Tuesday, June 30, 2009

That Balance Thing

I'm starting to feel like a blogger slug. I write posts in my head, or at least I begin them. But for one reason or another, they never make it here. One of the reasons is time. There is, it seems, never enough for all the things of life. And the strange thing is, I am doing so much less than I used to! When I think back to those Energizer Bunny days when I taught at the college, overfunctioned wildly as a priest, and seemed to think I needed to put in an extra ten or so hours a week here at the day job, I am not sure how I did it or what I was operating on. Fumes would be a good guess. By comparison these days it seems I am doing very little. I come to work at six-thirty or seven and am usually out the door at five. Most days I do not work through lunch. My sermon writing is done in the early mornings or in the spaces afforded me in my days, not in long Saturday marathons. Sometimes there are community or church commitements, but for the most part, evenings are spent in some sort of personal pursuit, either the necessary activites of keeping body and soul together, a house running, my pets content or, better still, doing something good and wonderfully restorative....with R, with my Soul Sisters or other friends, or even alone.

But in the midst of this, blogging, and writing in general have slid a bit. I don't mean to ignore my virtual friends. This balance thing is challenging and I have never seemed t0 be able to get the hang of quite how to do it. House, yard, church , pets, shopping, tending, people, writing, meeting, working, doing, being, seeing.....*sigh*

When I was a kid I fell off the teeter totter in the park and whacked my head. I didn't have a whole lot better luck with the horse. Yep. Balance. It has always been a challenge.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Five: Life is a Verb

Jan says" Jennifer recommended this book, which I got because I always value Jennifer's reading suggestions. The author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh worked her book around these topics concerning life as a verb:
Say yes.
Be generous.
Speak up.
Love more.
Trust yourself.
Slow down. As I read and pondered about living more intentionally, I also have wondered what this Friday Five should be. This book has been the jumping off point for this Friday."

I loved the title of this Friday Five! Just last week "cake" became a verb in my life as I was caked several times over on my birthday in a way that did have great intentionality and gave me foo for thought as well as great enjoyment on many levels. So this seems very timely.....

1. What awakens you to the present moment? I think I'd have to say remembering to choose to be awake. Sometimes this happens spontaneously, and sometimes requires the help of the little reminders I keep around me of the times when I was awake. When my spiritual disciplines are going well it is more effortless and tends to be more flowing and natural and there are fewer times when I have to "ping" myself gently and say, "Kate, it's life, wake up, you are missing it!"

2. What are 5 things you see out your window right now? I am cheating a little and including the things I see in my window because I am at work and have a lovely view of a parking lot....IN the window are two plants and several rocks and crystals that come from various places I have been when I was....yes...awake! Also there are a star that says "hope" and a tiny metal plaque that is inscribed "Love with an open heart" that was an ordination gift. A cross with prisms that make rainbows on my wall in the afternoon sun hangs from the blinds.

3. Which verbs describe your experience of God? Personal, energetic, loving, endless, faithful, knowable and not knowable, deeper and deeper still, quirky

4. From the book on p. 197:Who were you when you were 13? Where did that kid go? A shy, smart dreamer, a budding theologian, a poet, a musician, an artist. A young girl trying to find her way. Unfortunately she got lost doing so and wandered for many years after having met with some unfortunate detours and difficult circumstances that stifled and silenced her....for a time. The good news is that she has found her self and her voice and claimed her creativity and she is found and being nurtured into full expression.

5. From the book on p. 88:If your work were the answer to a question, what would the question be? What is the thing that you never knew you wanted, sought for a long a time, finally found and would do even if no one paid you. (This is true of both of my "jobs" as therapist and priest).

Bonus idea for you here or on your own--from the book on p. 149:"Go outside. Walk slowly forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. It might be an idea, it might be an object. Name it. Set it aside. Walk forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. Name it. Set it aside. Repeat. . . ." I think I'll save this one....based on my car, all that seems to fall from the sky with any regularity here comes from the bottoms of birdies. 'Nuf said.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Time Travelin'

We took a little trip in the time machine this weekend. Well actually we took a trip in the Mini Cooper, but the roads we travelled led down to my hometown for a bit of nostalgia and a peek into the places of my past. It's been decades since I left, and geographically a lot has changed there. New businesses and freeways, the riverfront has been dramatically changed with the addition of a convention center, riverboat casino and Riverwalk on top of the flood wall. It's very definitely a city focused on the tourist trade, and yet.....it is not a cheerful place. The natives may not be restless, but neither do they appear to be happy for the most part. Many of the everyday walking around folks have frowns, that judging from the creases, seem to be a permanent part of their facial landscapes. The folks who provide services are often crabby and seem to feel put upon by the need to be gracious to the traveler. The "Thank you for coming," and "Have a nice day" are often barked or growled, and we were pretty sure that was not what they were really thinking. I was reprimanded twice in a mere two days there for "infractions" of rules. R asked me if I remembered the town in this way. It's hard to know, as growing up I was steeped in whatever mood the place had, and it's hard to recall it objectively. But as I think back, maybe there was a general unhappiness, a dourness of mood. Maybe this is part of what I left to escape. I knew there was something I could never put my finger on. When I was growing up there, it was an industrial town. Some people made good livings from the union wages paid by the two big companies. Many others just eked by. It seems much more prosperous now, overall. But apparently it is not a whole lot happier place. I used to say that you could toss a kleenex on the street and come back three years later and it would still be there, because in this place time stood still. While this is no longer true in some ways, perhaps it in others it remains so.

We had a good time, none the less. We did all the required touristy things. We took the riverboat sightseeing tour and rode the funicular cable car that goes up and down the bluff. We walked in the lovely bluff top park that was my home away from home for much of my adolescence and early adulthood. We "did" the Riverwalk and saw all the places that were parts of my early life....the house, the church, the schools that knew me when. We ate, we shopped, we bought candy at the local candy shop. It was a good trip, and I'm glad we went for lots of reasons. Traveling together, we learned more about each other, and I have another interesting piece to put into the puzzle of the things that shaped and formed me. It was good to go, but it was also very good to come home again.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Best Birthday-In Which Cake is a Verb

At this point in life I really had stopped caring very much about birthdays. I mean, really, it's just getting older, right? And for the past several years there hadn't been much to them, and that was just fine. Because who cares, really? It's just another day, another year. And cake? Who needs cake? That's the best defense to use when you know that the only cake you'll have is the one you buy yourself, which was the only way I knew to have a cake, or a birthday. Until now.

Because apparently the times they have changed, and I have entered a new realm in which birthdays, no matter what number is attached to them, are an important event to be noted, acknowledged and celebrated. And, most importantly, they are to be CAKED! I think I may have mentioned before that I have fallen in love with a man who cooks. Well he also bakes a mean cake. For the birthday, we had cheesecake. Cheesecakes plural in fact. One for the Y church folk on Sunday and one for me to take to work and share with the day job peeps on Monday. Lovely cheesecake. Just right, light, cheesy, just sweet enough. Two toppings....blackberries for those who absolutely felt they had to con themselves into thinking this was health food and caramel pecan for the rest of us. And today the soul sisters are having a little chocolate number with white frosting adorned with coconut. Three of the four of us have birthdays in a two week span....so R says not to cake this would just be wrong.

There was also a wonderful present. I got a Gerber Multi-tool from R to carry in my little black purse. It will, I am convinced make me pretty near invincible. So far I have used it to take the tea lights out of the holders after worship at Y church, tighten someones eyeglass frames, open beer, and have showed it off to a few (I am sure) envious people. I bought myself a new bike. I have yet to ride as the weather has been yucky, but I think I understand the workings of the 21 gears thanks to the patience of my sweet guy.

There were cards by both virtual and snail mail and greetings on Facebook (how cool!). There was a singing message on my phone and the wonderful handmade card from my seven-year old friend left on my door. There was dinner out at the Mexican restaurant where we had our first date (his surprise) and the movie UP.

It was, in short, just about the best birthday ever. I felt loved and cherished, important and cared for. If all birthdays are like this, they might make it worth getting older!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Sermon for Sunday June 1, 2009

John 3:1-17

Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, came to Jesus in the dark. He came seeking something this baffling and often infuriating rabbi. He had some questions for him. We are not sure why he came in the dark. Caution? Fear? We are not sure for that matter, why he came at all. To entrap Jesus? Or because he truly wished to learn from him? Whatever it was, it seems that before the end of the story he got a bit more than he bargained for. Jesus says to him that in order to see the kingdom of God one must undergo some sort of rebirth. The word Jesus uses is to be born "anothen"—a Greek word that can mean either born "from above" or "anew."

Nicodemus is confused by this notion, assuming that Jesus has in mind a physical birth. Or perhaps he was doing what we all do sometimes when we don’t really want to hear what we suspect we are being told. You know, something we don’t want to face, it’s too much truth so we get sort of caught up in the minutia so as not to have to hear the message? Because remember Nicodemus was a law abiding fellow—righteous and educated. He knew the rules and the laws and he followed them, and probably felt pretty secure about the place that his religious observances secured for him. He had likely heard about the baptism of water and about repentance and living within the law. But the message here is that being in the kingdom of God is about more than just being law abiding and in control and following the rules. In His discussion with Nicodemus, Jesus reveals much about being "born anew."

Jesus tells Nicodemus that the nature of this new birth involves both water and the Spirit. I love the imagery that John uses in this whole passage. Think about birth itself, a process that we are not in charge of where we are thrust pretty unprepared into a new and foreign and probably pretty scary environment. You know if you think about it, there is probably a reason most of us don’t remember being born!

And then there’s water. It can be cool, cleansing and refreshing, but it can also be powerful and overwhelming. We have only to think of things like floods and tsunamis to visualize the power of water unleashed and remember that it is something that we are not in charge of and do not control.

And Spirit, the image we often are given is the wind, it blows where it will. And out here we know about wind, don’t we….that it can generate power but it can also send your trash cans sailing down to your neighbor’s house in a heartbeat. We can’t see the wind, but we can see its effects. And it is surely another of those things that is not ours to control.

See the theme here? Perhaps what Jesus was trying to tell Nicodemus that what was important was not a certainty based on understanding and following the law, but about letting go of control and letting God have at us, trusting in God’s love for us—this God who “so loved the world that he gave His son so that we might not perish but have eternal life.”

We like the feeling being in control. We, like Nicodemus, like to know what the expectations and parameters are. It gives us a sense of safety and security. It keeps us away from that dark edge of the abyss that sometimes lurks there, reminding us that though we may like to think so, we are not in charge! We like to have some ironclad standards by which we can decide what is ok and what is not. We like to know when we have done enough. We like to feel that we understand that rules so we can measure and judge—ourselves, others, our lives, our accomplishments. We like to line things up in neat rank order so we can say “This (or we) are ok and acceptable, this is not.”

But the Gospel story today tells us, “forget that notion,” It is not about that in God’s kingdom. It is about surrendering, about giving up the idea that by just arriving on the planet and doing all the right things in all the right order we can make it all come out ok. No, Jesus says—we must begin anew, be reborn, from a place that is more than us, greater than us, we must allow ourselves to be washed by that water, which not only washes away the stuff we don’t want but sometimes also the stuff we do, and be pushed by the wind of an unruly spirit that we don’t direct or control and may take us places we don’t feel quite comfortable going. He asks that we surrender to the cleansing and blowing and let ourselves be birthed and changed, transformed and converted. This does not sound like a tidy, predictable sort of process, does it? It sounds more like something that requires something rather radical in us in the way of trust in God.

It requires in us that we allow for the possibility of real change, giving up security and that old illusion of control, really letting ourselves be converted, surrendering and being willing to let ourselves be taken into new and sometimes scary places. It’s about accepting that we don’t have all the answers and we are not always as smart as we’d like to think we are.

It asks that we remember that we are charged as Christians with the bringing about of God’s kingdom on earth. And if we think about it, Jesus, our role model, did not behave in safe and predictable ways, but practiced radical hospitality with the poor and the outcasts, challenged the status quo and spoke the truth against injustice, even when it was dangerous to do so.

Being born anew means testing our limits, ourselves, and sometimes our faith. It means not simply throwing out the rules, but being willing to go beyond them if that is where the spirit pushes us to go. It means we never really get to be in that comfortable place that says, “Ok, I’m done now, all safe and secure, I know what is expected and I’ll just do that and be saved.”

Ultimately it really is about surrender…. For each of us there is something….. Something that needs to be washed or blown from us be born anew? It is something different for each of us…
Some of us have to give up knowing for certain, of figuring it out, of believing that our brains and logic can save us.
Some of us have to give up our ironclad belief in “my way” or “one way” to entertain the notion that God really is bigger than our minds can grasp,
Some of us have to let go of doubt that God is working in our lives and
Some of us have to let go of our certainty that we understand what it is God wants of us.
Some of us have to give up the quest to be perfect and just let God do God’s work in us,
Some of us have to give up our woundedness and allow ourselves to believe that healing is possible.
Some of us need to give up our discoursing and some of us need to lose our silence.

We are, each of us beloved of God, baptized in water and the Spirit. May God move in us, and help us to know what it is to be fully born anew, fully alive in God’s love. Amen.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday Five: Moving and Changing

Sally says: "The theme of change is dominating my thinking at the moment, this morning my husband Tim has headed off for an interview in Sheffield. The West Sheffield Methodist Circuit are looking for an Evangelism/ Mission Enabler, in may ways this would be Tim's ideal job, but we wait on God... ( if you can spare a prayer today we'd be grateful)...Sheffield is a commutable distance from my new post as Minister in Sherburn-in Elmet and some of the surrounding villages, before Tim gets home I will have left to join the Leadership team there for an away day on Saturday, I'll be staying the night with the current Minister in Sherburn to talk over some of the practicalities of the post.ALL IS CHANGE.... and although I am looking forward to it, it is not without a sense of trepidation, as change always brings challenges.Changing location also means packing, so next month will be a month of clearing and sorting, deciding what comes and what gets left behind...So with change in mind I offer you this Friday five; ( if you've never moved here's a chance to use your imagination)"

This comes at an interesting time. While there are no moves in the immediate future moving has been on my mind. Things have been moving out as XDO and I finally get the last of our things sorted. And this has triggered a cleaning and purging binge as I have this urge to see bare space everywhere. R will be moving in (though not for a year or so), but we are thinking ahead to space use. And in long-range planning, he and I are planning a Big Move to points South, so that, too, figures into the urge to purge.

1. A big move is looming, name one thing that you could not possibly part with, it must be packed ? I think this time I really do have to take the piano. It is piano number four. Every time I move I leave them behind because it "the practical thing to do" and "I really don't play all that much." But then I grieve and have to get another one. So I may as well move the durn thing!

2. Name one thing that you would gladly leave behind...Bad memories and the dirt I can't seem to get out of the corners in this old house.

3. How do you prepare for a move a. practically?b. spiritually/ emotionally? I learned a lot from the last move (which was my first "real" adult one from one geographical location to another) that will stand me in good stead for the next. Practically--the word is PURGE! And that has already begun even though R and I are not planning to go anywhere for at least five years or so. I am never again moving a bunch of crap I don't want or need. In fact I don't even want to live NOW with a bunch of that stuff. I think it has implications for b. as well. I feel possessed by my possessions when they begin to encroach. And it had reached that point. Before I moved from my house in the Big City, I spent more to get rid of the stuff I was not moving than I did to move the stuff I brought here. Between the dumpster and the appliance movers and the hazardous waste fees...argh! Never again! So it goes now and stays gone, and when it's time to move, I hope the the only things I have to pack will be the things that are important and useful.

4. What is the first thing you look for in a new place? Before I ever moved here I had "requirements." Must haves 1) Episcopal church, 2) yoga teacher or classes and, 3) at least some kind of lake or river within reasonable commute. The rest is negotiable. For our next place the list is pretty much the same only we have expanded the water to an ocean and added "no snow--ever again!

5. Do you settle in easily, or does it take time for you to find your feet in a new location? I am thinking back to when I arrived here in small town on the prairie, now coming up on seven years ago. It was the second big move in my life, the first undertaken when I was too young to understand the implications of such things. This one was done with consciousness and a desire to develop community, so I was very deliberate about my "settling" process, seeking out opportunities to meet people whom I thought might become friends. I joined the church (of course!), a book club, tried out for the community theatre, joined a women's chorus. Some of the activities worked out over time and some did not, but I gained some of my dearest and closest friends and did feel that this place became home for me as I "settled in" rather well.

The bonus for today; a new opportunity has come up for you to spend 5 years in a new area, where would you go and why? NOLA....no doubt. Ever since Katrina I have felt pulled there and an actual sort of sense of call to go there and try to be useful in some way. Unfortunately life just hasn't allowed for that up until this point. When we went on the BE and I had a day to wander, that sense of interest and desire intensified. Now as we are beginning to think about destinations for our honeymoon, it's definitely on the list, and maybe as a "relocation" possibility in the five year plan.

Monday, June 01, 2009

This 'n That on Monday

I am apparently not as young as I'd like to think. This is the message my body had for me this morning as my feet hit the floor. "Ouch" said my back and my quads and my hammies. "Oooh" said my triceps and forearms. The bottoms of my feet and my hands chimed in, as did my knees and neck. This all resulted from the heavy duty hauling and schlepping that constituted most of my weekend. XDO and I have finally gotten around to another movement of our little symphony, that being the division of the last of the stuff.

My house, though it is in town, is graced with "outbuildings." I have two garages and a wee little pumphouse. Somehow in our six years here, we have managed to fill them, plus the four rooms of our basement, with an incredible amount of junk. A lot of it came with us from the Big City. In fact we moved an entire rental truck full of just yard and garden down here....including rocks, dirt and landscape lumber, in addition to the usual tools, hoses and such. We also have more flower pots and garden fol-de-rol than any two people could ever use in a lifetime. The basement is graced with crap and crud related to toolage and painting and pets and projects that will never be completed. Much of this, too moved here with us. Since XDO moved to an apartment, all such remained behind and pretty much was not dealt with last year. But I am now a woman on a mission and I want my three outbuildings and my basement CLEANED! So it has begun. Into the piles we go..XDO, burn pile, Habitat's Re-Use Store, Goodwill, the dump, the city's hazardous waste collection site....and once in a great while, a "keeper." I am ruthless in this. If it does not have almost immediate use or great value-GONE! The back garage and pump house are sorted as are two rooms of basement. Some of it actually got moved to XDO's. Other piles await their final destinations. Some, alas is still at the bottom of those awful basement stairs! There are still two rooms of basement to be done. One that, thanks be, is small and almost empty. The other, *sigh* is full of tools and other accumulated detritus that has the potential for a bit of wrangling. I must remember it is only stuff. Stuff I paid for, stuff I feel ownership of and want to say "mine, mine, mine" about, but stuff none-the-less. And it ain't worth fighting over.

We were, for the most part civil with each other. I worked very hard to let my spirit be one of lovingkindness. I asked for prayers. I feel sad and weary today. My muscles are not the only things that hurt. I listened with my heart to the comments on my "String" post. You are wise my blog sisters, and echo what I hear from others. Yes, loving XDO is a hard thing. It involves letting things go and letting things pass. It means allowing for and not reacting to. It also means that I say no to some things and yes to others (and we aren't talking about hoses and hoes, here). It means I have to watch and listen and discern. It means I have to walk carefully amidst the shards of this broken thing we share.

This part will be done soon. There will be other parts. Lives wound together as long and complex as ours were do not come apart easily. I slid for awhile. Now I get to do some work on this again. Deconstruction. If you do it well, sometimes you can make good use of the bits and parts that come out of it. It's not all trash in the end and you end up with more than simply sore muscles and a burn pile.