Monday, June 30, 2008

Grace Abounds for Kitties, Too

The porch cat lives! I saw XDO today. Our paths crossed as I stopped home for lunch and XDO was there to try to find Alice, the feral girlcat. Alice, it seems, is getting a new home as sson as she can be found, caught and transported. Someone who loves kitties lots is willing to take her in all her reclusivness. Bless him or her! This news made me brave and I dared ask about Nick. Nick did not go to kitty heaven, but to a friend of XDO's. XDO I was told was "forbidden" by this friend to take Nick to be executed for his potty crimes . Good and blessed friend. AND Nick is pottying only where permitted at his new home apparently. I guess it was personal. I can deal with that as long as he lives! At my house there is only one more extra cat to find a home for and I am at cat goal. Pray on, my friends, because clearly you have the knack!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Girl on Walnut Street

When I first moved here (after I escaped the very nice apartment in the too tiny town) I rented the cutest little house on Walnut Street for about nine months. Those were happy months and that was a happy house. When I think about myself during that time the word that comes to mind is contentment. There was a porch swing, there was a garden. There were creative projects. There was yoga and prayer and lots of solitude and writing. And there was the beginning of a sense of playfulness, though as I've said earlier, I'm still a beginner in that realm. I lived simply and loved it. I knew it was temporary and that DO was going to be joining me in the Fall and that this simple quiet solitary life was going to change. I don't think I knew that I was going to get lost though. And that is what happened. I'm seeing that now as I feel her re-emerge, the girl from Walnut Street. The purging of all the "stuff" and the reclaiming of my space is part of this, as is being intentional about what I say yes to, how I use time, and oh, yeah, playing! Soul Sister S has noticed her return. She got to know me then, and she says she has missed her and welcomes her return. Truth be told, so have I. She is a very authentic part of me, I think. A part of me that I only briefly discovered here in that little window of time and then lost again. But grace does abound and there is another chance for her here and now.

This weekend was really satisfying and fun. Friday night we tackled S's garden. Saturday we worked here till about 3, finishing up the front (it looks fabulous!) then went off geocaching in the rain. We got three for three of our caches and had a great time. Today I was a "church chauffeur" picking up the acolyte whose ride didn't show, and taking L and his friend back to CH. L and I shared a pew and a hymnal in church. I felt a lot of reassurance from God today about our upcoming time together. I have to admit, I've been stressing a little about that. But praying with L and singing with him, and watching how solicitous he was with his friend, at our church for the first time, it all rushes back to God has brought us together and this is all in God's hands, so why worry? Tuesday is the day! And Sunday is his Baptism. So it's going to be a busy week. I finished the service bulletin today. I'm using the picture he drew for me for the front cover of the service bulletin and I want to keep that a surprise until Sunday. I'm also tying to make him a gift. This all gets more complicated suddenly when he becomes my roommate! Or surrogate kid, I'm kinda not real sure which. I think that "Mother Kate" might be sort of fitting here. Who knew!

The rest of the day just flew by. A little reading, a little bit of house stuff. But there's that contentment that just keeps creeping in....that girl from Walnut Street....I think she's back, and I like it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Life as it Is

Well here's the news from my neck of the prairie. It's been kind of a quiet week actually. There have been no further sightings of my date and I (at least that I have heard of) but then I have had no further conversations with my own particular source either! That does not necessarily mean that news about me is not moving around town, however. One of my clients came in yesterday and said, "Oh Kate, I am so sorry to hear that you and XDO have broken up." Ummm...errr.....yeah. Seeing as how I had no idea this person even knew there was a DO for me to break up with, I said something along the lines of, "mmmm....yrhglp...." as she went on to say, "Yeah, I heard it from K (the proprietor) at the coffee house on Main Street. I guess XDO is a good friend of K's." OK! Last time I knew, XDO could not have picked K out of line up if a gun were being held at close range....but that is neither here nor there, I guess. We move on, we make new friends, even close ones. It has been a few months after all. Fishbowl life. There is one less cat in my life. I don't really know how to feel about that. Sad. Relieved. Guilty. The whole cat saga is part of the mess of this. XDO is a rescuer. When we came back together after the year we were doing the commuter thing "we" had somehow acquired a frightful number of kitties, many of whom were "special needs" -- read "expensive and high maintenance". I was under the impression that they really belonged to the rescue organization that DO worked with in the Big City and we were simply providing foster care. They had all been living up in the City with DO, and I really hadn't been paying much attention, having my own life here to attend attend to. But a few months after XDO and cats moved here and they were ALL STILL HERE I began asking when we would be saying goodbye to them. Imagine my surprise (and perhaps a few other feelings) when I found out that we were not. They were ours. All of them in their special diet, bad habit and high cost glory. When we began talking of separating, the cats became a major issue. DO is off in an apartment and I have the house. This is necessary for all sorts of reasons, but complicates the cat issues immeasurably. One is the only number that is actually allowed in the apartment. Let's just say XDO's one cat has "guests" for permanent sleepovers. Even with that I was left with more cats than I ever wanted or needed. And cats that had habits that were not desirable for someone who is trying to reclaim her space in a neat and tidy fashion. One in particular was doing the "bad kitty potty" thingy. So my solution was for him to live on the sun porch. It's nice, airy, uncarpeted. He had all his basic needs met and I visited him daily. I was even willing to give him a companion if I' been able to catch his favorite friend, who's pretty feral, but that's a whole other story. But XDO thought I was subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment and said I'd put him on death row. Yesterday when I came home from work, he was gone. I don't know where and I am reluctant to inquire. Ignorance is bliss. I'm hoping to a no-kill shelter somewhere. I think I know better. I think he went to kitty-heaven. I feel bad if this is so. I don't even kill bugs. I take them back outside. Life is very sacred to me. And this was a nice kitty. I just didn't want him peeing all over my carpets and my couch. But now that feels shallow and materialistic and wrong. He has two friends here that really really need homes. One is the feral girl. She won't let anyone near her. She'd be a great farm cat...'cept she was declawed. Oops. The other one is a nice little boy who has kitty Crohn's. You see, special needs. Their departure would leave me with my small family of my ancient Bridget who has probably less than a year to live and my own sweet boys whom you would have to wrestle away from me. Yes, even after all this, I still do love cats. As far as developments on the L front, we are getting very close to the July 1st deadline and no-one has stepped forward to house him, so it looks like I'm getting a house guest for a couple weeks. He has heard from the funding program for the "underfunded and hard to house" folks in our state and they have approved him for a reasonable amount of rent. He has also found an apartment with management that is willing to accept all his limitations. The next hurdle is for the inspectors from the funders to say that this apartment is acceptable to them. He also has gotten himself a job with this apartment manager fixing up apartments for rental so we really really want him to get to live there! Please pray on! It could be an interesting few weeks while we wait for all this to line up. I have never lived with a nineteen year old. All pointers accepted. Perhaps he can help me out here at home. Talk about animal rescue....I agreed to take in a dog and cat for a parishioner for two weeks while they are traveling. The dog has one eye and the cat is missing one leg, a tail and most of her intestinal tract. Needless to say both of them are a little high maintenance as well. But XDO always took them in for these folks, and when she called, well....I found myself just saying, "Oh sure, no problem" before I thought about it. Oh, dear. Is this is the priest's job description? One of my clients told me the other day that life around here was really boring. My first thought was, "Well my dear, you sure aren't living mine!" I'm not complaining. It's all good, really. I'm sorry about the kitty, it doesn't seem it had to go that way. I'm bemused about the gossip, I mean really, am I that interesting? I'm asking myself what was I thinking about the one-eyed dog and the half-cat! And I'm wondering how it will be to live with a nineteen year old boy, as that will be a new experience for me. But life does go on and it is not dull. Oh, and I saw the cute one again at Wal-mart. Hmmmm. So as always, God is good and grace abounds. I continue to be amazed and grateful for all that life brings. Today Soul Sister S and I will garden, and when we have done our quota of weeding and mulching, planting and the hauling of rock, it's geocaching we will go. I have a travelbug to move to a new cache! Play, you know, is very important.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Five: Summer Reading

Songbird says: Back in the day, before I went to seminary, I worked in the Children's Room at the Public Library, and every year we geared up for Summer Reading. Children would come in and record the books read over the summer, and the season included numerous special and celebratory events. As a lifelong book lover and enthusiastic summer reader, I find I still accumulate a pile of books for the summer.This week, then, a Summer Reading Friday Five.

1) Do you think of summer as a particularly good season for reading? Why or why not? Definitely. Especially this summer as I am being more intentional about slowing down and taking time for myself. I have a great front porch, screened in, complete with a swing that could not be better for a read on a hot summer afternoon or a lovely evening. Why am I not there all the time!
2) Have you ever fallen asleep reading on the beach? Not on the beach, but once I fell asleep reading on the roof of my dorm in college. I was lying on my stomach and it was the week of finals. I slept for three hours. Ouch. Took those finals veeerrryy carefully seated on a pillow.

3) Can you recall a favorite childhood book read in the summertime? A book? Little Women, and all the sequels was one summer, Mark Twain had me another year. All the Cherry Ames, Student Nurse books, and the Nancy Drews were great summer reads. Well, let's just say....our library had a summer reading challenge...I was usually done the first week and would say to the librarian, "ok, now what?"

4) Do you have a favorite genre for light or relaxing reading? Cozies for sure. And sub-genre, cozies with female protagonists who have day jobs and solve crimes on the side, sub of that, cozies with female episcopal priest sleuths (like those of Julia Spencer Fleming who just released a new title)

5) What is the next book on your reading list? Hocus Pocus whose author escapes me at the moment....argh....the joys of aging! But it sits on the table awaiting Sunday afternoon and the porch swing!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Rollercoaster of L's Life

L needs you all to pray for him. His life is doing it again. Going up and down and up and down on that rollercoaster ride. Well, actually right now, it's going mostly down. My last post about him was so full of good news, it's hard to believe that was only a few weeks ago. Since then he's been laid off from his job at the sandwich shop for the summer, found out that the housing he thought he had lined up was not going to be a good plan for him after all, and then today to top it all off, we found out that the request for an extension of his stay at CH has been turned down. As of July 1 he is being discharged with no place to live, and there is not a thing we can do other than scramble to find him something and pray like mad. He is not going to be on the streets. Trust me on this! But it's complicated for so many reasons, finding housing for this wonderful young man with the oh-so-complex life. There's the legal stuff and the financial stuff and his own strong (and yes, dig in his heels stubborn) feelings about things. There are people he cannot live with and people he should not live anywhere near. There are the places he wants to be close to and the places to which I'd like to keep him close.

The staff has not broken this latest news to him yet. He has his treatment group tomorrow and that is a hard, hard thing for him. They decided to let him get through that first and then tell him. I was hoping he could be at CH at least through his Baptism on July 6, but it's not looking that way. Sigh....

I know God's eye is on the sparrows, and on every little hair on our heads. I sure am praying that God's eye is close on L right now, cuz if there was ever a time when a young man needed to be watched over by a loving God, that would be now.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Chapter in Which Kate Learns to Play

Sometimes I really do think I preach mostly to myself. I mean I do hope that what I say also is helpful to others (it's not all about me after all) but the words God gives me to say are so pointedly what I also need to hear that it's kind of hard not to take it in a directed sort of way and listen up.

For example, all this anti-anxiety stuff that I have had the privilege of spending time on lately. It's pretty hard to do two whole sermons on the idea that the God of the universe is attending to lilies and sparrows and the hairs of my head, and not get the notion that perhaps there's something here I need to attend to also. And since it comes at this time of great change and transition and, yes, no small amount of potential anxiety in my life, it is shall we say, interesting.

The thing of it is, it seems to be working. Perhaps the preacher is heeding her own message! Overall I am not feeling anxious about the future. Or even very much about the present. Or there is the niggling fear now and again about this "what are people thinking" about the whole break-up thing, and "what next for me" and all such as that. But for the most part, the former is a real non-issue, except for those who think my dating life (the one that exists only in fantasy, dear reader) is a topic of interest, and the later seems to not be getting my juices flowing these days. I'm getting my house in order in all sorts of ways and that feels ever so good. But there is something even more important that is happening. Something that crystallized for me just yesterday when Soul Sister S and I were on my second ever geocaching trip (more on that later.) I am playing!

This is a rather big deal. Play, being playful, has not ever been easy for me, even as a kid. I was born a forty year old. Solemn, introspective, quiet by nature, and nurtured by older and tired parents, who would just as soon I sat and read as did anything that might make a mess, I never really got the hang of playing in any kind of active way. Playing, if it went on, was a solitary thing that usually went on in my head, or at most on a walk or a bike ride on a quiet side street in our middling size town. A good day of play would be a trip to the library for new books or getting a new set of paper dolls. I did not, I think, play well with others. Part of what shaped this was definitely my mother. After being raised with four brothers and having two boys before me, my mom was so pleased to finally have a little girl, she was determined that I be raised like one. A significant part of that was for me to remain neat and tidy at all times. So my staying away from all opportunities for acquiring dirt was important. She also was quite afraid of anything that crawled or bit or stung and thought that they should have no opportunity to have at me either. Those two things alone leave out a lot. Add that to the fact that the only kids on my block when I was growing up were little boys, with whom you'd better believe this little princess was not associating, and there you are!

So you will now understand how much this all means when I tell you that yesterday I was not afraid when I climbed in the deep weedy ditch (so deep I could not see the bottom...there might have been snakes! That I climbed a tree, well not all the way up in it, but hey, I am middle-aged! That I....drum-roll please...stuck my hand in a rotted tree and rooted around in it to try to find the geocache. Heaven only knows what manner of thing might have been in there....and truth be told was...eeewww....but I lived! Scratched and scraped and dirty as all get out. Note to self: wear the long pants next time! But tired, happy and triumphant. We found the cache. That was awesome. I was ready to hang that up before we did. S was not, however! And it was very cool to find it. But it was not the prize for me but the quest, at least this time. And the realization at some point that it was an absolutely beautiful Sunday afternoon and my friend and I and our doggies were out in a ditch doing something messy and dirty that had the potential to get us scratched and scraped or worse (as S had just sort of tumbled off the tree at that point and was laughing herself silly) that had absolutely no redeeming social value. In short, I was playing. And it felt wonderful!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Genesis 21:8-21
Matthew 10:24-39

I think that God has a sense of humor. You know June has five Sundays, and it also started on a Sunday. Well somehow this managed to confuse me into thinking that my Sunday to preach and celebrate next would be the 29th. So as usual, a couple of weeks ago, I started some preliminary sermon preparation. The Old Testament reading for next Sunday happens to be the story of Abraham and Isaac, and that is the one that really captured me. I’ve really been thinking about it a lot, imagining what it was like for them, what each of them was thinking…I even developed a little theory about how much faith Abraham might have had that God was not really going to ask him to sacrifice his son but that He was going to provide….but….I guess I’d better not preach that sermon this morning….because much to my surprise, on Wednesday, I suddenly discovered that the fourth Sunday of the month was this Sunday!

And when I did look at the readings for this week, I have to say that I did not jump for joy. In the Old Testament, it’s the story of Hagar and Ishmael. Last week we had Sarah laughing with joy that nothing was too wonderful for the Lord, that she was going to bear a child late in her life, so late in fact that all thought of that had long been given up. But now, some fifteen years later, we are hearing the other side of that story. Ishmael and Hager being turned out into the desert with only bread and a skin of water by Abraham and Sarah because they are concerned about the birthright of their son Isaac. Hard to think this of our patriarch and matriarch, isn’t it?

And the Gospel? What are we to make of that? From paragraph to paragraph Jesus seems to keep changing….one moment comforting and soothing, as again we hear the refrain from earlier in this Gospel…”do not be afraid because you are great value to God….this God who watches the sparrows fall and counts the very hairs of your head.” And the next challenging, “I have come to bring not peace but a sword…. I have come to set a man against his father… a daughter against her mother….a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.” It sounds like he could have been talking about theAbraham/Sarah/ Hagar household, doesn’t it? And the conclusion is more challenging still. So at this point, we might be asking, what is this all about, and even more, what does it have to say to us here this morning at St. James about our relationship with God and with the world and each other as followers of Jesus Christ.

Last week we left Sarah laughing in delighted wonder, and this time, apparently in belief that God was going to deliver on God’s promise to give her a son. Earlier in the story, after God promised Abraham offspring, they had been a little less than willing to wait on God’s promises and had taken matters into their own hands, and Sarah had set a plan for Abraham to father a child with her slave Hagar. Once Hagar was pregnant, Sarah became jealous of her and treated her to so badly that she ran away to the desert. While she was hiding in the desert, she had a visit from an angel, who told her she was to go back and submit to her mistress Sarah. We can imagine this was not terribly good news for this poor woman. But at the same time she was given a promise from God; the same promise incidentally that God had given Abraham. “I will so greatly multiply your offspring that they cannot be counted for multitude.” Hagar was also told that her child should be given special name, Ishmael, which in Hebrew means "God hears” because God had heard her in her misery in the desert.

And now here we are fifteen years later, and the sight of Isaac playing with by now teenaged Ishmael once again stirs Sarah’s insecurities about birthrights. Again Abraham and Sarah drive Hagar and Ishmael off into the desert with only a skin of water. Wandering in the desert Hager believes that all hope is lost and she abandons Ishmael to die. But, once again, all is not lost, because we are told, “God hears.” The voice of the angel of God says to her those wonderful words “Do not be afraid.” And she is shown a well of water in the desert, and Ishmael drinks and he lives and prospers and “God is with him.”

God sees pregnant Hagar as she wanders in the desert running away from Sarah. God hears Ishmael in his distress as they run the second time. And this I think is the perfect segue into Matthew’s Gospel and why Jesus can say to his disciples “Have no fear of them, do not be afraid, you are of value, God is paying attention.”

Jesus, son of God, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Come among to be God present among us in history as never before and also to teach us how to manifest God to one another. He knew of course that this was dangerous business. We humans don’t always get it right or do it well. I mean, even the patriarchs and the matriarchs were chasing people out into the desert ill-prepared and leaving God to save them. In Jesus’ time as well as ours the message of the kingdom is not necessarily a popular one. Following Jesus, really taking seriously his message of loving one another, turning the other cheek, practicing peace and forgiveness and nonviolence, then as now, is not necessarily a recipe for the easy life or something we are all very good at or do very gracefully. We know that sometimes it gets people ostracized, arrested, and even killed on a big scale. And on a small scale it gets us bumped and bruised and bent out of shape and gets our feelings and our hearts hurt on a regular basis. But if we are going to do these things, to have the courage of our convictions, and act as Jesus would have us act as his disciples we must have that sense we are of value before God, that God sees, God hears, that in some real and meaningful way, God is paying attention to each and every one of us.

Most of us will probably never be driven out into the desert with only a waterskin. And hopefully we will never face anything so dramatic as a threat to or safety or our lives for our faith. We need have no fear, for God sees and God hears. But God also, if Jesus is to be believed, has some expectations for us….”Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." Every single day provides opportunities to be fearless sparrows. May we fly.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What I Did on My (One Day) Summer Vacation

Since I know that a number of you are just waiting with bated breath to know what I did today with my unexpected vacation are the juicy details! I've got to say, I was feeling the pressure. I looked at my time card yesterday and realized that I have a whole 2.9 hours of vacation right now. I accumulate about a day and a half a month. At that rate, I'm truly not going anywhere for the rest of the summer, so I felt like I'd really better have some big fun today. And there there was all that good advice to rest and do things that were fun and fed my soul. Which all flew in the face of my inner voices which told me this would be such a good day to Get. Things. Done. Well you will all be relieved to won!

I slept till seven. Practically the middle of the day for me. I made some inroads on my closet project. Then the real part of the vacation day began with a lovely walk in the local state park with the Maggies....mine and Soul Sister S's. We had a great time walking and collecting wood tics and planning a geocaching expedition with the Presbyterians! Ecumenical geocaching. It will be so good for my first time out. S almost got me a card from the cache in the park today She was sure she knew where it was because she had been there with another friend a few weeks ago, but it seemed not to be there...she says a "muggle" moved it...ok, I'm a believer!

Then I went home and washed ALL my sweaters to put away for the summer and hung them outside to dry because it was so gorgeous and hot and sunny. While they were washing I had lunch, and cleaned out the freezer (long on my to-do list), attacked a box from the basement (it all went to Goodwill or the trash) and made the grocery list. After that I went plant shopping-- whoo-hoo. I am now the proud mom of a grape tomato, a basil plant, a weiglia and burberry plant. The tomato and the basil got planted tonight, and tomorrow night S is coming over with some more plants she is giving me and we are sprucing up my front yard which is seriously lacking in curb appeal. I also grocery shopped to replace all the freezer burned crap I threw out of the freezer and came home and poached some chicken and had a healthy dinner. While the chicken cooked I scrubbed the kitchen floor, another of those put-off forever cuz I never have time chores! Then it was off to tai chi in S's beautiful yard on the river.

After Tai Chi I planted my tomato and basil, had some ice cream and finished off the day with a glass of wine in the hot tub.

All in all it was a good day. Some play, some work, some rest. Projects that have been "hanging" got tackled, but I also took some time to play and enjoy myself and spent time with someone I enjoy being with. If I can only have one vacation day this summer...I think I did it pretty well!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hope and a Future

I feel like there is a lot of chaos in my life right now. I have italicized that word feel because I know full well that this is all pretty much perception on my part. In reality there is very little that is chaotic or out of order. The upsetting things that are going on around me are a) not of my doing, b) not in my control, and c) probably not really all that important to anyone outside of a very small sphere. My head knows this full and well. My heart and spirit are having a harder time catching up. I know the antidote is to focus on other things, that where my focus is my heart will follow. I know that if I continue to ruminate on this gossip I simply give it and those who are propagating it power. But it's like the proverbial hole in the tooth. As soon as I am not productively occupied with other things....

Yesterday I was certainly productively occupied. And that made it a good day overall, if a bit stacked and circling at times. Tuesday is one of my consulting days at CH, so it always feels like a "two-job day" anyway by the time I go to the mental health center in the morning, see clients, do the required documentation, talk to my colleagues and return phone calls. Then by noon I'm out of there and running home to pick up Maggie, who goes with me to work at CH as "therapy dog." We spend our afternoon there doing a variety of things, seeing clients, consulting with staff, writing reports, attending meetings. Then it is off to Soul Sisters Bible study. Maggie also attends that, being the contemplative dog she is. Last night Soul Sister S dropped her off at home for me as I had to go on to book club by 6:30. We were having a sort of abbreviated meeting where we were trying to decide whether or not to take a summer break as we seem to be floundering a bit with membership right now. We made some decisions, and by 8:00 I was off to pick up L for Baptism prep. We talked until about 9:30 and after I took him back to CH, I went to the store for cat food and some other necessities, then home to pack for my overnight to the Big City for the COM meeting on Thursday. After getting myself packed, organized and ready for bed, I collapsed with the computer to check e-mails and such, only to find the COM meeting had been cancelled! ARGGH!

OK, so on the one hand, not spending $40 for a tank of gas is a good thing. And I'm not all that fond of that six hour round trip drive. But there are those compensating factors of going to the Big City. I was going to stay overnight with my friend J who's got her own "stuff" goin' on right now, and that would have been nice. And I was having coffee after the meeting with another friend whom I don't get to see in the flesh often enough. And there is the matter of having taken the day off at the day job. It's too short on turn around time to schedule clients and reschedule my group to make it a productive day, so there is no point in going to work tomorrow. So I'll take the day off anyway. Which is not a bad thing, I can always find things to do. But I am not exactly rolling in vacation days, so I'm thinking if/when this COM meeting does get rescheduled I'm not likely to be able to attend, which is not such a good thing. And there is that matter of the "unscheduled time" which scares me a little right now. The idle mind you know....the empty place does not tend to be a good thing. But it is what it is, and I want to be mindful and intentional about focus. Remembering gratitude, thinking about all the gifts that truly are present in this time of change and transition. not focusing on the negative (perhaps as others would have me do ?) but on the good things that are coming my way, on the possibilities that are opening up that I don't even know about yet. There is a plan, there is a bigger picture. Once again my eye is captured by the little blue plaque that C gave me for ordination that hangs on my bulletin board at work with the Jeremiah quote that was the theme for my service (and that has been my constant life preserver in all kinds of stormy seas) "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." Amen to that!

Monday, June 16, 2008

A Character in My Own Novel

Well, here's news! Apparently I'm dating! I've have been "seen around town" in at least two restaurants and a bar lately in the company of someone. Gosh, I wish someone had told me, I'd have dressed up. So not only are conversations being had about me that I'm hearing about, but I guess some others are being had that I'm only getting in on after the fact. I inquired after the source of this info and was initially told "I can't say, I gave my word." I reminded XDO about my feelings about direct communication and gossip and all, and ultimately did find out where it came from. I encouraged XDO to have "the source" speak with me directly about any questions they might have about my social life. I also asked XDO to please refrain from further conversations about me. Not that I think for a minute this will happen. But I felt like I needed to ask. I also was given some other er....shall we call it incorrect information about the existence of an annual Fourth of July party that we have always attended as a couple. I asked if it was happening this year and if XDO was going. "Don't know, haven't heard," was the answer. Interestingly enough, not an hour later on the dog walk, friend S asked if I'd gotten my invitation to that very same party! She said she had been invited a week or so ago, and had been kind of reluctant to bring it up, things being as they are. But she thought, since I'd brought up the hostess' name, she'd take the plunge. "Nope," I said, "Not invited this year." This is all very strange as XDO and the hostess are very good friends and S and she are bare acquaintances. I think XDO may be a bit less than forthcoming here. Given that "hostess" and " the source" are one and the same....I'm just sayin.'

Other than all this interesting social life I'm not having, the conversation went rather as I expected. I had been encouraged by a friend to hold my counsel and say as little as possible. This reminded me of the "holding onto my goat" approach I've been employing pretty successfully in church meetings. I was very aware that I am in the habit of not guarding myself well with XDO. I had to keep catching myself, stopping and remembering that these were not old times in which I could share and confide at will. That these are the days in which anything I say can and will be broadcast far and wide. And that accusations of the same will be met with wide-eyed wondering denial. It all makes my stomach hurt. It makes me want to pack again and run far far away. Especially since I came home and even the cat decided to haul off and scratch me. Strangely enough it was the same one we were talking about, the one who is doing things on carpets that kitties are not supposed to do, and about whom I am also setting boundaries, declaring that he must live henceforth on the sun porch or live no more in my home. Perhaps he sensed my hostility. Perhaps he is on XDO's side. That's about as rational as I am feeling right now. Maybe that is what comes of a cookie and a latte for dinner. Or being told you are dating when you're not. Or being a character in your own novel. Whatever the cause, my solution for tonight is Compline and sleep.

Thin Places on the Prairie

I felt it during the two birthday songs, that thinness, but it really hit me during the honor song for a member of the community who died this year. Each commemoration is done in the same way. The honoree and his or her family are called to the podium. The emcee tells about them, who they are, what they are like. In the case of the young man with the birthday, his twentieth, we were told his Lakota name and why he was given this name, because he watches for the birds and cares for them. The man who had died was an elder who had done many things for the community. For him the list of accomplishments was long and the accolades were many. The emcee had known him personally and spoke of him warmly and with great respect. The family carried pictures and some of his things, including his pipe and his eagle feather. Then the song begins with the drum, then the chant. The people stand and begin to come forward to greet the family who is starting to move in a slow circle. As they finish greeting them they join the line until the circle is full of dancers moving slowly, reverently in rhythm with the drum and the chant. More and more people keep coming, coming forward until the dancing circle in the arena is filled. I simply stood, overcome by all of it--the deep reverence for the lives expressed in the birthday dances as well as the honor dance for Mr. Wabasha, the community there present that said somehow, this is how we should be with one another, remembering, noticing, honoring, dancing for each other's lives. God smiles on this, I think.

There was also a young woman who was honored the same way. Her accomplishment was finishing college. We came in at the middle of his speech, and I couldn't see her from where I was standing when the emcee was talking about her. It sounded like she had overcome some obstacles to get to graduation, but I did hear the part that now she was working with youth in the tribe as a social worker to try to help them succeed. Then she stepped out. With her were her mother and grandmother and her little daughter in her arms. The four of them, all in dance regalia began the dance-walk and were soon greeted and joined and the circle grew. Yes, apparently, she had overcome some obstacles. And her community was honoring her, too.

L, I think had a good time at the Powwow. He saw some people he knew, a cousin, some family friends. He had fun looking at the booths and bought himself a t-shirt. We all ate frybread, and he had a bison Indian taco. He kept asking us if we liked the Powwow. We assured him we did. We were later getting back than planned so he and I will get together later this week to talk. I'm looking forward to that as it's always interesting to hear his take on things. As always, he brings me such gifts and blessings. God certainly knew what God was doing with that little prompting back in October, "Go back and see that guy in the jail, Kate, go back and see that guy."

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

It. Happened. Again. Maybe I should just get my own column in the newspaper. I could just air all my own linen, dirty and otherwise. There would be nothing left to share. Problem solved.

This high road. It's lovely here. Great views. Nice place to sit while I clench my teeth and pray for patience. Tomorrow's conversation should be interesting. I'd like to make the instructions pretty concrete. "Don't talk about me. To anyone. At all. Ever." That should about cover all the contingencies. Oh would that it were so simple.

Off to the Powwow now and to think about better things!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Saturday Sabbath

I had some good intentions today. I was going to get up early, get some cleaning done and hit the 9 a.m. yoga class before I met some folks for a reunion brunch of a Bible study group I'd gone to a couple years ago. While I did manage to get moving fairly early, instead of yoga I had to go get a tire repaired (well that's my story and I'm sticking to it anyway). The truth is there was a nail in the tire, but it was fixed in time to go to yoga and still make the brunch, but I simply didn't want to go to class. So I came back home, ran a load of dishes, potted a plant, cleaned up an old milk can and put it out on the front porch with a plant in it for a little curb appeal. Then it was off to brunch. It was good to see my old Companions in Christ friends again. We had a small turnout, but it was the right group as one of the women really needed to talk and have some support, so it was good that we gathered. Other than a brief stop at the office and a tea break with C, the majority of the rest of the day was spent reading, first in the back yard, and then on the porch swing. This was not the intent for today. I have the primer bought for the library and this was supposed to be the day for getting started on that project. But Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex just grabbed me and wouldn't let go. It's been a while since a book has done that. So I guess I shouldn't complain. It has been suggested to me that perhaps I just needed a day off, a bit of escape, and I don't think I can really argue that. It's been kind of stressful these last few days. Things are continuing to weigh a bit on my mind. I did get a chance to talk briefly to the person formerly known as DO. We are having coffee Monday after work to talk more. I am happy with how I am doing this, not falling out, taking the high road (yep, better view for sure). Told DO I was not going to jump to conclusions until I heard the full story. There could be circumstances, I'll's complicated this situation, many crossovers in our lives, and there are issues that make things even more difficult than they might ordinarily be in a breakup, health issues, memory issues...lots of things that make fine lines even finer. It's very gray this land between reasons and excuses. I live there with my clients all the time, but it's a whole different thing when it comes home to live with me! More and more I get to think about what really matters. Who knows, maybe that will be the gift of this whole crazy thing.

Tomorrow after church L and two friends and I are going to a Powwow. He has danced in them before and is very excited about being my tour guide. The last thing he got to be an "expert" about was teaching me the difference between TV jail and real jail. I suspect this will be a whole lot more fun! Afterwards he and I are going to have a little baptismal instruction time. I'm thinking Sunday is shaping up to be a good day.

I think I'll go finish my book now. I just have to find out how it ends.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Season for Good Fences

Boundaries seem to be the theme of the last few days, weighing heavily on my mind. What happens when people have them and what happens when they don't. A client has hinted that there may be a disclosure forthcoming about which I may have to take action about someone in my professional realm who did not maintain good boundaries. While the details have not been provided, the information that was floated and my own gut response tells me, "uh-oh, we're not gonna like this one bit!" In all my years in this field I have never had to make such a report. It has always been at the very top of the list of things I never wanted to have to do. And yet I am so passionate about the fact that it is incumbent upon those of us, who by nature of position and role, have power bestowed upon us, to be ever so careful with how we use it. That we have this responsibility to hold those lines, to practice self-care so that we do not cross over those boundaries with those we care for and serve. When I hear that vulnerable people's boundaries are violated by doctors and caregivers, therapists and pastors....I get into avenging angel mode very quickly. So if there are details forthcoming and a reportable event has grass will grow, trust me!

And the person who shared my life and my home who has been my Dear One (and for whom I still have no other name) has also done another one of those information sharing things that makes me a little crazy. I keep thinking we are all clear about who can share what with whom and then suddenly I am told that someone knows something that I clearly understood was in the "not to be shared" category, and I feel exposed and angry and violated. This one we even talked about specifically! The last time this happened I expressed my feelings about it....a lot....directly....loud and extensively. This time I have said nothing so far. Then I was angry. Now I am sad. I feel a sense of hopelessness about this, that there will never be an understanding of why I feel the need to have some personal privacy in my very public life, and that I do deserve the respect I have asked for, that it is not unreasonable, this small thing.

My response to these things is a kind of pervasive tired sadness. It saps my energy. I found myself thinking about how long I have left on my National Health commitment here, how long before I can reasonably think about selling my house before I'd totally take a bath on short I am thinking escape. I know it is a fantasy. Wherever you go there you are...blah-blah-blah. And where ever you go everyone else is, too.

I said to C last week that I think we need a liturgical season in the midst of Ordinary Time. Something to get those juices flowing for spiritual disciplines, focus, all that good stuff so we don't get too lax just floating along till Advent comes again. I can't help but wonder if God isn't giving me my wish.....

So who knows what will develop from this. Just for today I am sitting with it all. Asking God to give me the grace of patience and a civil tongue with DO (XDO?), and wisdom and courage if/when the reporting comes to be. I'm not packing or putting my house on the market. I'm thinking about just what I'd call that liturgical season, and am open to suggestions.

Postscript: This is the meditation from the Henri Nouwen Society for June 13...I hear God'svoice in this one loud and clear....
The Source of All Love
Without the love of our parents, sisters, brothers, spouses, lovers, and friends, we cannot live. Without love we die. Still, for many people this love comes in a very broken and limited way. It can be tainted by power plays, jealousy, resentment, vindictiveness, and even abuse. No human love is the perfect love our hearts desire, and sometimes human love is so imperfect that we can hardly recognise it as love.In order not to be destroyed by the wounds inflicted by that imperfect human love, we must trust that the source of all love is God's unlimited, unconditional, perfect love, and that this love is not far away from us but is the gift of God's Spirit dwelling within us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another Chapter in New Normal

Life, it seems, is an endless adventure. Now I suppose that's not a bad way to look at things, but I have to admit, there are times when I could do do with fewer surprises. At least the kind that seem to be sprung on me from my very own psyche! I don't know if it's birthday backlash or simply that we have moved into another month, and so far each of them seems to have their own mood theme, but I am finding myself riding the emotional waves again. Out of the blue this morning I am in tears. In that dark place that asks all those "why" and "what for" questions. I have no idea what prompted this. Perhaps it is the silly romance novel I am listening to in the car, or the Property Virgins on HGTV, newlyweds buying their first home, all starry-eyed and hopeful. Or maybe it's the vagaries of brain chemistry. Hormonal gear-shifting?

And last night in Wal-mart I caught myself blatantly flirting with the person in the checkout line in front of me. Seriously. I don't flirt. I had no idea if I even remembered how. But there I was, having purposefully pithy conversation with an attractive (oh sooooo attractive) stranger. My heart was racing and my face was, I knew. This less than three days later after assuring someone in all truth and honesty that I have no interest in pursuing anything or anyone, that I realize the wisdom of just settling in with me for a good long time. Ha. So this all feels very out of control. And we all know just how much I like that!

Oh, dear. I guess I'd better buckle up. June's looking interesting.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Another year gone

In many ways it's hard to believe that I have been blogging long enough to be writing about yet another birthday, but it's true. I went back and read last year's post and I see that I have not done too well on the things I planned to accomplish this year. The cello remains unlearned, my Spanish is as rusty as ever, and the pile of books in the crate beside the bed has, if anything, grown rather than diminished, thanks at least in part to suggestions from some of you. In many ways it seems kind of like I just had that birthday. But in other ways, in some pretty important ways, I guess it seems like a very, very long time ago. Because a lot has happened in the last year. This blog has captured big pieces of it, important pieces of what was going on while I was not learning Spanish or the cello or reading the books in the crate. I don't think I would characterize this as the kind of year for those kinds of pursuits. Perhaps the coming year will be better suited to such things. Who knows? Time will tell.

I was a little worried about this birthday. The first one single in lots and lots of years. I wondered if it would be a contender for The Worst Birthday Ever. It would, I thought have to go some, as that one was a real whopper! I was in graduate school and working full time. My mother was in a nursing home and not doing well. My significant other at the time was shall we say, challenging....and was spending my birthday in the psych ward. What with one thing and another, I had forgotten to pay the electric bill, and sure enough...on my birthday...I came home from work to find the power shut off! So I took myself out to dinner at a place that had really good salads and THE most decadent flourless chocolate cake, and went home and read by candlelight till bedtime. Yeah, it was pretty fun!

I have full power today! And am feeling loved and cared for. There have been cards and e-mails and fun little gifts (including a floating frog thermometer for the hot tub from Soul Sister C). And this morning at the end of the service as I dismissed the congregation they all turned and sang Happy Birthday, complete with organ accompaniment! We then retired to the undercroft where I was feted with chocolate cheesecake and punch and given a baby rosebush!

The rest of the day has been intermittently Sabbathy. I have done little of use or note and that is just fine with me. After preaching a sermon that was way up there on the personal testimony, and thus scariness scale for me, I was pretty wiped out. I thought about nappage, but couldn't really settle into sleeping. So I putzed. I did manage to take the trash out and run a few bags to the Goodwill. I've been catching up on blog reading, and messed around with my recalcitrant printer until I wanted to start pitching it through the window. I think the hot tub is in the future later this evening. Maybe I'll make a dent in a book in that crate...or just watch HGTV. I'm thinking about carryout for dinner....I don't want to cook, and I'm thinking something tasty made by others is sounding good! Or on the other hand, there's always a bagel!

So there it is, another one of those firsts when you do that separation thing, sucessfully negotiated.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Calling....the Sermon

Genesis 12:1-9; Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26

Six years ago this weekend I was sitting in a cornfield in Wisconsin with a friend of mine. We were talking about the state of my impending student loans. I was bemoaning the fact that they were coming due in November and the payments would be huge and everlasting and I just did not know what I was going to do. Now she is a pretty direct person who doesn’t pull any punches and she said, “Well Kate, are you going to just let it creep up on you or are you going to take some action on this thing?” Now that is hardly God saying to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” Or Jesus saying to Matthew,” Follow me.” But though I did not know it at the time, it was definitely a call from God. For that conversation led me to do some some research on the National Health Service, which in August had me interviewing for a job at WMHC, and in October, gathering my possessions and setting forth to land of Southwest Minnesota where I "pitched my tent" in M and at St.J’s, and journeying on by stages to this place where I stand before you today as priest and preacher. When Sue and I had that conversation in that cornfield, I would not have been able to say that I was being “called by God” to something, other than maybe feeling there was an answer to prayer about the crushing debt of the student loan burden. But there was a sense of it being a journey of faith. Because there is an earlier piece to the story, a little prequel, if you will. In January of that same year, on Epiphany Sunday, I had had a close encounter with the living God. Prior to that time I had been struggling. With church, with faith, with God. I had been questioning if there was a place for me in the Episcopal Church, in any church really. I had been doing all the things I thought were supposed to make me happy and successful and they didn’t seem to be working, and I was kind of at a crossroads. A friend had invited me to an Episcopal Church community where I truly felt a sense of God’s welcoming love. In that experience, I had a sense of myself being like one of the people in the Gospels that Jesus heals, those people that are taken from a place of emptiness to belonging from exclusion to inclusion, and thus are healed and transformed and even in some cases brought back to life. On that Epiphany Sunday I had written in my journal: I am having a premonition of Epiphany. If I go on this journey (to the center of Reality?)...something WILL happen. I am being pulled, drawn, yanked into feels not in my control. I am struck that I have "done church," done spirituality, but I have not allowed myself to be convicted. I am again at that place where I closed the book so many years ago and being asked, being urged, invited, pulled, open it, open me again. To be radical. To be fearless in my fear. This God is not the polite God that supports and gently nudges. This God wants more, wants me, wants all. This will require something of me, will change me in a way that I am not getting to be in charge of. This God wants conversion, wants to pull me through the tunnel of my resistance into the center of something that I have glimpsed, flirted with, but never allowed myself to be taken to, given to possessed by. This is new and scary business. And I want it as much as I don't!

So the following January, almost a year to the day from that Epiphany Sunday, when Father Ken asked to talk with me about this thing called Total Ministry, and inquired if I might be interested in being a part of the team providing pastoral care, there was a sense of “oh, so this is what God is up to here” and all of this moving and changing and turmoil in my life took on a whole new meaning. From the cornfield to that point, and every stage of the journey right up to now, it had been based on faith. Sometimes known and sometimes unknown. Sometimes I knew it was God I was saying yes to, and sometimes not. Sometimes I went as willingly as Abram and Matthew and sometimes it was kicking and screaming all the way. Because it is always into the unknown this faith journey. Abram was asked to leave everything….county and kindred and household. He was essentially asked to leave his very identity behind based on a promise. And he went. Matthew was a tax collector. Now while this was not a profession that held a lot of status, it could be a lucrative one. But when Jesus came along and said “Follow me,” we don’t have record of him asking a lot of detailed questions about where and why and for what. No. He “got up and followed him.” As always I am so struck by that. As Jesus calls his disciples, he beckons and they come. In connecting this with the Old Testament story, it appears that this is in a lineage with his father….in fine relational tradition….the Lord said “Go” and “so Abram went…” and this word who becomes flesh and dwells among us continues to call others into relationship and new ways of being. Jesus called Matthew and apparently Matthew called his friends to dinner….his not so-acceptable friends, at least according to the Pharisees. The ones at the edges, those who are empty or sick, who do not belong or are in need. Those who are sinners. The ones, it seems, that Jesus always finds, always chooses to be with, much to the dismay of the powers that be. The ones, he explains, that he actually came for. Not the well, the righteous, but the sick, the sinners, those who are in need. This was confusing to those who were expecting an earthly king who was going to continue the status quo and not this counter-cultural rabbi who persisted in giving them these messages that kept shaking up the system. In today’s Gospel, he quotes the prophet Hosea, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Again, we are not that far from the sermon on the mount and all of it’s disturbing “calls” to behave in ways that are antithetical to the culture and perhaps some of our inclinations. “The knowledge of God” seems to be about God’s love and steadfast covenant and God’s desire to be in relationship with God’s people. Jesus’ manifestation of that seems to be about calling us to actualize in radical ways this commandment to love one another as God has loved us….all the way back through Abraham and Sarai and even before that! God says to Abram “lek leka” “get going”….move off into the unknown. In answering this call there is always movement required, and it is often into the unknown. But it is because we know that we can trust that the God who calls us calls us for the good of God’s people and not for God’s own ends, we can do what we need to do move out of our comfort zones to “journey on in stages.”

It has been an amazing journey these last six years. If someone had told me that day in the cornfield that it really wasn’t about student loans, but a call from God I might have told them they were crazy. But what I know today is that this is the life that God had prepared for me, the place that God had for me to serve, it was simply waiting for me to say yes. And on the anniversary of that day, these six years later, I say, thanks be to God that I did. Amen.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Taking in the View Friday Five

Sally says: "This week I took some time out to stop and walk and take in the view; my son Chris is studying in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, too often we simply drive up there, turn around and come home! This time Tim and I took time out to take in the view. It occurs to me that we need to do that more in life. With that in mind I offer you this weeks Friday Five:"
1. How important is the "big picture" to you, do you need a glimpse of the possibilities or are you a details person? I think it's a.....get ready for this one.....a both/and for me! I can see the vision for the big thing, but can also break it down to the parts, organize it and make it happen. The difference is one is by inclination, the other by training. I am a dreamer and contempletive and I think "big picture" person by nature, but my jobs and education voer the years haev helped me learn to channel those dreams into possibities and realities.

2. If the big picture is important to you how do you hold onto it in the nitty gritty details of life? That is sometimes challenging. One thing I had to learn, well to be honest, am still having to (not past tense as much as I would like it to be) is that holding onto the big picture requires time and intentionality and solitude and discipline and saying NO to some of the things that produce all that nit and grit.

3. Name a book, poem, psalm, piece of music that transports to to another dimension ( one....what am I thinking....) Ah, she knows us indeed! Well there is the Pachelbel Canon, and Beethoven's Ninth and Handel's Messiah, native flute, Gregorian chant, and the music of Mark Sedio, Beth Chapman and Jearlynn Steele at the FoH. There's pretty much anything Mary Oliver or Wendell Berry or Emily Dickenson have written. There's the Book of Common Prayer, the Twenty Third Psalm, the Gospel of John. Then there is JK Rowlings and Anne McCaffrey and Madeleine L'Engle. It kind depends on where I want to be transported at any given time.

4.Thinking of physical views, is there somewhere that inspires you, somewhere that you breathe more easily? Badlands, definitely Badlands. But I was raised on the bluffs of the Mississippi and there is something in my soul that sings when that landscape comes into view. And when I moved out here, the quality of the light on the open prairie completely captured my heart (thus the blog name).

5. A picture opportunity... post one if you can ( or a link to one!) My best pictures are on my computer at home. I'll come back and post one tonight.

Monday, June 02, 2008

An Update on L

It's been a while since I've done an update on my friend L. There has been a lot going on in his life of late. The big news is that a week ago Sunday he asked me to baptize him! Needless to say I did the big happy dance! We had talked some in the past about his church background and he was not real clear about how and where he had been as far as church was concerned, but he had done some checking and found out he had never been baptized, and told me he had come to a decision that he was ready to take that step. I asked him why, and he said, "Because I want to follow Jesus." Well, ok, I guess that is a pretty good reason! He said he has waited a bit because he was afraid some of his family members who are not Christians would be upset and also because he thought maybe people might think he was a "Jesus freak." But he says he has been praying about it a lot, and he doesn't care if people think that, and he knows that it is his decision and he hopes his family will accept that he is an adult who is making his own choices now. So we have set July 6th as the date and have begun to make our plans! Part of the service will push my congregation a bit, as he has requested a couple songs from DC Talk....and of course I said yes! So we will have a bit of praise music on the CD player instead of hymns on the organ. It's L's day!

On the practical front, he was granted an extension to stay at CH till July 1, and in the meantime he has found long-term housing in an adult residence here in town where he can have on-going support and structure while he continues to heal and deal with his ongoing legal and other issues. The director there is someone he knows from a past program he was involved with and likes and trusts. We had a scary time a week or so ago, as he needed to do some testing as part of the court-ordered program he is in, and he could not pay for it. If he did not have it done by July 1st there was a good chance that he would be sent back to jail. Well, the prayers were said and the word went out and an anonymous donor came forward with the $300 needed for the test fee. As soon as a the date is set, other folks will provide the two hour ride to the test site, and another blessing falls on L's head.

He is looking better than I have seen him in a while. He is drawing again! This is such good news, as that scared me more than anything when he was so depressed that he could not even do that. He is also manifesting his "goofy" side again. Being a big kid, acting silly, telling dumb jokes. So we are continuing to work on building his community, helping him know he is cared for and supported as we "build his village." And in a little over a month that village will have a whole new meaning as he becomes part of the Christian community in a new way and puts on Christ and becomes sealed as God's own forever. Fizzy?....oh yes, I am!