Thursday, April 26, 2007
From the Revgals blog: What Are You...
1. Wearing - pajamas (and sunless tanner so I am ready for the warm weather that is coming - whoohoo for shorts and sandals which I'll be wearing soon.)
2. Pondering - oh, way too much. Mostly job search stuff and managing existing church at the same time....
3. Reading - blogs. Christianity for the Rest of Us. And church profiles, newsletters, etc for my search process.
4. Dreaming - sleeping too soundly to dream. Oh, but day dreams - warm weather. Hopes and dreams - that new exciting call.
5. Eating - cookies and Tazo "Refresh" tea (spearmint, peppermint, and tarragon)...yum!
still having problems posting from my main computer...ergo this half finished post. When I went back to complete it, with beautiful prose....I was told that my site couldn't connect to blogger...bleh...now I am using a differnt machine, but I also have a meeting in a few minutes...sigh...I miss posting...sometimes I can't even leave comments on the sites I read...
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
While at CREDO I had the opportunity to have two massages in one week. As someone who once worked as a Massage Therapist I was thrilled at this opportunity. I also knew I really needed one. (Or as it turned out, two...).
The first treatment was Wednesday. It was a good massage. But I did not relax. My body remained tense, my mind on high alert. I was not too surprised. My last massage was over the summer, many months ago. It has been too long since I had one. And way too much stuff has happened. 11 days in the hospital. Managing five search processes for a new parish. Guiding my existing parish through rugged terrain of grief and worry. Too much strain. Too much anxiety.
So. I had a second massage on Friday. That time I relaxed deeply. Fully. My body just let go of all the strain it was holding on to. Instead of perpetually tapping my toe and bouncing my leg while sitting, I am able to sit still. Able to think more clearly. Able to be quiet and listen to God.
I should have known. I did "body work" for nine years. I know the impact and effect of stress on our bodies. But my massage therapist moved away. I got a referral to another, but she was having surgery. I have been remiss in finding another one.
Now. I know. I need to take care of this. Now. The well being of my body, mind, and spirit, depend on it.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
How is our health? What activities do we do that support our health? We epxerienced a healthy eating exercise and talked about managing stress. We had great food prepared for us by the conference center staff. We had a beautiful walking trails through woods and hills in Virginia.
What about our finances? Are we being good stewards of our resources? Do we have a plan for retirement?
What about our vocation? Are we discerning a new call? How do we negotiate a new agreement? What are the components we ought to consider: sabbatical; time off; vacation; work hours; expectations should be clear on both sides.
We worshiped every day, and the team of professionals led the worship so we could just worship! The spiritual directors led us through some powerful reflections.
We formed small groups and shared on a more intimate level. Within these groups we made new friends.
And we each wrote our "CREDO Plan" - between one and three goals for living a healthier life and caring for ourselves.
We came from all over the country. We held vast and varied perspectives on our faith and church. But we cared for one another. We left with great hope for our Church.
Now. I need to slowly re-enter the world of busy-ness. Next to me sits a pile of papers for a search process: copies of newletters and annual reports for the last few years, so I can familiarize myself with the parish I will visit next week. I need to write two sermons this week - one for this Sunday and one for next Sunday. I will be out of town three days next week and entertaining a searc committee the rest of that week - so little time to write a sermon then.
But mostly I have a fairly slow week. So, I ought to be able to re-enter with ease and grace.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
As this gospel reading begins we are in the evening of last Sunday, Easter Day. Jesus first appears to the disciples that very night. And he finds them hiding in fear.
Of course they have lots to be afraid of. Their friend and leader, Jesus, has just been crucified. Who knows, they could be next.
On top of that they’ve heard that Jesus is missing. His body is not in the tomb. The women said he is alive! How could this be? Is Jesus now a ghost come to haunt them? This is a problem; they are all guilty of denying him in his greatest hour of need. Who knows what the ghost/Jesus might do to them….
This is probably the worst day of their lives. Granted it was pretty awful when Jesus was captured and killed. But now, for the disciples, this day is even worse. They are going to be held accountable. Isn’t that what we would think?
So, the disciples are hiding…fear-filled…a tremendous anxiety. The awful struggle to move through the last three days - and now this – what a horrible day.
All over the news this week we’ve heard about the hurtful remarks of Don Imus and the women’s basketball team from Rutger’s. This has been a troubling week in our society as we face the reality of prejudice and hurt. The suffering of these women, robbed of the joy of their successful win. The suffering of Imus who is living the consequences of his actions. He’s not getting away with it this time, and it must feel terribly humiliating. I don’t know Imus, I suppose he could stand defensive against this and not feel bad, but most of us would feel deeply ashamed if we were he.
Take a moment and think of your greatest struggle. Think of the time when you felt you hit your lowest of lows. When just getting out of bed in the morning was all you could manage, if you even managed that. How did it feel? You needn’t share the situation, but can you share the feelings?
Several years ago Joan Chittister spoke on the subject of suffering at a conference at Chautauqua in New York State. She is a renowned Benedictine nun, an author (35 books) and an international lecturer on topics concerning women, the poor, peace and justice, and contemporary issues in church and society.
She titled her presentation at Chautauqua: Scarred by struggle, transformed by hope, the 9 Gifts of Suffering.
The premise is that all people suffer. Each of us has as the one common denominator in life, times of suffering. They come she says, just when we think life is perfect. Wham. Everything changes. Someone dies. Someone get sick. Depression hits. A job is lost. The list could continue on. We all suffer when life changes dramatically for unexpected reasons when we least expect it. These struggles are not just some mere inconvenience. These struggles are irreparable change. Life will never be the same again.
And the point is, how do we go about living through these times of great suffering with out giving up the soul?
She lists 9 struggles and the gift that comes from the struggle. By gift she means what we learn about ourselves, our lives, our faith, by living through the struggle.
The first struggle is change. Struggle brings unwanted change. The disciples have faced an unbelievable change: Jesus has been crucified. From this place of profound change comes the gift of conversion, we learn to recreate ourselves. For the disciples this struggle began with them running away but led to the resurrection. Throughout the Easter season, for the next seven weeks, we will hear resurrection stories in our Gospel. On Pentecost we learn that these stories led to a conversion of strength and courage in the disciples. It was their new found strength that built the Church. And from the early church came a legacy of human transformation that has lived over 2000 years.
The second is isolation. The struggle leaves us feeling alone, and in deep pain. The disciples are hiding in the room with the doors locked. They are hiding in fear. From isolation comes the gift of independence. Actively working to move through our suffering days leads us to a place where we can become independent from our pain, we learn to insist on living despite the pain. Anyone who has lived with a chronic illness or suffered for a long time knows this reality. Buddhists call this “mindfulness” having an observing eye, able to look with some detachment at the circumstances of one’s life even as one lives and feels life fully.
The third is darkness and its gift is faith. In the darkness of losing everything we come to believe in a life beyond the life we know, something greater than we are is acting in the world. On our darkest days it’s that something that gets us up in the morning. God stays with us in these dark moments. We are not abandoned. Jesus returns to the disciples, finds them in their darkest moment, in this room, and assures them that they are not alone. He is with them always. My peace I give to you. My peace I leave with you. Jesus is not a ghost out to haunt them. He is the resurrection. His body bears the marks of his tragic death and with those marks of suffering he is a new person. He is the fullness of God’s love. He loves the disciples just as they are at this very moment. He loves the disciples even knowing they abandoned him. This story assures us that God’s love for us is ever present, there in our darkest moments.
Forth is fear. In our struggle we face things we do not understand and cannot name. We are paralyzed by our unknowing, but in moving through the fear we come to know the gift of courage. Every tiny act of courage: getting out of bed in the morning. Going to work each day. Seeking help. Each step we take to move through the fear produces in us a little bit of courage. Each little step puts us back in control of our lives, even if on a small scale.
Fifth is powerlessness and its gift of surrender. When we move through struggle, eventually a healthy response means we give into the struggle. We give in because we know that someone is there to help us. It is not defensive. And it is a giving over of the self. It is not an absence of self. Rather this surrender is trusting that someone is there to hold us up and keep us going. For Christians this is clearly the message of God’s love poured out in Christ. We sing, Christ beneath us, Christ above us, Christ behind us, Christ before us…where ever we go Christ is there.
Sixth is vulnerability and its gift of self acceptance. In moving through the struggle we come to a place where we have to admit that we are wounded. We need to accept our own weaknesses. And in this case our weakness becomes our strength. We are able to accept ourselves for being who are. This becomes a position of humility and grace. We know that God loves us in our brokenness, just as we are. Being loved like this by a gracious God enables us to love others just as they are.
Seventh is exhaustion – moving through struggle wears us out. But the gift of moving through struggle, of living though the exhaustion, the gift is endurance. We learn that life begins again. Endurance brings us hope.
Eighth is scarring. We cannot move through struggle without becoming scarred. Our woundedness leaves marks on us. These marks can make us bitter. Or they can make us better. We can become better people through our struggles. The very process of moving through the struggle, of becoming scarred, is the same process that makes us better people. Our woundedness, our scars, become the source of our compassion. We wear our scars gracefully when we have compassion for others.
Jesus is marked. He appears in the room and shows these marks to the disciples. It is a sign to them that he is who he is. He is their friend. He is Jesus. He loves them just as they are. He has come to help them move through their deepest struggle. He has come again to help them be more fully who they are meant to be. The gift of scarring is hope.
We cannot go through the struggles of this life and remain the same.
We can become bitter. That is one kind of change that can come from struggle.
But we can also be transformed into a new person. Jesus, in his resurrected body, with the marks of his crucifixion still very visible, is transformed into a new life. He is now able to be fully present to all of his disciples, and all of us, all the time. In the resurrection Jesus becomes the bridge for us between the divine world of God’s love and the human world of suffering. Jesus offers us a way, a path, a means, for moving through the struggles of life. This is the peace of Christ.
“Jesus came and stood among them and said. ‘Peace be with you.’”
Friday, April 13, 2007
From the RevGals site Reverend Mothers posts: Cheesehead and I are both laid up this week with various tooth maladies. This one's in honor of us:
1. Are you a regular patron of dentists' offices? Or, do you go
a) faithfully, as long as you have insurance, or
b) every few years or so, whether you need it or not, or
c) dentist? what is this "dentist" thing you speak of?
I am a regular patron at the dentist. Although recently I did go a long while without a visit - hey everything was fine, I thought. Then I ended up with a fractured tooth. The dentist tried to fix the fracture, which only made it worse, so the tooth was pulled, and then over the next 4 days a nasty infection set in. (I was not prescribed antibiotics)...The dentist, via phone consultation, was convinced that my intense pain was only TMJ. But no, it was an infection that moved into my jaw bone and up the side of my face. I was completely distorted as the right side of my face puffed out several inches. This required an 11 day stay in the hospital for IV antibiotic, surgery to drain the infection, a tracheotomy because the infection impacted by jaw muscles and I couldn't open my mouth to intebated, and drains in the side of my face to further facilitate the draining of the infection. Once released from the hospital (after having every test on earth, MRI, CAT scans, leg scans to rule out clots, etc. etc), I remained on home IV antibiotic therapy for five weeks, self administered 4 time a day. Then another MRI to make sure the infection was gone (apparently jaw bone, mouth infections are very risky for chronic repeat and hard to heal). Then two more weeks of oral antibiotics, just to make sure....
Now I have lingering numbness in my lip and mouth on the right side from nerve damage because of the infection. That is slowly clearing up, now, 6 months later. And I have a lovely three inch scar on my neck just below the jaw bone, and another scar from the trach. Oh, well. I had great doctors who really helped and a wonderful new dentist.
Moral of the story, don't let dental pain linger. Don't presume it is TMJ. Get antibiotics whenever you have oral surgery of any kind.
2. Whatever became of your wisdom teeth? Don't have wisdom teeth. Genetic mutation....I guess.
3. Favorite thing to eat that's BAAAAAD for your teeth. Jelly beans.
4. Ever had oral surgery? Commiserate with me. In addition to above I have had a root canal, four roots, not the usual three...
5. "I'd rather have a root canal than _________________." The root canal was pretty awful....but the infection was obviously worse.... Now, there is probably nothing worse for me than dental work. I will be anxious every time I have oral surgery...
Bonus: Does your dentist recommend Trident No. I've never had a dentist recommend Trident. Usually they recommend no gum at all....
Thursday, April 12, 2007
1. Met with Jungian analyst. Good. Very good.
2. Finished paper work for CREDO.
3. Finished taxes.
4. Finished sermon video for church.
5. Had phone interview.
6. Downloaded God and Me presentation ceremony.
7. Made dinner.
8. Ate dinner.
9. Watched Ugly Betty and Grey's Anatomy and ER.(well, soon)
10. Posted on this blog, twice. And on a few others.
1. Left to do: go to post office and mail taxes and also mail the video of sermon to search committee - but all set to go. Will wait until tomorrow...
2. Continue to tweek sermon for Sunday...
3. Pack for CREDO (but that can't really be done until Sunday night, I can only start)
Something I noticed along the way: Flickr has 10,030 images for "to do list."...guess I'm not alone in making lists....
1. See Jungian analyst.
2. Vote (early) for local elections as I will be out of town next week.
3. Finish CREDO paper work (print resume, get copy of credit report, fill out reflection pieces on health, well being, finances, etc.)
4. Work on sermon for Sunday.
5. Email parish about out combined service on Sunday with sister church
6. Download form for God and Me badge presentation in church on Sunday
7.prepare for a phone interview, although I will wait until afternoon since a bad storm on the East coast may delay this interview.
8. go to post office to mail CD of sermon to search committee.
9. mail taxes
10. get books to read while at CREDO
11. begin to organize packing for CREDO
12. Prepare for site visit from search committee this weekend (ergo, begin packing now).
13. post this on my blog....
Monday, April 09, 2007
- I have members of church search committee coming for a site visit this Sat. and Sun.
- I have to make flight reservations for my family and I to visit another church and meet the vestry for a second search process.
- And I anticipate a phone call from a third search committee regarding a site visit.
- I have a phone interview with a fourth search church search committee late Thursday afternoon.
- I have to write a sermon for Sunday.
- I have to finish the paper work for CREDO, a church sponsored 8 day retreat/conference for priests to review their lives: spiritually, financially, vocationally, holistically....
- I leave for CREDO next Monday.
Good news. I was feeling tremendous anxiety about all this. But now I don't. I just want to find a way to be still enough to listen deeply to the Spirit and trust that God is leading me where I need to be.
I know that times of transformation come with great struggle. Murray Stein, a Jungian analyst wrote a book about the great transformations that occur in our lives, generally beginning around our mid thirties or early forties, and lasting nearly a decade. He used the image of a butterfly and the transition from caterpillar to cocoon, to butterfly - chrysallis. These days are the cocoon stages where great work is taking place on a deep, interior level. One cannot be certain of the exact outcome, only that when the work is done, a major transformation takes place in the human.
A transformation of being, body, mind and soul. A new person is born, even as the old person remains. It is a resurrection image: Jesus in his new life still carried the marks of the crucifixion. He was scarred yet whole, better, more fully himself.
These last four years have been very difficult for me. I don't think the challenges are going to end anytime soon. But I do suspect something transformational is going on....
Sunday, April 08, 2007
The tomb is split open and Jesus is on the move again.
In this parish we symbolize the signs of the resurrection in a variety of ways. Most prominent are the flowers in glorious array.
Gone is the simplicity of Lent, the barren features of our worship space and the ordinary glass chalices. Gone is the hearty rye bread and the dry burgundy wine.
In its place we have our finest silver, and a light white bread with a sweet wine.
What remains are the rocks from our prayer cairns, now filled with green vines.
And this chest….
All of Lent this chest has been closed and locked, holding within it the “Alleluia’s” our children created. Then, with the celebration of Easter the chest is burst open, the Alleluia’s are released, the chest falls to its side; eggs pouring out.
The chest represents for us the tomb where Jesus was buried.
The tomb; the shadow side of life: evil, darkness, and death, symbolized for us in this chest as the tomb of Jesus, where people attempted to lock away God’s love.
As if that effort could ever contain God.
As if we humans can ever stop God from doing God’s work in the world.
Celebrating Holy Week, worshiping though the three services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and The Great Vigil remind us of human failure and God’s triumph.
Failure because of humanity’s efforts to confine and limit God. We confine and limit God whenever we ignore or hurt others: through the words we say, the actions we take or don’t take.
The crucifixion is the ultimate effort to stop God’s love. But, God will not be contained by human sin.
The Resurrection assures us that God will prevail and God’s love will fill our lives and fill this world, we cannot stop it…though we try.
Easter eggs, which pour out of this chest, are a primary sign of Easter. They come from a very long, ancient custom; eggs were a symbol of new life all around the ancient world.
Decorated eggs come from an ancient Persian custom for celebrating the New Year, which falls on the Spring Equinox of March 20th. Persians, people from Iran, still celebrate this New Year with decorated eggs.
The ancient Hebrews, who lived under Persian rule for many years, adopted the use of eggs as a symbol of new life and incorporated them into the Passover seder meal, a symbol of God doing a new thing by freeing God’s people.
And the ancient Romans used eggs as a part of their spring celebrations of new life.
Eggs and rabbits are both ancient symbols of fertility.
There is even a story about Mary Magdalene and eggs. Mary is one of the most faithful disciples. Unlike the other disciples she stays with Jesus to the end. Our Gospel stories tell us that she was at the cross, stayed with Jesus even as he died. And then later she went to the tomb to anoint the body. It was Mary who discovered, on Easter Day, that Jesus was missing. It was Mary who ran to tell the rest of the disciples that Jesus was on the move again.
The story tells us that at one point Mary went to Rome to see the Emperor Tiberius. She took with her an egg and began to tell the Emperor about the resurrection. He responded by saying that the resurrection was as likely to have happened as if the egg she held could turn red.
At which point the egg in her hand promptly turned red.
The Romans would have readily understood the egg as something that brings forth life from a sealed chamber.
The egg quickly came to represent the tomb that held Jesus’ body, and the color red symbolized the spilling of his blood. The Greek Orthodox believe that the color red also has protective power.
However, other colors commonly used today came gradually into use. Tan or ivory shades symbolized the fine linen cloth in which Jesus was bound before being placed in the grave. Green was used for the fresh vegetation of springtime. Blue represented the sky in all of its glory, and purple was used to represent the Passion of Jesus crucified.
Gathered together, all the many eggs of varied hues represent the glorious springtime in which Christians unite to rejoice at the Resurrection of Life.
As the people in the Orthodox Church gather after the Easter services, eggs are blessed and given to all. The worshipers then go about greeting one another with "Christ is Risen!", and hitting their eggs together, cracking them open.
The cracking of the red eggs among the Orthodox symbolizes a mutual prayer for breaking the bonds of sins and misery and for entering the new life which comes from the resurrection of Jesus.
None of the eggs should remain unbroken. Breaking the eggs emphasizes that Christ has conquered death and is risen, granting New Life to all. After cracking, the eggs are eaten, symbolizing the end of the Lenten fast.
Today, in the Christian Church of the western world, we use Easter eggs in all kinds of ways, but often without the conscious meaning used in the Orthodox tradition.
We hard boil eggs and decorate them with colored dye and stickers. Perhaps the Easter Bunny hides these eggs around the house for the children to find in the morning. Some people blow out the inside of the egg and paint the shells in very fancy patterns. Often we use plastic eggs filled with candy treats.
Today after our service we will have an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids, eggs filled with sweet treats. And I think it is helpful to know that this tradition is not just some modern Easter game, but one that is grounded in ancient customs symbolizing new life.
As Christians we interpret this custom of Spring and new life through the resurrection of Jesus. After the tragedy of the crucifixion of Jesus, who was abandoned by most of his friends and left to die a horrible death on the cross, something new was experienced by the people of the early church. Somehow, in someway, Jesus was present to them once again. But this presence of Jesus was not like a ghost…not some vague figment of what was once the person of Jesus. Nor was it a healed and cured Jesus, as if the crucifixion had never happened.
The resurrected Jesus comes to the people as one who is both dead and alive, he bears the marks of his death on his hands and his feet. But he also lives in a new way. He does not need to open doors. He is just there, present to all people in new ways. His being contains the marks of his suffering and the reality of his new life.
It can be a challenge to some modern people to take these ancient traditions of our Christian faith and understand them. How do we come to trust in the resurrection as a reality in our lives? Where is the truth in the resurrection and how can it be meaningful for us?
I think each of us lives with experiences of tragedy and suffering.
There are seasons in life where we struggle and wonder if life will ever feel right again. A song from Indigo Girls says, “It’s been a warm winter but a cold spring. Everything feels wrong to me…” In seasons of suffering, everything feels wrong.
No one is exempt from times like these.But over time, over a life time, we are often able to see that these times of suffering eventually leave and our lives settle down.
At our best we are able to see how the suffering actually makes us better people, gives us character. Like the wounds of Jesus, we carry the marks of our suffering.
True, sometimes these marks make people bitter.
However, when we work through the struggle and the suffering, the effort makes us better, more whole.Wholeness includes the suffering and the wellness…
Only from experiencing suffering can we develop a sense of empathy for the suffering of others.
Our Christian story helps us understand the seasons of life in order to make meaning out of such events and circumstances. For many of us, we are richer deeper people because we have suffered. It is from that place of common suffering that we are able embrace the thread of human life, to show compassion and love for others, because we have all suffered. As Christians, it is from this place of suffering and in our experience of being healed, renewed, and restored to a better life, that helps us grasp just a hint of the resurrection.
God comes to us as a human.
In the person of Christ God learns what it means to live this life,
and to die.
In taking on human form God says that God accepts humans, each one of us, just as we are. And as a Christian people this place of profound acceptance becomes the place where we are able to welcome others, in their anger or fear or pain, and love them for being who they are, who we are, flawed, fully human, whole….
For just as God loves us as we are so too are we to love others, just as they are.
The resurrection is a sure and certain sign that God is with us.
In the midst of our darkest days God holds us up. Its how we get out of bed in the morning and put on foot in front of the other. Into the chaos of our broken lives God sustains us.
Or at the very least, the hope of God sustains us….
From the shattered hopes and dreams God scoops in and begins to help us sort life out, creating a new sense of order, a new sense of life, a new direction.
In the resurrection we have Jesus risen from the dead,
healed, made new,
alive once again,
and yet carrying the clear and visible signs of the tragedy of the crucifixion.
Our lives, made new in the resurrection,
not because our suffering and tragedies disappear,
rather those experiences live in us.
And we are better people for them
More compassionate. More humane. More real.
The miracle is that in being loved and in loving we are transformed, made new in a whole new way.
Our Gospel reading tells us that when Mary told the other disciples about the resurrection they thought it was an idle tale…
So, our question today,
in the year ahead,
will the Resurrection be for you just an idle tale???
Or will you bring the Resurrection alive in the way you love God, love self, and love others?
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, "Stay here while I go over there and pray." Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. Then he said, "This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me."
Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, "My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?"
When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, "Can't you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert; be in prayer so you don't wander into temptation without even knowing you're in danger. There is a part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there's another part that's as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire."
He then left them a second time. Again he prayed, "My Father, if there is no other way than this, drinking this cup to the dregs, I'm ready. Do it your way."
When he came back, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn't keep their eyes open. This time he let them sleep on, and went back a third time to pray, going over the same ground one last time.
When he came back the next time, he said, "Are you going to sleep on and make a night of it? My time is up, the Son of Man is about to be handed over to the hands of sinners..."