Friday, October 31, 2008
This was today's offering from Inward/Outward
Scattering New Blessings
by Edwina Gateley
Often we anxiously seek the will of God,
as if God had gleefully hidden dreams for us
deep in unfathomable places.
As if it were God's intention
that our whole lives be spent
in endless searching for signs and directions
buried in obscurity.
The will of God is that which brings us
peace and fullness of life.
The will of God is the seed of our dreams
ever gestating with possibility
and longing to leap forward
scattering new and surprising blessings
in our gray reality.
It was one of those things that I had to read and read again. It especially hit me in light of how scared I am right now and the struggle I am having with trying to believe in "all will be well" as something more than an abstract act of my faithful heart. I have been so amazed by the last several years of my life, how it's all come together. How I finally found all of these things that I love to do in a place that I like being with people I love...so many blessings scattered. God's will manifest? Apparently.
So my reality right now is indeed pretty gray. I cannot see the seeds of dreams nor do I feel that anything is gestating here. But then, as my former mentor priest used to say, "God is God and I am not, thanks be to God".....perhaps that is where God's dreams come in....God's dreams that are bigger than mine could ever be, able to see light in darkness, life in death.
So this is the end of the month of official watching for God. It was a little more intense than planned, a little more challenging. But I am grateful that I was looking for God on purpose as all this hard life stuff transpired. It kept bringing me face to face with that famous question "where is God in all this anyway?" I must have asked myself that a hundred times this month. And I kept finding the answer. In whatever it was, God kept showing up. Not always where I expected, not always where I wanted. But there. Always there. Because that is assuredly is what God is doing. Being there. So when God says, "Do not be anxious" there is a good reason not to. So said the faith heart to the worried brain at the end of the long month of watching God.
1) Your work day is done and the brain is fried, what do you do? Typical evening schedule: check mail (snail), let dog out, feed dog, spend some time with e-mails and blogs, walk dog with my awesome friend S (and often have deep soul searching conversations in the mix), clean cat boxes, maybe paint or read a little, go to bed. Now who says I don't lead an exciting life!!!!!
2) Your work week is done and the brain is fried (for some Friday, others Sunday afternoon), what do you do? Friday night looks pretty much like the other four. Sunday afternoon might include a walk in the state park, a concert, errands or laundry depending on the week. Sunday afternoon is often blogging catch-up time if the week has been hectic. I can finally see what all y'all have been up to all week! Sometimes Sunday evening I go to dinner with a friend. Then it's time to look ahead to see what the coming week will bring.
3) Like most of us, I often keep myself busy even while programs are on the tv. I stop to watch The Office and 30 Rock on Thursday nights. Do you have 'stop everything' tv programming or books or events or projects that are totally 'for you' moments? I'm not much of a TV person, it's generally background noise while I'm doing something else. My "for me's" are painting (pictures not rooms...a relatively new addition) reading (always), walking Maggie, and writing.
4) When was the last time you laughed, really laughed? What was so funny? That would be about ten minutes ago at the author of this F5. I find her very funny IRL as well.
5) What is a fairly common item that some people are willing to go cheap on, but you are not. The only thing I can think of is paper towels! It makes me really crazy that the cheap ones won't tear when you pull them. Otherwise, I guess I guess I am pretty thrift oriented. It was a bone of contention in the past.
Bonus: It's become trite but is also true that we often benefit the most when we give. Go ahead, toot your own horn. When was the last time you gave until it felt good? Our Diocese collected 32,000 pairs of shoes for Soles4Soles over the last 150 days. We did the ingathering at our Diocesan Convention last weekend. Our little church collected about 140 pair. It was cool to be part of that and to see all those shoes go into the semi to be sent off to help people that have this very basic need. It also helped us focus outside of ourselves at convention....giving does that, too.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
My friend D read this wonderful poem at the closing prayer service at Diocesan Convention this weekend. Since I don't seem to have much to say tonight, I'd thought I'd share it with you.
by Naomi Shihab Nye
The river is famous to the fish.
The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.
The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.
The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.
The idea you carry close to your bosom
is famous to your bosom.
The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.
The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and not at all famous to the one who is pictured.
I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
One breath at a time, one moment at a time, one prayer at a time....another day is passed. God is holding my life...my life is in God's care....I know with my faith heart that this means that all will be well. It's just my brain I am having having trouble with. The pictures it paints are dark and have nothing to do with any kind of "well" but look far more like the end of life as I know it, the loss of much that that gives meaning to my life. All will be well....yes I believe but what will well look like, and when will this well come?
I'm so glad not every day is like this one. I am grateful that it is over and praying for a better tomorrow.
I seem to be having a very hard day today. It's only just past noon and I have been in tears twice and have been close to one of those panic things and we won't even talk about my stomach and it's opinion on the whole affair. I have no idea what's up. Yes I had to do some "stuff" that connected me back with the thing, make a phone call to get some information, leave a message for another person...but these are the folks who are supposedly my advocates, so it's not like there was any real scary stuff going on. I suppose it was just the stir factor. And yesterday I spent about forty minutes in the presence of someone who is directly related to this business. Staring across a table in a meeting in fact. It was hard. Very. So I am having worry thoughts and anxiousness, struggling hard not to go to the worst case lose it all scenarios that my brain wants to create. I'm trying to hold on to a phrase that I heard in a lovely song that I listened to in a CD that a friend gave me, "God is holding your life." I'm trying to just let that hold me, to remember that my wing is always there to run to, and that I am beloved and called by God and prayed for by the greatest group of friends anyone could hope for.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Tonight was a momentous night with the Soul Sisters Bible Study. We finished our study of Creation Continues by Fritz Kunkel. This is a deep and thorough psychological study of Matthew's Gospel that we have been dissecting chapter by chapter since July of 2007! Talk about persevering. Next week we are taking a voting break and then we are going at Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship. To celebrate our accomplishments tonight SSC brought a cake in Fritz's honor. Many is the time we have laughed together imagining him sighing in long-suffering patience wondering if we were ever going to get done qvetching about some of the ideas in his book! "Women!" we would imagine him saying to anyone who was nearby. Paul perhaps. Or even Jesus. Tonight we envisioned him sending off a quick heads up memo to Dietrich warning him of what was to come.
We also had a grand time blessing some things tonight. Of late we have all taken up knitting while we talk. C has been finishing a scarf for her son's girlfriend, S has been making a sweater for her baby grandson and tonight A was working on a sweet Christmas stocking for her grandbaby's first Christmas. So we decided to pray over all of them as we sent them on their way. It was so wonderful wrapping all of those loving gifts in God's love as well. We also of course blessed and prayed for each other and ourselves.
I was grateful for the respite of this time. This day, as all these days, had its difficult moments, its reminders that all is not so well. But God does keep showing up and getting my attention in all sorts of wonderful ways. I am so grateful for the gift of these women in my life.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Just some random things running through my head tonight.....
I so wish that I could draw! I would do the illustration of Josephine's comment from yesterday's post....me with the shoes burying me. Actually I wish, for the sake of some clarification I could illustrate myself buried in the true situation. But it, for a whole host of reasons, is not bloggable right now. What I can say is that I took some actions with good intent in what I saw as the best interest of another person. These were interpreted by some folks in another fashion entirely and the result was some very significant untoward consequences in my life, which I have been referring to as "the other shoe falling" or in this case, an entire closet full of said shoes.
So we are almost at the end of the month of watching closely for what God is doing. It has not been exactly what I was expecting. I have to laugh at myself even as I type this...we are after all talking about God here, are we not? It's not quite as tame as looking for things to be grateful for, I guess. And this thing in my life has kind of thrown another wrench in my neatly laid plans of watching for God in my lovely little life and made me look instead for God in my pain and my fear and my doubt. Clearly not the places I would choose to look, but clearly the places God is.
As I was falling asleep last night I was thinking about the outrageous audacity of experiencing the God of the universe as my "wing" and the absolute wonder of being so sure of the love of that selfsame God that I do this without batting an eye.
One of things that this whole series of events has done is helped me get in touch a little more with what it is like to be powerless. It has caused me to think more about justice and who it is who has voice in this world and who does not. It has increased my empathy for those who are caught between rocks and hard places. Perhaps those are not bad things to get in touch with...though given a choice, no doubt, I would rather have done it some other way.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
This is post # 401. Hard to believe I have that much to say in a little over a year and a half. But then it's been kind of an eventful year and a half I guess. Starting a blog, ending a relationship, going on my first cruise, having a whole closet full of shoes fall on me, plus just all the regular every day stuff in the life of a small town girl trying to find her way into authenticity and a more consistent faith walk.
There was alas, no Sabbath in this Sunday. My fellow traveler and I got up way too early this morning and began our trek back across the state from convention. This was partly due to the fact that we had checked out the forecast last night, and indeed we had an "interesting" drive, as we say around here. A little rain, a little snow, and a LOT of wind. I was very glad I wasn't driving anything lighter or taller, and that we weren't going much further. It was tiring just keeping the car between the lines!
Once safely home, it was off to fetch Maggie from her sitter, then in to the office to do class prep. Yes, I am at it again! But only for one day. A friend asked me way back in the Fall to guest lecture on moral development and ethics for her human development class. It seemed so far away at the time, I said yes without a second thought. But all of a sudden, I was facing class on Tuesday, and I wasn't ready. So the rest of the day, I was back in teacher mode, and I am feeling pretty much ready to face the students complete with lecture, handouts and group exercise.
I'm trying really consciously to "back-burner" the falling shoe business as much as I can. To stay in the moment as much as possible. I was reminded in so many ways this weekend that my life here is not random, that I am called to a vocational life of, as our preacher said yesterday, trying to show the world Jesus. If by doing something that was intended to be a part of that, an avalanche was created, well.....maybe a little faith is justified. I kind of feel like I am puzzling on all of this, trying on the one had to figure out God's part in it in a sort of very interested kind of way, while at the same time trying to deal with the emotional impact and the potential "real world" impact by staying away and being disengaged from that as much as possible. It feels....very stretchy. More in some moments than I can manage. But then again in others, ok.
There are things related to this I must tend to, so I cannot ignore it all together. But on the other hand, once those things are done, it is out of my control until whatever happens next happens. I think it really is going to be one day at a time for awhile. Or sometimes less. And decisionally....I am operating in faith here....for this day anyway.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Our convention is over for another year. Once again I was surprised that we are better than I ever think we are going to be. You'd think I'd get it by now that this is after all God's work, and that in some way that I do not understand we are able to get out of our own way when we come together for this time and the stuff that we were going to fight about...somehow we figure it out. Maybe it's because it's so much harder to fight when you are wrapped in prayer or when you have broken bread together. But the stuff that seems very contentious ahead of time seems to lose a lot of it's ire and get resolved.
Maybe it's because I'm away from home, or have been distracted by convention and churchy stuff, but I have been feeling a little better. I had a moment today sitting in the convention when I felt, just for a little while, "found" again. Like I remembered myself. Who I was, what I was all about and why I was doing what I was doing, what the whole point of everything was and that it was all really for something, the stuff that kicked off this whole falling shoe business. It was brief but it was good and God was in it. And for now, that is enough.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Once again prayer and liturgy heals me, soothes me, feeds me. We had our opening Eucharist for our Diocesan Convention tonight. I found myself holding on to the the words of the preacher like they were my lifeline. He said the work of Jesus is awkward and dangerous but that it has this reward of making God visible, showing people God. Awkward and dangerous...shoes will fall if you do the gospel perhaps? But maybe there will be a wing to hide under when it happens. For a time there was light and there was comfort, and if I had not been in a whole civic center ballroom full of Episcopalians I think I would have just started sobbing out loud.
I bought a book tonight that talks about the work of a priest. One of things it says is that part of my job is to be a "friendly irritant," challenging the structures of the way things are. Uh-oh. That sort of thing gets you pelted with shoes. I am living proof. But maybe there is something bigger here after all. Light again? Just a shard. And that wing.
It's been a very hard week. All that has happened has set off reverberations deep in my soul. Land mines really, that have taken all my energy to contain. I had no idea it would be this way. There is a lot of sorting out still to come on many fronts. But there is a bigger picture here and God is in it.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
So I can't just lay here under the shoes, or in the s**t , or whatever. There are cats and a dog to be fed, clients to be seen, life does go on. And so I got up and did life again today, just like I did yesterday. I went to work, and tonight I went to my art class. I went for tea with a friend and made a phone call. I packed for the trip across the state tomorrow to our Diocesan Convention For little chunks of time there was sweet peace and forgetting. For a few blessed moments I even had my wing, safe, warm and secure.
I want so badly to believe that this is all going to be okay. That all things truly do work together for good and that this vision of good will be one I can recognize as such. I want to trust as much as I say I do but the fear keeps overtaking me and I hate it. It's really good to know you are all praying. Really, really good.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Awake at 3:30 this morning with thoughts chasing themselves through my brain. Things I said, things I should have said, things I wonder if I should have said. It just would not stop with any of my usual tricks, so finally after a restless hour and a half I gave up and got up to face the day. Work was a welcome diversion, as was talking with some of my support system in person and by e-mail. I worked on a piece of writing related to the falling shoes and that too helped me feel better for a little while. This is the problem, though. It's all transient. It's like a loss. Every time you start feeling normal, you remember what happened and the bottom falls out all over again and it's another crash. I hope it's like loss in that this gets better over time. As I recall you get a little used to it or something....those spans of feeling normal get a little longer, you are able to "back burner" the thing a little better and pretend that life is just life, like it was before all those shoes fell on it and you got lost in the pile of them and forgot who you were and what you were doing there in the first place.
It's pretty hard to pay attention to God from under a pile of shoes. I'm just sayin'....it's kind of hard to see the light from here right now.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
One of the things I have feared most is that if things went south with this thing my faith would not bear the strain. There is a dangerous creak in the winch tonight. So much old stuff has been stirred. Critical voices, old triggered feelings, ancient pain that I thought was long laid to rest, things I never dreamed would be tripped by this....it's quite a brew. I have been cared for gently and lovingly by C and my Soul Sisters, I've been texted and e-mailed and felt the prayers of all. I truly don't know what I would do without all of this, without all of you. But even so...it is hard to go to "all will be well" in this particular moment in time, hard to have the trust I crave that came so easily such a short time ago. It's just...hard. That's all.
Well today's the day. The one I both have and have not been waiting for. I think I am pretty calm. But then as I was getting ready for work this morning I noticed I was pretty pale. And my right eye was twitching again. And since the body doesn't lie...perhaps I am not as calm as I think. But I did sleep last night, and have been this last week. Better really than in the few weeks since this "thing" has had a date attached to it. It has been mentioned and I myself, have felt a little like Damocles. But as I mentioned to someone yesterday...I have something poor Damocles did not....I have that that wing to tuck beneath. And I have something else...I have the most wonderful support anyone could ever ask when going through Hard Times, both here and in my face-to-face life. The Pray as You Go meditation this morning asked if there was someone who was our cornerstone, and I thought, "oh, heavens, I have a whole foundation!" and then when the meditation continued the speaker used that very thought....talking about building a foundation of community and growing into a holy temple together. It's this kind of thing that gives me peace and hope today amidst the little knot of something that does sit in my stomach. These lovely little things I keep falling into that give me just the reminders I need when I need them of how much love and care is there for me. Of just how much attention is being paid to this little chick.
It will pass. Life will go on. After it's over I will process it in safety with a trusted friend. Then I'll go to Bible study with my fabulous Soul Sisters who will love me no matter what. Then I'll bake cookies for a potluck tomorrow. All will be well.
Monday, October 20, 2008
In the sermon I heard yesterday in talking about the Gospel, P said "Everything is created in God's image and belongs to God." You know, I am sure I have heard that phrase, about being created in God’s image, thousands of times in my life but for some reason it went into my brain in just a little different way this time and it has stayed with me every since Sunday morning. Maybe it was all the beauty of place and people and the work they are undertaking that is so clearly driven by the Spirit. Or the amazing “coincidences” of all that is going on in my life right now. Or the quiet peace and beauty of the late afternoon in C’s grove. But what I heard THIS time that has my head and my heart and will not let me go is this. Everything looks like God.
There is a rock in C’s grove. A huge piece of granite. It’s big enough for me to curl up on and rest. And when I do so, I feel, I know something in a way that is completely not connected to my head! A sense of agelessness, of the short span of our little time here on this planet compared to all the time that has been and will be…to God’s time. I feel at once small and large, vulnerable and infinitely safe. I feel a sense of connection to life that links me to this rock, to the earth that cradles it, to the trees that surround it and the land that goes on from there, and all the creatures that find homes in all those places, from the most microscopic to those whose presence I sense but do not see, those who come forth to be petted, and even those like me. Everything looks like God.
It’s no secret that I am completely enchanted with the light out here on the prairie. This time of year especially I am kind of a nut about it. I carry my camera in the car and have been known to almost drive off the road trying to take a picture of just that perfect moment as it catches in a field. It’s truly one of the things that helped me make the transition from my city life when I moved here. Finding beauty in my new home helped me survive the loneliness and the isolation of that first year. I have never lost the love for that light, or the desire to try to describe it. In words, with my camera and now with paint. It has a kind of grandeur and splendor here that I have never experienced before. The sky is so big, the color so embracing and warm. It has its own presence and I find myself sometimes feeling almost gathered in by it. My practical friend S reminds me that part of what I love is caused by dust….the dust generated by the harvest. But this only adds to it all in a way. The light is not only beauty, but a beauty that is part of what feeds us. Everything looks like God.
P said something else in his sermon that won’t let me go. That not only are we all in that image of God... looking like God….. but that we all belong to God. That gives everything a huge sense connectedness. The rock and the grove and the creatures therein, the fields of the harvest and those that are fed by it…We all look like God. We all belong to God.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
It's been a long, full, wonderful and exhausting weekend. God was active and visible in so many ways:
- In the beautiful fall weather and the beauty of creation
- In the spirit-filled energy of the MDG team at St J's who gave up a Saturday to learn new skills to apply to their own project.
- In an inspiring sermon that reminded me once again that I am God's own, made in God's image, and so are we all, those I am doing well with and those with whom I struggle.
- In a phone call with one of those people that I have struggled with...in which there was a hand extended to heal our relationship.
- In an e-mail that explained some things in another difficult situation.
- In the peace I continue to feel about Tuesday's upcoming situation and all the unexpected blessings that have surrounded this whole thing.
- In the opportunity to spend some time doing jail ministry today with a young man who was hungry for God's word
- In the gift of time to go out to Soul Sister C's grove for just a little while late this afternoon and bask in that thin place.
Good to go and do, good to be done and come back home. Good to see how God is present in all of it.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
This morning I drove about two hours across the state to do some training on setting up an MDG campaign for another congregation in our Diocese. It was early when I left home and the sun was just coming up. The drive was absolutely breathtaking. Over on my side of the state it was bright and clear with just a tiny bit of frost on the low spots in the fields. The sun was glittering on the fields turning the cornstalks to gold. It made my heart sing as I thanked God for the incredible beauty of this earth. As I moved east and into the river bottom I began encountering more haze and eventually some spots where there was some mist and even dense fog. In the foggy areas it was gray and dark and colorless. The world seemed as if some of the life had been drained from it along with the color. But because of where I had been so very recently, I knew that this darkness was transitory, that this fog was simply a veil that hid beautiful sunshine, and that in a very short while this place too would be warm and bright and golden.
Not such a big stretch, this metaphor. When we have not experienced the light, it is easy to believe that the darkness is all there is. But when we know that light is just beyond, the darkness is simply passing and will soon be gone.
The rest of the day was bright as well. I was blessed to spend time with people who are on fire to fight global poverty and eager to learn how to apply the strategies and skills of community organizing with their congregation for an MDG project as we did at my church last year. We started our day with Gospel Based Discipleship and heard Jesus reading from Isiah in Luke, "God's Spirit is on me; he's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free, to announce, "This is God's year to act!" Yes, this is God's year to act at St. J's and God has some really good help!
Friday, October 17, 2008
This month of watching what God is doing is more than half over already. And so far it's all been pretty amazing. As I suspected at the beginning, by focusing more of my attention on what God is doing in my life, I am seeing more of what God is doing in my life, or is it that I am am seeing more of what is going on in my life as God's doing? I know I have felt that strange tension between my logic brain and my faith heart a lot more intensely in the last seventeen days. It's kind of funny. When I was little my goals in life were to be "smart and holy." As a little Catholic kid this seemed to be the recipe for success somehow. Now this seems to be these two parts of myself trying to find some way to live in peaceful coexistence. I have always been able to trade on smart. When nothing else could be trusted I had my brain. Thinking never failed. If I could understand it I owned it. For a long time I pretty much lived in my safe head. The world of emotions and human relationships was too weird and scary. The relationships I did have were in my head too...with characters in books, with imaginary friends, and guardian angels, with the Virgin Mary who I talked to daily for several years during grade school. But at some point, of course, "logic" took over, and I came to understand that these things could not be "real." Things that were real were things that could be touched, or seen or at least explained in neat and rational ways. And most of the things of God and the Spirit do not fit this model. Therefore I had no explanation for the feeling that came over me when a voice that was not my own was "talking with" me as a real and living presence during a high school retreat. Or when I read de Chardin and he talked about God as a still point and I knew in a very visceral way what he meant. No, not logic, not something that quantifies neatly, something far more, deeper and greater.... something, someone... that lived and called me, drew and and pulled me in. Someone who for a long time scared me to death. Logic, after all was so much safer.
I don't know how things work, how God works. Is is simple coincidence that in this very difficult time in my life that I decide "just on a whim" that now is the time I need to use Pray as You Go to spice up my morning prayer routine and I hear just exactly the thing I need to hear, that a client tells me of a book he is reading and it is just the thing I need to read right now, that I get this extra week of unwanted waiting and it turns out to be full of gifts so incredible they literally take my breath away? Or is it God fully alive and fully at work? Logic brain (and even my more "sophisticated theological self") would sometimes say it's just random and I am imposing meaning. But, you know, I simply cannot go there anymore. It just does not feel like randomness. It feels like love. It feels so exactly like the kind of thing even we simple silly humans do for one another when we are at our best....reaching out and offering something that will comfort and inspire, hold up and ease...and well, if we can do this for one another, well, why couldn't it be the God in whose image after all we were created?
Thursday, October 16, 2008
God was so all over this night that I am rather exhausted by it! Laughter, tears, a roller coaster of emotions bookended by prayer. God continues to bless me. And now to sleep!
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
God has certainly gotten my attention with this extra week of waiting that I did not want. I truly wish I were free to talk about the details, but let me just say that because of this time that I would not have otherwise had, the whole way I am feeling about going into the pelting shoe event has changed, indeed I think the event itself have may have had some changes. I cannot help but think that this has something to do with the sheer force of prayer energy that is being generated. Here again, my logic mind argues with my faith heart and faith wins. Which is, when I consider it, a really good thing.
I have also had time to think more about the forgiveness end of things. That certainly is a recurrent theme in my life. There will be more on this here, I'm sure. I have had conversations about it, preached on it, read about it, and I still don't know that I really have a handle on it. Especially in situations like this one, or others where there are "things are going on" that have the potential to make a great and life-changing difference for someone. Forgiving, holding accountable, turning the other cheek, confronting in love, it all gets very muddled about what goes where for me....and I think I'm not alone here. So if I can figure it out a little better, maybe I can help other people do that too.
But for tonight I find myself feeling more peace and gratitude than I have felt in a good couple weeks now. A sense of truly being under that wing, at the banquet truly able to enjoy the feast for the first time in a good while. Thanks be to God.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Last Thursday night I did something new. Soul Sister C talked me into taking an art class with her. This was a Big Deal. I was always told in grade school that I was pretty much a total loss when it came to artistic talent. of course they told me I couldn't write or sing either. I think it was an attempt to keep us humble. Unfortunately where it kept me was in a place of fear where I did not dare try these things until much later in my life. And to my surprise I found that I can write and I can sing...so I thought well, maybe they were wrong about the art thing too. And as SSC said, it's an Abstract art class, so I really could not do it wrong! So I let her convince me and off we went to the Arts Center. We were a diverse group....all the way from eight to about seventy, I'd say. And every single one of them -- including the eight year old -- clearly knew what they were doing. She even came with her own paints and brushes and told us she had been studying art for two years with her own teacher! Some people had taken classes before, one lady had exhibited some things. Yep, it was clear I was over my head. So as they happily got to work, industriously applying water to their papers and squeezing tubes of paint onto their palettes, I just sat there paralyzed by the whole idea that I had to put something on this paper and that it would not be the right thing. Then I thought about the conversation that my SD and I had last month...the one that got this whole God-watching business going, the one about reveling in discovering what God was doing in my life....and so I simply asked, "God, what is that you, no, that we are doing here?" And God said, "Well Kate, I think we are having fun....or at least that's the idea...." Oh. So I took a deep breath and I started to relax and to remember all the beauty I'd been really starting to see since I'd been watching for God. And I squirted some paint in my little palette, and I put some water on my paper....and I starting having fun and painting. And I saw that it was good. And I think maybe God did too.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Well you just never know. I was expecting that tonight I would go to bed saying to myself, "By this time tomorrow I will be past this one hurdle in my life. The falling shoes will have landed in a pile around me and done will be done." But thanks to that call, it is not to be. Back to waiting. As I have said here before, sometimes my twenty-first century logical educated brain clashes with my Celtic mystical faith heart. What I know in one way and what I might believe or wonder about in another are not always in sync. What I know about this is clearly that I has nothing to do with me. It is an artifact of other people's schedules. I got bumped, pure and simple. What my heart says is anything but simple, anything but logical...that is all about the extra week....the extra week I am being what....offered or burdened with? I have to say in all honesty my first response was "NO! I cannot deal with this! It's not fair." As the day has drawn closer I have been more anxious, not sleeping well, not eating much. And then, another week of this! At first it was pure burden, no question. And I have no doubt that over the next seven days there will be times that it will still feel that way. I would have loved for it to be over. But this feeling about the need for forgiveness coming as it does and the extra time...my non-logical self wonders if this is no accident, if this time is a gift, an answer to a prayer I didn't even know I was making, if this is indeed what God is doing, offering me the blessing of time that I might use to think about letting go of my resentment towards those who have brought about the circumstances of the falling shoes. It's a tall order. My own situation is not the only one about which I bear them ill will. It will be a challenge to give them to God, to stop judging them, to practice radical forgiveness. I honestly don't know that a mere week would be enough time, but it might be a start. So I am paying attention, but I am not entirely sure I know quite what God is doing....and I guess that might be ok, too. Somewhere along the lines of letting God be God, perhaps?
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The tears started before we even got through the first verse of the opening hymn. Since we process on the second verse that created a bit of a problem. It's hard to walk and cry and sing. But somehow I managed to get myself into my place in the choir. I wasn't so successful in controlling the tears, however. They just kept leaking out....through the Gloria, and the readings, through the Gradual hymn and the Gospel. Finally during the sermon, I managed to achieve some control, only to lose it again when we sang the offertory hymn, There's a Wideness in God's Mercy. It was the words that got to me there. I pulled it back in until the consecration...then it was the thought of bringing it all to the altar and just leaving it, this whole messy, ugly crappy thing, "an offering and sacrifice to God" that just undid me again. I don't know how obvious this all was, the choir (two of us today) is kind of out there for all the world to see, but there was just nothing to be done. I could not hold on to myself here. I have not cried much about this until now. But along with everything else I seem to be hearing this compelling still small voice telling me that I have a job of forgiveness to do in all of this along with everything else that is going on. "God" I say, "You want too much." And my attention is directed gently to the cross. Oh. So that's what God's doing now.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Back in the darkest days of my life when I used to doubt that there was a God, I would turn to things of beauty... to the sheer wonders of the color and majesty of creation, to art and to music. All those things that are not necessary to life but add so much to it's enjoyment. I would think, "With all this rampant unnecessary beauty, there must be a loving creator behind all this somehow. " Every now and then when I hear a symphony or see a painting or a sunset I am reminded of that, and called back to remembering just how flagrantly we are loved by God. Listening to the Chamber Symphony tonight did that for me. Right now, as always, God is creating beauty....just for the sheer joy of it.
1. Does your job ever call for travel?Is this a joy or a burden? My former day job used to take me around the country (and once even out of it) to do training events. That felt like "real" business travel. Now for both my current day job and my clergy life I get in the car and traipse around the state to one or two day conferences. I guess that is travel. Sort of. And both kinds, like all things have their joys and burdens. I like the doing of it, the being there....but the getting ready and the going, not so much usually.
2. How about that of your spouse or partner? NA
3. What was the best business trip you ever took? Well that would have to be the training I did back in the early nineties down in Grand Cayman. Yep. Poor me. Got sent down there to do three nights of community drug education workshops. My days were free to sightsee, beachcomb, whatever, and all I had to do was stand and deliver for two hours, three nights. A hard job but someone had to do it.
4. ...and the worst, of course? That would have to have been in DFW...sorry my lovely Texas friends....no reflection on all y'all! It was just one of those things. Training workshop where everything that could go wrong did. The local trainer failed to appear and I had to punt for four hours in an area that I really knew nothing about. The trainees were mad...they blamed me for stuff that was out of my control. I refused to roll over and play dead. They disliked me and the feeling, I daresay was rather mutual by the end of the two days. I could not get on the plane fast enough. I have also had a lovely time in Texas training the Air Force!
5. What would make your next business trip perfect? My next business trip is Diocesan Convention. I am sharing a room with two other women. I am sleeping on an airbed. Let's see....maybe having someone bring me coffee would be nice?
Thursday, October 09, 2008
In her comment on my post this morning Magdelene said I was sounding very “Advent-y.” I had to smile at that, because not all that long ago I had found myself wishing out loud on a post somewhere for “another liturgical season.” Again I have to say to myself, “be careful what you ask for…” This does feel “a little Advent-y” but also “a little Lent-y” in that I find I’m feeling a little penitential. Perhaps not so much deservedly but in ways that things get triggered when shoes are falling and I am left waiting for things to happen that are not in my control. When I know my truth in a situation, but also know that my own truth may not be enough to ultimately save me from pelting shoes.
I was reading an interview with Rabbi Phil Miller this morning about the Jewish High Holy Days on Explore Faith. These days include the Days of Repentance, which are the ten days between Rosh Hashanah which was September 30, and Yom Kippur, which is today.
The interviewer asked Rabbi Miller why the High Holy days are so important to the Jewish people and he explained that “it’s because they give individuals and a community an important opportunity for three essential human processes: cheshbon hanefesh—literally taking stock of one’s soul; tshuvah—usually translated as repentance but simply translated as returning to one’s self; and finally, tikkun—or repair.”
This struck me as particularly interesting timing. Taking stock of one’s soul is always a good thing…like taking stock of the pantry. I don’t know if you are anything like me, but I have this habit of “picking up a few cans” of this and that when I go shopping. Those things I think I might have need of sometime….tuna, green beans, tomato soup. I come home and stash them away, not really paying much attention, until the next thing I know….I have ten cans of the stuff. More really than one person could use. But on the other hand, there is no bread. Because I wasn’t paying attention there either this week. So taking stock of the soul. What am I short on? Spiritual disciplines? Contemplative prayer time? My yoga practice? Still on the list of things I mean to get to, alas. What is there a surfeit of? Guilt and shame and critical voices about things that are not mine to claim? Triggered of late by circumstance. I can say a resounding yes to that! So there are things I can let go of, and things I need to find and claim, storing up for the possibility of hard days ahead.
The second part….returning to myself…or Self…I’d like to think that has a lot to do with what God is doing right now…helping me to find that which was lost as well as go deeper into authenticity despite fear. The kind of repentance that does not come with all the baggage of language foisted upon it that makes it a burden and not a blessing.
And I’m hoping and believing that I can see God doing God’s work with and in me in that third part. Helping do the repair, the soulwork, literally of bringing me back home to rest under that wing again, to help me remember who and Whose I am. So perhaps there is a liturgical season here. One I can borrow from the ancestors for a little time apart of reflection, returning and repairing.
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
There is a Taize song I have always liked, Wait on the Lord.
Wait on the Lord, whose day is near
Wait on the Lord,
I am in a time of waiting. It is hard to wait. My time at least is short....less than a week before the falling shoes will resolve themselves in some sort of pile or another. I think of those who wait for longer times. Like L who waits for his release date next month. Or some of my clients who are waiting for family and friends who are still deployed to come home. Dag Hammerskjold says "It matters that we wait, and that we wait in human relationship." He nailed that one. At least the relationship part. I continue to be so gifted on that front. And so I can be stong and take heart.
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Through each and every kind word and comment, every hug and assurance of prayer and support I am being held and carried. That is what God is doing right now. I do see it and I am grateful. To God and all of you.
Monday, October 06, 2008
There has been something hanging for a while now in my life, the details of which I cannot blog. It's a waiting for the shoe to fall kind of thing, and it's now falling. I want to say very clearly that I know that God is not doing this to me. This is not a "test" of my faith. But all the same, my faith is being pulled to its limits. This is the place where the rubber meets the road....do I believe in all of these things that I preach...yes, to others but mostly to myself...."Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life...Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." Can I trust that no matter what happens, all will be well somehow? Do I really know that I am called to this place for this time to do this work, all of it, and that God will help me deal with this hard thing that is part of it? Can I claim myself in darkness as well as light and know that this too is what God is doing?
Sunday, October 05, 2008
We had twenty-seven people for worship today. For us that is a veritable bursting at the seams full-house. The choir resumed for the season and all four of us did an admirable job with the communion anthem. Our celebrant did an awesome job of weaving all three of the Scripture readings into a cogent sermon. We had our oldest member present who recently had angioplasty and is doing well, and we had our two youngest whose mom has agreed that they are ready to start Sunday school, something we have not had for several years for lack of the requisite participants. God? Doing quite a bit for one mere hour.
At our ministry team meeting after church we decided we are ready to start adding an "intercessory prayer station" very soon where people can go for a personal prayer while others are receiving communion. A person on our team was very honest about some things that she has been wanting to say. They were heard and she felt better. God? Another good ninety minutes.
Maggie and I went and joined our friends over at the Catholic church for a blessing of the animals after the meeting. There were probably about thirty dogs of all colors, shapes and sizes...and one cat... all gathered in the priests' garage due to the inclement weather. And they all behaved admirably while Father P led a lovely service of readings and prayers. At one point we were saying a responsorial litany, and at each point where we were to respond...my dear doggie gave a polite little "woof." She was then liberally asperged with the holy water...and dutifully shook it off! That's my girl! And we don't even have to ask about where God was in this one do we?
One of the challenges of the rest of day was a fruitless search for my BE bracelet. I realized this morning it was gone and I think it went missing after a session in the fitting room at Goodwill last night. I went back there today to ask about it but no-one has found it. I've been literally wearing it every day since I got it on the cruise. My wrist feels kind of naked and my heart feels kind of heavy. I told the nice ladies that it had great sentimental value to me and that I would check in again in a couple days. What I know about objects is that when the thing is no longer with you, all it represents remains. I also know that I can still miss things that mean a lot to me and grieve their loss. So the chick still might be needing a little extra wing time. Good thing it's always right there. Because that is what God is doing right now, too.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
I have been a therapist for a fair amount of time now. I understand pretty well what makes people tick, how systems work, all that good stuff. But in the past I have noted with some amusement (I may as well be amused!) a rather strange thing about all this accumulated wisdom and knowledge when it comes to my dealings with my church folks. It seems to flee my head and leave me feeling like a rank amateur in dealing with all the interpersonal kerfuffles that arise in the course of church life. There are of course some reasons this happens. Stress, performance anxiety, all the usual suspects. And there was one big one that has blessedly gone away. Since that wonderful night when the introjected critical voice of G, the person who spiritually abused me, was finally silenced for what really does seem to be the last time, I have been able to function a whole lot better in these kind of tense moments. I can deal with this person in this moment without being hurled back into being fifteen again. Staying in the present and dealing only with this one thing surely makes things a lot simpler!
I had that tough conversation. On the one hand, it left me sad about some things. And it makes me wonder... Does God feel this sadness when we are less than our best, when we miss with each other? Does God regret our free will when we abuse it? On the other hand, it was a kind of measure for me of some pretty significant changes in the way I am doing things. And I found myself thinking about God in that, too. Is God celebrating these changes with me? I believe so. I know that on the night that my young self stood and walked from those school stairs and left her abuser behind, she did not walk alone. And I know the one who walked with her walked in joy. It's that wing again. I was under that wing today in that whole conversation. And I was acutely aware of it. It kept me safe and it kept me focused on doing this with integrity and honesty, to try to hold boundaries but also bring peace. Watching God watching me....it's a good thing.
Friday, October 03, 2008
It's like when the parade is coming. Standing on tip-toe, stretching up tall. Anticipation at a visceral level. The chick is looking for God. But God is not off down the street today beating the drums and playing the trumpets. Perhaps it is the compassion fatigue that sometimes creeps in on Fridays. Or one too many nights this week of not quite enough sleep. But the draw today is down and in. To focus the attention and the seeking not on what God is doing and where God is appearing in the big bright world, but rather where and how God is doing God's doings in the small dark spaces within me.
I am struggling tonight with anger and sadness. Someone I admired has turned out to be thoroughly human. Feet of total clay. I have gotten caught in a situation not of my own making and now in I must make a decision that is true to what I believe is the movement of the Spirit in the situation, and, that once named is likely to be misinterpreted, misunderstood and get me alienated from this person I like a lot, still admire and feel hurt and betrayed by. And so I ask myself, just what is God doing right now in this mess?
I'm thinking now might be a good time to think about the rest of this Matthew passage...." and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes." I seem to keep finding myself in these situations where I get to decide if I mean what I say when I talk about trusting God, trusting in God's love and care, God's thereness for me. Not the happy endings, feel no pain Santa Claus thing. But not the reverse "God never gives you more than you can handle" stuff either. Or the God's Testing crud which is even worse. God doesn't. That's the point. Give it or not. It. Just. Is. Whatever "it" is at any given time. Right now it just happens to be this messy interpersonal thing. God didn't arrange this so I can learn from it, or make my friend behave as she is for some object lesson for my life. Or hers either I daresay. But here we are. And God will help me deal...I know and trust that. It has been my experience. Even though I can't tell you how it works, I know that it does. So what is God doing here? God is doing what God always does. Loving me, being faithful. Being my wing. The place to run back to when the world is too big and cold and scary. And God as Jesus has done another thing....given me some good thoughts and examples on some ways to be here that might give me peace, help me feel whole, loving and loved, no matter how the thing turns out.
1. Saint Francis experienced a life changing call, has anything in your journey so far challenged you to alter your lifestyle? Six years ago when I moved across the state to do what seemed a necessary and practical thing in terms of job and finances, it also turned out to be a life-changing call to ministry and a while new life. More recently I have been hearing a still small voice urging me toward more simplicity. Toward paring down and gearing up towards...something...don't know what, but I have a hunch it's going to require that I travel a little lighter than I am right now. So I'm heeding that and starting slowly to simplify, get rid of and get ready.
2. Francis experienced mocking and persecution, quite often in the comfortable west this is far from our experience. If you have experienced something like this how do you deal with it, if not how does it challenge you to pray for those whose experience is daily persecution? When I was a kid I was teased and bullied a lot. It made me fearful and contributed to a lot of the critical inner voices I spent a long time eradicating. I think this is why I am so opposed to violence and persecution in all forms and hopefully am more sensitive and compassionate towards those who have similar experiences,
3 .St Francis had female counterpart in St Clare, she was influenced by St Francis sermon and went on to found the Poor Clare's, like the Franciscans they depended on alms this was unheard of for women in that time, but she persisted and gained permission to found the order. How important are role models like St Clare to you? Do you have a particular female role model whose courage and dedication inspires you? If so share their story....I love Clare. The Movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon was a real touchstone for me at a very hard time in my life. There have always been strong spiritual women in my life who have served as role models at various points along the way. The nuns who were my teachers, the first women to be ordained in the Episcopal church. And of course the women of my daily life!
4. Francis loved nature and animals, how important is an expressed love of the created world to the Christian message today? It had better get ever more important or there will not be one to love.
5. On a lighter note; have you ever led a service of blessing for animals, or a pet service, was it a success, did you enjoy it, and would you do it again? I haven't, would love to, and hope to do that one day. For this year, Maggie is going to go over and get blessed by the Catholics on Sunday afternoon in the parking lot across the street.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now." Matthew 6:34a The Message
God is of course where God always is. As am I. The difference is that I am paying attention to the fact that there is an intersection here. And here. And here, too. Today I saw God:
- In the gathering of local clergy from various denominations to share concerns about our community, pray together and support our common work at our monthly ministerial gathering.
- In the heartfelt thank you from my boss for helping her with a project.
- In the chubby pink cheeks and sweet smile of the nine-month old daughter of my client
- In the laughter of my group members and the support they offered one another as they shared the ups and downs of the week
- In the surprising wisdom that I heard falling out of my own mouth at just the right time
- In the delay of a conversation I am not looking forward to, and don't feel I am quite ready to have.
- In the opportunity to dance with the Spirit in Tai Chi.
I'm still feeling on alert, like I don't want to miss anything at this wonderful party. On we go....
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
My first day of intentional attention has been interesting. I have felt like a spy, looking carefully for evidence of God's presence in the events of the day. One of the sightings came early with my first client of the day. He is a wonderful Nam vet who is discerning vocation in peace and social justice work and delights in telling me about all the quirky ways in which things "just happen" in his life to let him know he is headed in the right direction. Easy to see what God is doing there!
After he left there was a minute to check e-mails and remember back to last night's gathering with my Soul Sisters' Bible Study. We met at Sister C's farm last night. She is the owner of a grove that has to be the thinnest place I have been in a long time. God was in the light, in the ancient stones, in the wind, and the silence And God was in the love and laughter between us as later we shared a meal around a campfire then blessed C's new greenhouse. What God was doing right then was rejoicing right along with us, I think.
I felt a kind of tension in myself today. An alertness, a watching. Almost a sense of expectation as if I thought something different was going to happen. Silly in a way. My head knows that this is only an attentional shift. I am always here and so is God. And yet I do know the transformational power of attention. So it begins.