I guess the one that does come to mind would be the middle of Chesapeake Bay without a life vest after the sailboat went over. Since I can't swim, and I thought that I was really going to meet my Maker, I don't think that one bears repeating. What did save me was, of course, God and grace. In that wild moment as we went over, I grabbed the floatation cushion I'd been sitting on and held on for dear life as I bobbed helplessly along, feeling for all the world like I was going out to sea. The so-called sailor of the boat was a whole lot more interested in rescuing his little sailboat than he was his sputtering passenger. I was rescued by another boater (as was he, when his masculine pride would finally let him). His comment was that I had been "a good sport." I'm just sayin' I don't have any need for that adventure destination again in this lifetime.

3) Fantasy Destination -- someplace to visit if cost and/or time did not matter: IrelandEnglandScotlandWales for long enough to see them all and soak in them and spend a lovely liturgical season or two with a sweet Anglican vicar!

4) Fictional Destination -- someplace from a book or movie or other art or media form you would love to visit, although it exists only in imagination: Avalon and all its mists.

5) Funny Destination -- the funniest place name you've ever visited or want to visit: I have been to Hell and I have the postcard to prove it!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Just One Book Meme

Diane tagged me for a meme last week that turned out to be a little bit challenging. Here are the rules:

Books are scarce in the world. They are illegal in some provinces. They are not easily replaced, if not impossible to replace if lost in many if not most circumstances. If you can replace a book or buy one it is usually through the black market at astronomical costs that you cannot afford. Yet you have been able to maintain one of the best collections in the world. If your entire library was about to burn up (think of the firefighters in Fahrenheit 451 invading your home) and you could only have one* book to take with you other than the Bible, what would that be and why?

Simple Rules: Answer the question. Offer one quote that resonates with you. Tag five people whose response is of genuine interest to you and inform him or her that they have been tagged. Cheers!*And it cannot be an entire series of something, that’s cheating.

I have had to think hard about this. I love books. Not just reading them, but having them. I have often said that once a book comes into my house, it rarely leaves. That is true of all kinds of books, textbooks, fiction and nonfiction, even silly paperbacks somehow find their way to a bookshelf and just kind of move in for the long haul. You just never know when you might have a long night when you need to read some trash! So to think of only being able to save one just boggles my mind! My first thought was my Book of Common Prayer, the one I was given for ordination, the one inscribed by the Bishop and all...but the more I thought about it, that wasn't it. Much as I love it, and the Bishop's thoughts are dear to me, there is a church full of BCP's I can pray from. When it came down to it, what I finally chose was my copy of Dag Hammerskjold's Marking's. It was not the first book I owned. That honor belongs to a book called Dancing Ballet that was given to me for Christmas in about my tenth year. Markings was, however, the first book I bought myself. I must have been sixteen or so. It is a hardcover and I spent a LOT on it! As I look back through it contains not only Hammerskjold's words but mine. For I dared to write in this book, to have a dialogue with myself and the author in the margins. And that is why I'd have to keep it. It is part of me, my younger self, who I was as I discovered the larger world of ideas in a very formative and important time in my life.

The Quote: The “mystical experience.” Always here and now – in that freedom which is one with distance, in that stillness which is born of silence. But – this is a freedom in the midst of action, a stillness in the midst of other human beings. The mystery is a constant reality to him who, in this world, is free from self-concern, a reality that grows peaceful and mature before the receptive attention of assent. In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.”

Here are the people I tag for interesting answers:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Year to Remember

I just realized that I had a blogiversary yesterday! One year as an active blogger, wow. I had actually started the blog in February of 2005 with one lonely post but it took being introduced to RevGals to motivate me to come out of the lurking shadows and actually start writing, first comments on other people's posts, then posting on my own.

It has been quite a year, and I thought it might be fun to do what some people did at New Year's and recap the first lines of the first post of each month of the last year. So here we go....

May....If I were still into shame in a big way, I'd be hanging my head as I look at the date of my first (and only) post!
June...It has come and gone.
July...I found myself tearing up in church today.
August...The bridge was there and then it was not.
September...In a conversation with a therapist colleague yesterday about this teaching stress thing I had one of those aha moments.
October...Five years ago today my life changed when I left behind everything I had known for over twenty years to relocate across the state.
November...I ran into NaBloPoMo over at Tandaina's blog, which has been a source of many interesting things, blog and other.
December...Maggie, my sweet companion, needs your prayers for patience in healing.
January....I am hanging out today.
February...I am still gnawing away on this whole idea of Lenten disciplines.
March...It's amazing to me how many of the RevGals are in some kind of transition.
April...I'm home, a day later than planned, but this too is part of the grace story.

Oh, my. Talk about taking a quick jog through the last year of life. So many things this year has held... The whole teaching adventure, all of the wonderful things I gained from the NaBloPoMo experiment during November, the joys of Adventing and the harder lessons of Lent. As I popped back and forth to grab first lines my eye was caught by so many other posts that triggered other memories. The two trips to the yurt, the learning curve of "post-ordination formation," the great adventure of the BE, the hard lessons of the last months coupled with the wonderful support of the blog community. It really has been an adventure worth celebrating being a blogger, particularly in this community. There are a whole group of absolutely wonderful people in my life that I would never have known in any other way. Some of you I have actually "met" in the so-called real world, some of you I will be meeting soon, and some, God willing I will meet in the future. Some of us, I imagine may never meet face to face. But it really does not matter. You are all very real and dear to me. I care about you and pray for you as I know you do for me. I feel the net of care and prayer holding me as I move through this challenging time in my life, This community manifests God to me. I have changed as a result of being part of this community. I experience myself differently in ways that I can't even entirely explain.

I do believe some things about this though. I believe that by experiencing myself writing in the presence of a circle of compassionate witnesses I was able to awaken more compassion for myself within me and quiet, at least some of the time, the critical and shameful voices that so often kept me feeling isolated and separated from others. I believe that in writing here I found my voice and found the courage to call myself a writer. Without this blog I would never have had the confidence to step forward and volunteer to be the diocesan storyteller for the MDGs, or to say yes to Mompriest when she asked me to be a contributor to the Feminist Blog. I talked at the BE about how important this “writer identity” is to me, as it was something that was nascent in me as a girl that was snuffed out by the criticism and disparaging comments of some of the adults in my life. I believe that I am more authentic in my daily life as a result of feeling safe to be “real” in this one. I believe that the act of being intentionally grateful for a month altered my stance on the world, not only for that month, but for always. I believe in the power of prayer and carrying one another in a new and visceral way. I have experienced this from both the giving and receiving end and I will go to the mat with anyone who dares to suggest that there is no power there. We do indeed bear one another’s burdens. I have also laughed more with the people on this blog ring than I have ever laughed with any group of people in my life. We laugh at the world, we laugh at “stuff” and we laugh at ourselves. It has lightened me up and that is a good thing!

So happy one year to me, and thank you to all of you. Especially to St. Casserole and Songbird and the other “Founding Mothers” of RevGals, and all of you on the board and the others who do all the behind the scenes stuff to keep us up and running. This is a good thing you do here!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday

As I began reflecting about this sermon for today and thinking about the readings and what they were saying, what came to mind, rather surprisingly, was trilogies. Yes, those wonderful three-part sagas we find in literature, and now of course in movies. Two that immediately came to mind for me were Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. Some of the elements often found in trilogies include a long passage of time from the beginning to the end of the story, sometimes with elements of prophecy or foretelling what is to come in the future. There is great adventure, often great sacrifice and heroism. Often a character or characters will be transformed or become somehow greater than they were at the beginning of the story. There is often great interweaving back and forth in these stories between early times and later times, and there is much symbolism. One must pay close attention to the language and the portents of things to come, as the past, present and future dance with each other echoing back and forth over time and space.

The Pentecost story we hear this morning is part of such a trilogy. It is connected to the Christmas story and to the Easter story as the third and final segment, though far from being the ending in a concluding sort of way. It is more like the commencement, as the events of that day birthed a new chapter in the life of the followers of Jesus, a chapter that, of course, still impacts us. It is also of course part of a much bigger story, one that began with creation and continues to this very moment.

Our three readings each give us a glimpse into a part of the story then, and, I hope, some inspiration for how we continue to be part of the story that continues. Each connects with today’s story and of course, with the larger story. Each echoes and dances with the other, as well as with the ancient texts and stories of God’s covenant of love and faith with God’s people.
From Easter to this Pentecost day is fifty days, then and now. Forty days from the day that Jesus presented himself to his followers in his risen glory, ten since he had gone from them, again, not dead this time, but “present in absence” after his ascension.

We sense that in the time between Easter and the day of Pentecost, the Jewish harvest festival, the disciples had begun to develop some sense of who and whose they were. We know that in the time Jesus had spent with them he had continued to teach them. Perhaps some developing understanding of what it meant to be "followers of the way," as they were being called, had begun to take place in them that prepared them to receive and accept what transpired on that Pentecost morning that was to change them forever.

In our Gospel this morning, we hear the story of what happened in one of the earlier encounters that may have been part of that preparation. Jesus' disciples had been startled when a "stranger" stood in their midst as they hid behind locked doors on the evening of his resurrection Fearful, we assume that the same fate that had befallen their leader might befall them too. Afraid, and perhaps confused about what might come next, what they should do next. The "stranger" had introduced himself by saying, "Peace be with you," and in that moment they knew who it was who stood among them. It’s amazing in these post-resurrection stories how when Jesus speaks, immediately he is known. The word of the incarnate Word must have held such power. John tells us they “rejoiced” to see him. We can well imagine! And he says to them a second time, “Peace be with you.” “Peace” to this anxious, worried and possibly guilty group. Remember, these were the ones who had not stayed, had not stood, had not been all they could be when Jesus was being tried and crucified. But, “Peace,” he says to them, simply, “Peace.” Then he calms them further, becoming again their beloved rabbi, recalling for them his connection to his father, the greater story, as well as calling them to the greater task that stands before them all. John says, “He breathed on them.” Jesus, so closely related to his father-God who had first breathed life into humankind, now breathed new life into these disciples among whom he had appeared. Then he said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld." The Spirit who had first filled the womb of Mary with the life of the Incarnate one, the Spirit about whom John had been told at the time of Jesus’ baptism, "He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit." The Spirit who had filled Jesus in fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah’s words, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor" (Luke 4:18). This was the Spirit that was now passed from Jesus to the disciples, who were charged to carry it to the entire world wherever they went.
This meeting, this night, was in a sense a foretaste of the Pentecost to come.

On Pentecost the disciples were again together. Gathered for a traditional time of feasting and praying, expectant perhaps that this year things might be different…it has been ten days since the Ascension. Promises have been made, and Jesus’ followers have been learning to trust that these promises will be fulfilled, even though they don’t always understand the ways and the means.

The Spirit came upon them with the sound of a "rushing wind" and with "tongues of fire" resting on each of them. This imagery of course calls us back to all those places in the Old Testament where, wind and fire are associated with the presence of God, as far back as the creation story in Genesis where the divine wind or spirit moves over the primordial waters (Genesis 1:2), or the story of Moses and the bush that burned without being consumed (Exodus 3:1-6). As it was at the beginning of creation and in the history of Israel, the Spirit of God is now present again in wind and fire creating the new community of the church, allowing them to speak a common language, to hear and understand one another in a new way, to undo some of the brokenness that has been present in the world.

The descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was both a communal and an individual experience. The disciples, filled with the spirit, were given the ability and power to witness to God. It is a story of individuals like Peter and the other disciples, but it is also the story of the church, it is our story. Like those in the upper room, each of us has received that same indwelling Spirit of God. Each of us and all of us are part of the grand sweep of the same story. At baptism we become part of the Christian community as we are baptized with water and the Spirit. This same spirit enlightens, illumines and unites us as one body. In this body are many gifts, many expressions, but we are one, all belonging to the one God who loves us beyond imagining and set the grand story in motion.

So a trilogy…Christmas…The Incarnation, God stepping into history in a new way and changing forever the way we see God and the way we see ourselves….the great both/and…who God is and who we can be. Then Easter,…Jesus, the Incarnate One, loving us to the end, willing to die so that we might know forever and always that death is never the end of the story. But to be more yet, not only incarnate in that time and place, to be for all time, Jesus returns to the Father and the Spirit must come among us to empower us to go and do and be God’s voice and hands and reach to the farthest corners of the earth. So, we come to the third story, the one we tell today, where we remember that we too are baptized in this spirit, we too are breathed on by God, and that to each of us are given gifts for the common good to create God’s kingdom here on earth. There may be many stories, but there is one source, one body, one Spirit in Christ. Amen.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Five: Gifts of the Spirit

Presbyterian Gal brings us a Pentecost themed Friday Five with the following questions:
Have you or anyone you know
1. ...ever experienced a prophesy (vision or dream) that came true? I had a person say something to me this weekend that felt prophetic. I pray that I have the vision (and courage) it takes to make it be true.

2. ...dreamed of a stranger, then actually met them later? I used to have "things happen" a lot when I was younger, the feeling that I'd known someone before, a sense of "I dreamed this." I think as I got older I may have closed myself off to some of those kind of things, stopped noticing or acknowledging them thinking it was not "theologically in sync" with being a modern sophisticated Christian or something. But I am claiming my mystical self again these days, so maybe these experiences will rise again as well.

3. ...seen a wonder in heaven? (including UFO's) I see wonders in the heavens all the time....amazing cloud formations in this beautiful big unencumbered prairie sky, the absolutely incredible amount of stars that can be seen when there is no urban light pollution, meteor showers, rainbows, sunrises and sunsets. A recent one that almost knocked me over was just this week at our clergy conference....the chapel in which we were holding our opening Eucharist has windows behind the altar to the west and overlooking the lake. The Gospel was being read just as the sun was setting. It was pretty wondrous.

4. ...seen a "sign" on the earth? First there is black bare earth, then tiny shoots, then endless waving green fields, then harvest. It happens again and again and again....not fire and brimstone, but hope and new life....that's where I'm seeing God!

5. ...experienced knowledge of another language without ever having studied it? Spoken languages have had to be learned the usual way. I'd like to think that of late I am learning the language of God's amazing love through lived experience as I become more able to see and accept that love as it pours on me daily in so many ways.

Bonus Question: What would a modern day news coverage of the first Pentecost have sounded like? Let me just say that I think that the newscasters would fail to capture the Spirit of the event.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Another Trip to Liminal

I'm back home tonight from clergy conference. I feel like a bundle of contradictions. I'm a bit more rested, yet completely tired, a bit transformed, yet still unchanged. But one thing that is for sure, I am more convinced than ever about this power of prayer thing! Once again I felt prayed for, and experienced in a visceral way a sense of being held in that net of care. It was humbling and amazing. I've been to a whole three clergy conferences so it's not exactly like I am a huge veteran, but this was not like anything I have experienced before. It was totally retreat-like. The theme was renewal with a focus on our ordination vows and how we live them in this time of change in the world and the church. Now that could be lots of heady talk, or it could be something else entirely. It was the something else. What made it so was several things. The person who presented at two sessions was very powerful and present. He is a priest who directs the House of Prayer in our diocese and he talked to us about the need to transcend the egoic self by witnessing what is going on in ourselves, not judging it, then moving beyond it....simply because we can be more because of the God who dwells within "closer than we are to ourselves." So simple yet so profound. To reinforce all of this was prayer and liturgy. We began with Eucharist and renewal of ordination vows our first night together, then we prayed at the beginning and end of each session corporately in well-planned and beautiful yet simple liturgies that fit the theme of what we were about. There was not one that did not find me in tears....good tears, of healing, of release, of awe, of joy. We also did three sessions of time with the Gospel called Gospel Based Discipleship (GBD). Gathering in small groups, the Gospel is read three times and three questions are asked, one after each reading: 1) What word, idea or or sentence stands out for you? 2)What is the Gospel/Jesus saying to you? 3) What is the Gospel/Jesus calling you to do? Some of the clergy are familiar with GBD, as it has been around our diocese for at least fifteen years. for others it is brand new. It was a joy to sit with my peers and simply "let the Gospel be turned loose among us" as one of the priests who is passionate about GBD says. The other piece of the conference that made it very special was the level of personal sharing. It has become a tradition for us to do "This I Believe" presentations throughout clergy conference. The presentations this year were so moving and personal and beautiful. Again, each one left me in tears and so moved. The presenters took risks, went deep, and they too touched some important place in me that needed healing and soothing. In addition the two people I was on the MDG leadership team did their personal narratives as part of the MDG presentation, and they too were deep and honest and gutsy as they shared what drew them to the work of justice and fighting poverty.

The outcome of all of this for me is a new sense of safety and connection. There were moments of such sweetness and belonging and... "rightness" is the only word that comes to mind. I was able to have some personal conversations with some friends I trust, to say the unsayable things and have them received with respect and gentleness. Each time this happens I move one more step away from the shame that threatens to smother me and toward remembering again that I am God's own beloved, called because and not in spite of and nothing that has happened or will can change that.

Our speaker issued some spiritual challenges that are going to take some time to digest. We will be getting a transcript of his talk and I am looking forward to that, as it was far too much to hold on to in simply one hearing. I feel like I know where my focus needs to be, even if I am not quite ready to be there yet. I know I need to put away the anger and the judging, to simply let it go, of Dear One, of myself, of the dynamics between us. Not because it makes me bad, but because, as Ward says, not to do that makes us smaller than we are. He's right, I know it, when he said that, it resonated in my soul. I feel like I am attached to a bungee cord...I want to pull away and do this better thing, and yet there is this strong pull back to wallow in the anger and the resentment, the attachment to the "Oh, I am sure I am not quite done with that!" Silly as I write it, and yet, and yet....I want to fly and I want to wallow....all at the same time. And at the same moment I want to be harsh with myself I feel God's tenderness mothering me, tendering me urging me to be gentle with myself even in my "not-readiness." Whew!

So it was a good, amazing and all-too-brief dip into transformation. And now it's back to work in the morning. I have managed to collect Maggie from the sitter and unpack the suitcase, read the 90 e-mails and have a really GOOD laugh over an e-mail gone awry sans edits. I'm afraid there will be no blogs read tonight as much as I crave catching up with every one's week. And I know there is a meme out there to play, but my eyelids are not cooperating. Maggie will get my attention one more time, and then I think the day will end. It's good to be back in my own space, to have the peace and quiet of my own place. It was another trip to liminal space and I think re-entry may take a few days.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Weekend Ends

It doesn't seem possible but we're heading into the downhill stretch for another weekend. This one went fast. That quick trip to "the Summit" and back took a big bite of it, especially when you throw in the six hours windshield time, three of which were done in the nasty blusteries of Friday on the way up. The meeting itself was a good gathering. The event is an annual meeting of those of us who serve in what we call "Total Ministry." It's also called Mutual or Team ministry in some other places. We are all small churches who cannot afford to call full time clergy, so there is either a part-time "traditional" (seminary-trained) person augmented by a team made up of locally trained ordained and commissioned folks or just the local team, as there is at our place. Our team has six members, three priests and three people who are commissioned to serve specific roles on the team. While our training was all done locally, our ordinations are just like any other priest's. The only difference is that we are licensed only to serve our local church and can't go search a call to a new place. So at this meeting all the teams from all the TM churches get a chance to get together and brag on ourselves a bit as well as talk about what we are up against, what we'd like some help with from the Diocese, and just be with the folks who do what we do. Kind of a combination family reunion, once a year support group and pep rally! Our diocese has been at this now for almost twenty years, so we have teams that are in the "third generation" as well as teams that are just being born. It's very cool for the new folks to hear from the vets and very inspiring for those who are slogging along to see the enthusiasm of those who are about to be ordained and commissioned.

We talked a lot this year about using technology to communicate and how you don't have to see people face to face to be in community with them. This seems to be a hard concept for some people. Obviously they are not bloggers! We are starting a posting group in the hopes that people will begin connecting that way. I talked about RevGals, especially since so many of us serve churches that are physically very isolated.

The weather did get a little better, but not until right before we left, so once again, there was no grounds viewing. There was shopping though! The gift shop was opened for us, and I found a stunning prayer shawl. It was sitting right inside the entrance and almost begged me to take it home. The sisters did well by our group overall, I'd say. We are shoppers! The drive home was much nicer, and was livened up by a detour to see a potential vacation home that one of my passengers was interested in. Pictures in the paper and the reality bore no resemblance so we drove by and kept going.

Once home, I ran over and picked up Maggie, then her sitter and I went to a high school choir concert. Five high school choirs were represented and all of them were phenomenal. I thought it was interesting that almost all of them chose sacred music selections, several in Latin.

Today of course was church, the choir was back in almost full membership (5 of us!), and we sang a lovely communion anthem. After service we had a quick run through of the piece we will sing for baccalaureate. The son of two of the choir members is the we are betting on tears. Then it was downstairs for the MDG meeting to plan how to spend the money we raised during Lent. What fun! We did that in short order, deciding that it made sense in project two to continue to support our community center from project one. We had complete consensus.

This left the rest of my day free to clean the laundry room, including taking the dryer apart and cleaning it(successful) and trying to change a hose on the washer (Not so it's leaking!).

Tomorrow I am off to clergy conference until Wednesday. There is no Internet access at the retreat center, so after noon tomorrow, I will be on enforced blogging silence, unless by some chance someone has a wireless they are into sharing. But again, there won't be a lot of free time. It's another one of those short and busy events....about thirty-six hours with a whole lot packed into it. The theme is renewal, and there will be a renewal of our ordination vows with the Bishop. The last clergy conference one was very heady....I'm hoping for more spiritual focus given the theme. I could use a little jump start on my spiritual batteries, they are running a little low.

Till Wednesday.....

Friday, May 02, 2008

Off to the "Summit"

So I am off to the "Total Ministry Summit." My fourth overall and the third one at this particular retreat center. I hear tell there are beautiful grounds. Which once again we will not see because it is cold and blustery and nasty and my time outdoors will be limited to unloading the car and running in and repeating it at the end as tomorrow's forecast is for more of the same. Truth be told it's an intense little twenty-four hour gig where there is not much time for grounds roaming anyway. Or blogging or reading. So I'll have to catch up with everyone else's fab Friday Fives on Saturday night when I get back. Have a lovely weekend and catch you on the flip side.

Wait and Pray Friday 5

Sally says:"Part of the Ascension Day Scripture from Acts 11 contains this promise from Jesus;'But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'Then he was taken from their sight into the clouds, two angels appeared and instructed the probably bewildered disciples to go back to Jerusalem, where they began to wait and to pray for the gift Jesus had promised.Prayer is a joy to some of us, and a chore to others, waiting likewise can be filled with anticipation or anxiety....So how do you wait and pray?"

1. How do you pray best, alone or with others? Well that is a great....ta-da....both/and! I'm a Meyers-Briggs "I" and like my solitude, so it follows that prayer time alone is a good thing for me and feeds my soul. Although sometimes it looks like walking, or yoga or tai chi or petting Maggie. But I do love gathering with others for prayer as well....whether it is the formal prayer of liturgy or the intimacy of shared informal prayer with one or more others. There is an energy that happens sometimes that is palpable. I can feel God gathering with us and amidst us....abiding as that lovely word has it, just putting up the tent among us, so tender and present. One of the great gifts of Lent for me this year was hanging out with my Presby friends as we talked and learned about prayer, and seeing people realize that prayer is for them too, that it can be accessible, that there are all sorts of ways to pray....writing, dancing, beading, don't have to be sitting still in church to be praying.

2. Do you enjoy the discipline of waiting, is it a time of anticipation or anxiety? Given that my favorite two liturgical seasons are Advent and Lent, and that during both in this last year I was know be heard saying that I wished they would go on longer, I guess I must be good with waiting, at least on that front. Now in the rest of my life.....hmmm, not so sure. When I read the title of the Friday Five, and before I made the Ascension connection I have to admit I kind of rolled my eyes at God and said, "Not again with this wait and pray stuff, give me a break would you!"

3. Is there a time when you have waited upon God for a specific promise? I think that I might be doing that now, though I had not thought about what I am waiting for to be about a "promise" from God. I do trust that God is in what is going on, that God is working through the love and care of those around to carry me through and that things will eventually sort themselves out and life will make sense again....because based on my experience of life, I know that given enough time, it does do that eventually. I tend to believe those "all will be well and all be well..." and "all things work for good...." things, so yes I guess maybe I am waiting on God's promises!

4. Do you prefer stillness or action? Both/and, both/and, both/ everything there is a season. The tricky part for me is discernment. I used to act sooner. My tendency more and more is toward more stillness, and if not less action, waiting longer to move to act. I'm not sure that is always a good thing. Sometimes the waiting is pure chickenhood! Conflict avoidance or whatever. Sometimes by waiting I miss the moment. But I think I often acted a little rashly, or said things I wished later I had not, so this seems like it might be the onset of a bit of wisdom.

5. If ( and this is slightly tongue in cheek) you were promised one gift spiritual or otherwise what would you choose to receive? Given all that is going on....I think I would choose peace. Peace for know that the choices I am making are the best they can be for all concerned, and peace for the other concerned that I am not making them in spite or anger but because I can make no others. If it could expand to peace for all and everywhere I would not turn that down either!