Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dancing with Light and Shadows

I am once again at the retreat center overlooking the lake….it is the last morning of Fall Clergy Conference. Whether this gets posted now or later will be up to the will of the mighty WIFI that controls our lives in this place. It is capricious here, and comes and goes seemingly with little rhyme or reason. But , given that it is a retreat center…perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.
Clergy conference this year has been of the retreat nature. This morning we will conclude with Eucharist and a little business, have lunch and go home. This is our last CC with our current Bishop and will be our final liturgy with him as assembled clergy, and will I am sure, be bittersweet.
Our leader this year is a clinical social worker and priest who works as a clergy coach. That is not, however, what he says he does. He says he plays. That was one of the loveliest things about this time. It was playful, while also being, at least for me full of wonderful reminders, little “aha” moments, and a few tears. Will started out with us “in the garden,” asking us to go to a place we could remember feeling easy and playful and to just stay there for a while, holding on to the feeling, the essence of that. We shared words that captured that feeling. We got to stay in the garden for a while, but eventually we moved to the wilderness. Will reminded us that after Jesus was assured that he was beloved that was where he went and that this is often where we are. He talked about the shadows we find there and named five ( based on work by Parker Palmer). In small groups we named the shadow that speaks to us most, the one that seems to be our most constant companion…at least right now. The rest of our group listened and heard us. They shared theirs too. Then in the large group we each stood and simply said our name and claimed our shadow. “I’m Kate and I am a functional atheist.” (The belief that I am in charge of the universe, that I have to take care of everything, that I have to do it all). There were a lot of us in that crowd. We could start FAA! Claiming your shadow is powerful. Liberating and lightening. This one was no surprise to me. It’s actually one I have been friends with for a while and have been releasing for some time. I called it overfunctioning. Calling it functional atheism made me sit up and take notice. GOD is in there….or rather isn’t. Uh-oh. It took me back to what the Presiding Bishop said in her talk with us last Spring when she was asked about staying so cool under the pressures of leadership. She said she remembers that its God’s church and then she goes to bed.
Next Will reminded us that Jesus was not in the wilderness alone. That angels were there “tending” to him. He reminded us that we too are tended, and asked us to call to mind those who tend us on this side of the grave and beyond. Once again we shared those people in groups with our peers. Moms, dead and alive were on lots of angel lists. So were spouses and partners. Mine was. I told them that R was definitely an angel and “tender” for me….and that furthermore I understood the love of God better since he has been in my life.
Last night’s session took us out of the wilderness and into the world….but by a rather strange route…via the boat….yes that would be the one we need to step out of onto water as Jesus says “come.” It’s about trusting that the hand held out in love is there and the relationship is solid enough to hold us….and do we really trust it. Will read us this poem by Michael Whyte. It felt like a very private altar call.

The True Love
There's a faith in loving fiercely the one who is rightfully yours
especially if you have waited years and especially if part of you never
believed you could deserve this loved and beckoning hand held
out to you this way.

I am thinking of faith now and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are worthy of in this world.
Years ago in the Hebrides I remember an old man
who would walk every morning on the gray stones
to the shore of baying seals, who would press his
hat to his chest in the blustering salt wind and say his
prayer to the turbulent Jesus hidden in the waters.

And I think of the story of the storm and the people
waking and seeing the distant, yet familiar figure,
far across the water calling to them.
And how we are all preparing for that abrupt waking
and that calling and that moment when we have to say yes!
Except it will not come so grandly, so biblically,
but more subtly, and intimately in the face
of the one you know you have to love.
So that when we finally step out of the boat
toward them we find, everything holds us,
and everything confirms our courage.

And if you wanted to drown, you could,
But you don't, because finally, after all
this struggle and all these years,
you don't want to anymore.You've simply had enough of drowning
and you want to live, and you want to love.
And you'll walk across any territory,
and any darkness, however fluid,
and however dangerous to take the one
hand and the one life, you know belongs in yours.

I needed this conference to be a retreat and I’m so glad it was. There is “stuff” in our Diocese. We are electing a Bishop in about six weeks. We have issues. Well, duh! Of course we do, we are church. And just why is that? Why is it all so contentious? It seems that everywhere I look lately congregations and denominations and diocese….they all have all this stuff they are wrangling about. Locally and elsewhere, so many of my pastor friends are in so much pain over things that are going on in their congregations. I think this just makes God weep….we are all God’s beloved. I keep imagining again the garden…the words we came up with….serene, playful, whole, gleeful, peaceful, unworried, well, childlike, unfettered, unselfconscious, creative, happy, laughing, flying, unlimited….and thinking, what if these were the words that described church? Wouldn’t this be the place you would really want to be? And yet, why is it not….the Lover who created us gave us the potential for this. And yet the shadow keeps winning. Not because it is so powerful, but because we refuse to acknowledge its presence. As long as we pretend it is not there it has all the power. But naming it disarms it. Allowing others to name the one they see lurking behind us that we cannot possibly see is more powerful still. But that takes trust and an even bigger step out of the boat.
Lots to reflect on, lots to pray about. Time to hit the “WIFI hot spot” now to see if this will post…then on to close the conference.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Five: Autumn Memories Edition

Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest. Jeremiah 5:23b

SingingOwl says: "The Autumnal Equinox has just come 'round again. I took a look back at our Friday Fives and noted that it always seems to make the Rev Gals and their Pals think of changes. There is something so nostalgic about this time of year, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. The nights grow cooler, crops are harvested, for some of us the leaves are beginning to change colors. The scent of smoke is in the air, pumpkins are in the stores (or on wagons, or in roadside stands for those of us in the country). I'm thinking of putting away my summer clothes and pulling out the sweaters. And I have a tub of Fall-themed items that my husband just lugged up from the basement. I'm looking for my scarecrow.For this week, let's share some memories along with some hopes and expectations."

1. Share a Fall memory. I always think about Fall as more the new year than New Year's. Maybe that is because I have spent more of my life going back to school than not...or at least it seems that way, and Fall always seems like new beginning time. I came out here to my new life on the prairie in Fall...where I fell in love with the amazing light. So it's not so much a single Fall memory but a montage of new beginnings from childhood shoes and new books to a brand new life that held more promise and adventure than I ever could have imagined.

2. Your favorite Fall clothes--(past or present)? I Love Hoodies! Especially if they are plush and soft and warm. I am always cold and having something that is just a little bigger than necessary that I can pull up and over and hunker down into on these chillier days makes me a happy camper!

3. Share a campfire story, song, experience...etc. When I was a kid I went to "day camp" at the local park. Our local girl scout troops would take over this huge beautiful bluff top place for a week each summer. Each "unit" would be assigned to a camp for the week. We would make "sit-upons" woven out of folded newspaper and then covered with an oilcloth bag. We'd do crafts, have campfires where we would make campfire stew, attempt to bake cakes and biscuits with more (or mostly less) success, learn songs and go on hikes. At the end of the week there would be an all camp program where each unit would perform something. One year we did an abbreviated version of the Hiawatha story. I got to be the narrator. and it was pretty cool. "By the shores of Gitchigoomee, by the roaring big sea waters...." or something to that effect.

4. What is your favorite thing about this time of year? The light, of course!

5. What changes are you anticipating in your life, your church, the season changes and winter approaches? I am hoping that R and I will have more time to spend together. Our schedules should mesh a little better for a variety of reasons and we are hoping to have a little more just "regular time" to hang out, work on house projects and just be together enjoying one another's company.

Bonus: What food says "AUTUMN" at your house? Recipes always appreciated. Soup, stew, apple crisp and pie. R and I picked some pears at a friend's house and have had two great and different pear pies. YUM! Sorry I don't have recipes...wrong computer.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Five: Where on the Stairs?

Thinking of your childhood as a stairway, when did you feel (and how did you feel then)
1. At the bottom? I think I felt "at the bottom" a lot as a kid. I was bullied a lot. I realize now that is what is was, although back then they called it teasing. But I was overweight and shy and felt a whole lot more comfortable around adults than I did other kids. This meant I sought out the nuns, which made the other kids think I was trying to be a "pet," or worse yet, ratting on them, further alienating me from my peers.

2. At the top? Getting out of grade school was a great improvement. I was determined that I was going to the all girls Catholic High School vs the coed one that most of the kids from my school went to, and over the vigorous objections of my dad because 1)we couldn't afford it, and 2) I was going to "take on airs" because it was more of an upper middle class school, and my pastor since the coed place was supported by the Diocese, I got myself a scholarship and WENT! All in all it was a great decision, and really quite an incredible thing for me to take my life into my own hands in this way at that point in my life. The world opened up for me in all sorts of wonderful ways. I learned about music and art and culture. I traveled with classes and on a junior year tour. I really believe that there's a chance if I had not chosen "the Viz" I might never have known I was smart, and may not have gone to college, as no one in my family had done this before.

3. Halfway? Where I got "stuck" due to the complications of the spiritual abuse that took place in my sophomore year. That was the downside of my high school experience. My strong need for approval and connection led me into a relationship with a nun who was getting her own needs met in some unhealthy ways with a group of "followers" she cultivated. I have written about her at various places in my blog, including my liberation from the introjected voice of her in my head last year. The interesting intersection is that in imagery and, in actual does take place on a stairway. Because she had such power over me, her words had the ability to do great harm. One day I was sitting on the stairs....halfway up a landing....and she said some incredibly awful things to me. Things I now know were her perp rap. Things designed to keep me powerless and caught in her grasp. But at the time I thought they were the Truth about me as only she could know it, and they devastated me. A part of me stopped there, at fifteen on those steps, stock still, shocked and stunned to silence. I only moved from there after lots of therapy and good soul work, and I'm not halfway anymore.

4. At this point in your life, where would you place yourself on your own stairway? Well, timeline wise, as I have said before, I still like to labor under the delusion that I am in midlife....apparently I am going to live into my hundred and somethings. And why not! Life in general-wise? I am standing at the top of one of those lovely and graceful stairs that have balconies. I am overlooking some great things that have been. But I am getting ready to go get dressed for the next thing....because it's gonna be great too!

5. Identify a place for you that "isn't really anywhere" but "somewhere else instead." The picture above is from a bluff in my hometown. It's not the one from the park I wanted, that's on the other computer....but it's "up" and that's the main thing. When I needed perspective, escape, Maria, I went to the hills, or my case, the river bluffs. And there I wrote, cried, pondered, contemplated. Living on the prairie I miss "up" and have to content myself with "out" instead and am grateful for the huge expanse of prairie sky and of course...the light.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Court Happened.....

It was short and it was not sweet. It was "only" the omnibus in "does anyone have anything else to add here, folks?" No one did, and he went back to his cell to sit for a few more weeks. Tick-tick. Well at least he saw his PD. He told him it's likely his sentence will be fourteen months. He advised him against taking the plea for twelve offered by the prosecutor. His rationale is that with the two months or so he already sat, he will get time served and that will make it twelve anyway. Gotta love that logic. Or maybe the judge will be lenient. According to M who was there that day, there is a chance that if we write and let the judge know that other than this, L has been doing okay as far as we know, has plans, won't forget again.....maybe she will give him a shorter sentence or even let him go with simply what he has already served. Hoping, writing and praying. I can do that.

Monday, September 07, 2009 Update and Prayer Request

I went to see L yesterday. He has been moved again up to the jail in the next town. the same one he was moved to on that Christmas Eve that I made the flying trip to visit him. This time I knew he was there. His girlfriend called and told me. She found out after she tried to call and talk to him and he wasn't there. So did M, after he tried to visit him here one day and found out he was gone. It's been harder for him to have company now that he's thirty miles up the road from us. In my more cynical moments I wonder if that was why he was selected for a move. He had been getting a fair amount of guests. M, myself, his community worker. Though not, according, to L, his public defender. His court date is tomorrow and the PD still has not talked to him. He is sad and discouraged and worried about the outcome. He's been hearing horror stories about "other guys" who went to prison for similar offenses and he's afraid that is his future too. He has one of his "bad feelings about this, RevKate." He cried the whole time we talked. He wants so badly to have another chance. He promises never again to forget to do anything that is expected of him. He says if he even thinks he might have forgotten something, he will go do it over again, "just in case."

His plan, if he is allowed to go free is to move down to the southern part of the state with D. He has finally realized that he would be better off with a little more distance from some family members. He told me some more stories yesterday about some things with family that made me really sad for him. He needs a fresh start. D seems to truly care for him and to have his best interest at heart, and I am hopeful that they could perhaps be good for each other. Tomorrow could be the beginning of that start. Or it could be the beginning of another stretch of jail time....
Please keep him in your prayers. Thanks.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Recharged/ recharging Friday Five

Sally says: "A few weeks ago my lap-top battery died, suddenly I found myself looking at a blank screen and was rather relieved to find that it was only the battery and not the whole computer that had failed. This morning a new battery arrived in the post, and suddenly I am mobile again!After a week with what feels like wall to wall meetings, and Synod looming on the horizon for tomorrow I find myself pondering my own need to recharge my batteries. This afternoon Tim and I are setting off to explore the countryside around our new home, I always find that walking in the fresh air away from phones and e-mails recharges me. But that is not the only thing that restores my soul, so do some people, books, pieces of music etc....So I wonder what/ who gives you energy?"

1. Is there a person who encourages and uplifts you, whose company you seek when you are feeling low? There are person(s) plural, I am blessed that way. First of course is my wonderful R, husband to be, best friend, playmate, nurturer, travel buddy, fellow adventurer and asker of great questions. Then would be soul sisters C, CMR, A and S, all of whom love, nurture, and get me through times good and bad.
2. How about a piece of music that either invigorates or relaxes you? I could never pick ONE! There is Bach, there is rock, there is most of the 1982 Hymnal. But right now on the top of the play list there is Jimmy Buffett, whom we saw last weekend in live dripping concert. I find myself humming "Changes in Attitude," and "Growing Older but Not Up" as I go through my day, and I relive moments of that fun event.

3. Which book of the Bible do you most readily turn to for refreshment and encouragement? Is there a particular story that brings you hope? John, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah 29:11-13 (my ordination verse that seems to just "turn up" at the most interesting times.
4. A bracing walk or a cosy fireside? Yes
5. Are you feeling refreshed and restored at the moment or in need of recharging, write a prayer or a prayer request to finish this weeks Friday Five....I am seriously in need of a recharge and a good thing it's Friday, I'm thinkin'.....I have a long weekend with nothing really in prayer is that I will use it well and allow myself to rest rather than simply flog myself to work to distraction the whole time. I also ask prayers for L. His hearing is Tuesday to determine if he will go to prison for five years or not.