Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Faith, Hope, and Love

I have been an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church for seven years and served as Rector at small church for six years. The Episcopal Church in my diocese is fairly progressive, smart, and invested in mission and ministry. But, like everywhere these days this diocese struggles with the issues at hand. Sometime soon I want to write about my journey through the waters of human sexuality. But today I want to write about "Progressive Christianity."

Progressive Christianity has been on my mind a lot. I think, in part this is because I have been a progressive Christian my entire life and didn't know that nor understand it fully. Still don't, but I am learning. And it is exciting. I also want to write about progressive Christianity because the RevGals blog site has a book discussion on "Velvet Elvis" by Rob Bell. This book, and I've only read about half of it, takes much of our Christian faith tradition and beliefs and looks at them through a new lens. Bell uses smart engaging language to do this. The book is clever in its design, font, and pagination. I enjoy reading the book. However, he is not saying anything new. If one has been immersed in progressive Christian thought for awhile then one already understands what he is saying. For the most part he uses words and language well to unpack his thinking, beginning with the image of a road side painted velvet Elvis to illustrate that understanding Christianity is like art, it's never complete. As soon as one thinks it is more is revealed and more needs to be explored.

My reflection today however is influenced by an article in the magazine, "The Progressive Christian." The publisher of the magazine defines it's intent "to offer our readers a magazine that ememplifies "progressive" in the best sense of the word by encouraging reasoned but passionate, creative thought and responsible action. We won't promote controversy for its own sake, but neither do we run from it; if you agree with everything we print, we are doing something wrong. Our aim is to help bring vital contemporary issues into the conversation with the christian faith and with the wisdom of ofther religious traditions..." (Volume 181, Issue 3, page 3).

This article, written by Fred C. Plumer (President of the Center for Progressive Christianity, Gig Harbor, WA), looks at the spirituality of progressive Christianity. He argues, and I would agree, that most people are more comfortable today talking about spirituality than religion. Even people who do not consider themselves religious will describe themselves as "spiritual."

In this complex global and often secular world, what are the defining characteristics of spirituality? Plumer states that the primary characteristic is "some strong connection." By this he means a connection to something greater than one's self and a connection to others. Diana Butler Bass argues this same point in her book, "Christianity for the Rest of Us," as does Marcus Borg in his book, "The Heart of Christianity." (I'm not sure if Bell does, perhaps if I finish the book I'll see if he too argues this point). Plumer goes on to describe this connectedness as having an emotional component of religion that shifs our consciousness and transforms us. There are particular practices being lived out in congregations that encourage and enable this emotional connectedness. These include the use of meditation, or drums, or Taize chants, and other forms of, as Bass would say, ancient forms of Christian tradition being practiced in new ways in order to connect people to the historic faith in ways that meet our modern day disconnectedness and help us feel part of community.

Plumer argues that where these practices differ in progressive Christian communities from a more orthodox community is centered in the communities theological, Christological, and sociological understandings. He says, "By 'progressive Christian,' I mean...(people) who start with the assumption that very person is a precious creation and a child of god regardless of color, sexual orientation, religious convictions, and yes, even their political party. Most would reject the Augustinian concept of 'original sin.' Aside from the psychological damage that has been done over the centuries because of Augustine's interpretation of Paul, the idea of sin continues to be terribly divisive. It has come to mean that some are in and some ae out, that some are saved and some are not. It is a form of tribal divisiveness that still haunts most religious expressions in the world." (15 of issue mentioned above).

Plumer goes on to state that he agrees with Irenaeus (Bishop, second century) on this point. Irenaeus, he says, argued that all humans had not been created perfect in the image of God, rather all humans were created "perfectable." We have the potential to grow into the image of God. Sin is a product of learning and growth and therefore part of God's process. What is most important is to remember (and this is the summary of most of my sermons): that we are loved for being who we are at this very moment, in all our brokeness. And that in the process of being loved and REALIZING the depth of that love, we are changed, because we must love others in that same generous way. This is the go and do likewise of Jesus' teaching to love God, love self and love others.

The spirituality of progressive Christianity Plumer says must include opportunities for silence and reflection. We need to create space and time and practices to move from the chatter in our heads. This point was also raised by Bass and others. We live in a noisy busy world. We need to enable opportunities for silence.

I agree with this and then I hear the rebuttal of one of my thirty something parishioners who says that she doesn't know what to do with the silence, it makes her anxious. She lives in a sound bit age and wants everything in short increments. And then she adds, but now when I try to worship with kids, I find that I appreciate the quite time before our worship (begins) so I can have a few minutes to pray and be still while my kids are in Sunday school. You see, at small church we begin every service with the lights dim, candles lit, soft music playing. We offer this quiet time for about 15 minutes before we start the worship. Although I would argue that the worship time begins with this quiet time...

What I am learning is that progressive Christianity has given me the language to articulate how I know God and how I have been a Christian ever since I was a little girl. And the Episcopal Church has given me a way to grapple with my faith and still be Christian. Someday I'll write more about my journey, but suffice it to say I have been in and out of Christianity over my life time, but I have not been in and out of God, prayer, and (well usually) faith. I am excited about the opportunities to create worship that engages our ancient traditions and practices and bring them to life in new ways. New ways that meet the needs of a hungry people looking for community and spirituality without being too bogged down by dogma and doctrine and "right" belief and "Truth."...if you know what I mean...

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Great Day

The birthday is over. It was a great day. We had good weather, sunny with a gentle breeze. It was a day good for BBQing and sitting outside. Menu: homemade guacamole and chips; veggie tray; grilled chicken marinated in lime and garlic; Italian sausage; hamburgers; pasta salad and coleslaw; and pie - apple, cherry, and blueberry with vanilla ice cream.

Everyone had fun. Son and his friends, family, and some of my friends. It was good.

Now everyone has gone home. Dishes are done, all cleaned up. And the house is so clean! That is one of the perks from a party, a super clean house. I mean. Why do I wait until a party to clean like this? I like it so much when it's done.

We ended the day watching The Museum with Ben Stiller, funny, cute. Soon, it's off to bed. I hope I sleep tonight, something I have not done much of lately.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A fifteenth birthday

If we were Latin we would be celebrating a quincenera tonight, our sons 15th birthday....he was born 15 years ago today, on Memorial Day, at 12:45am, yup, just barely into the day. I was the last woman in to the maternity ward that night, arriving about midnight...but I was the first to deliver. I told them when I arrived, and could barely think or walk ('cuz I was in transition damn it...I mean, well, if you've ever been in transition you know it's an altered state of being...). Anyway. I told them. no more history, this baby is ready!...so within 45 minutes of arriving at the hospital he was born.

Alas, the cord was around his neck TWICE....so it was - mid labor - "stop pushing"...now. I had no meds. And really the pain was not bad. (my first was back labor all the way, that was intense, very intense, but this one, piece of cake...)...anyway. Stop pushing. I did. but it was tough. His apgar was 9, and then 9. So. good. But they took him for 8 hours to make sure he was ok. Me I slept about two hours, and then the phone calls. My mother. (May she rest in peace)...etc etc...I came home the next day. Felt great.

What a Memorial Day. And now, we celebrate it again. 15 years later...time really flies.

Friday Five: Hard habit to Break

Reverendmother over at RevGals says: As many of you know, I have been experimenting with some severely curtailed Internet usage. I realized that I had gotten into some bad habits, which got me thinking about habits in general. I understand that a habits/random facts meme has already been going around. In the hopes that it hasn't hit too many of us yet, be as lighthearted or as serious as you'd like with the following:

1. Have you ever successfully quit a bad habit, or gotten a good habit established? Tell us about how you did it. One of the techniques I used to get through seminary with decent grades, while raising two kids (one was 7, the other 3 when I started): I managed to be home with them after school and through dinner, bath, and bedtime story. Then about 7:30 I'd head off for my study cubicle on campus and work like mad for three hours. Then I'd come home at 10:30 to watch Jay Leno (or David Letterman) and - here's the habit - eat a huge bowl of ice cream. Every night, a huge bowl of ice cream. Years later, after several sinus infections I realized that a lot of ice cream before bed, and without allergy meds, was making me sick. So. I quit. It was actually harder than I thought. But now I settle for tea and a few cookies, or maybe a low fat ice cream bar. I'm content and sinus infection free for years.

2. "If only there were a 12-step program for _________________!" I've done a lot of hard work in my life to take care of myself. Granted, I'm fifty. And, well, I my childhood did not exactly prepare me for life, so I had to do this work. So. I still do and am grateful for those who work with me to keep me healthy. BUT - one thing I need to do better - exercise again. sigh. And what I need to make that happen - stop blogging so much - ok Reverendmother, I've read your blog and now I'm in denial lalalalalalala......

3. Share one of your healthy "obsessions" with us. I have found, that I really appreciate writing on my blog as a healthy outlet and semi-anonymous personality. I also appreciate reading others and remembering that I am neither unique in problems nor alone, and there are many special people I've connected with via RevGals. So. even as I say I need to add exercise back into my life, I will not give up blogging. Maybe only my fingers need exercise at this point in my life...?

4. Share the habit of a spouse, friend or loved one that drives you C-R-A-Z-Y. My darling husband eats breakfast standing up watching the news. He says its' because he's on the go, getting our son up and out the door for school, etc. and sitting down, well he is only eating to stave off hunger not relax and enjoy his food. But he also does the same thing at lunch time. I avoid being around when he does this. Of course if we are eating together, then he sits down. But for some reason it makes me nuts. And after 22 years I've given up suggesting he sit down only to have him grunt or look at me, or not....sigh.

5. "I'd love to get into the habit of ___________________." Doing yoga every day. I did it for nine years, loved it. Now I am out of the habit...and can't get back into it. Maybe I should take a class on Tai Chi instead, trying something new usually works for me...I get excited and well, I am a bit obsessive...

Bonus: What is one small action you might take immediately to make #5 a reality? find a class and sign up for it. but that sounds like too much work...so I may not do it anytime soon.

Bonus 2: Try it, and let us know how it goes in a future post! Ok. If I do, you'll be the first to know.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

They're Gone, They're Home At Last...

One of the many things I do, besides work as the senior pastor at a small church, is to work as a voulunteer with Episcopal Migration Ministries and their local affiliate Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries. My official title: Episcopal Migration Ministries Refugee Program Diocesan Liaison (yeesh). Anyway. That's how I got this family. They arrived last week but their house was not ready. on a day's notice wew needed some place for them. So the church took them in.

I know almost nothing about them, except they came from a refugee camp in Cameroon. Originally from Rwanda they spent some time in Cameroon. The day they arrived they flew from Darfur to Paris to Chicago.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Pretty Much Done with It

Sally over at Eternal Echoes
has posted a personality quiz. I took it and this is what it said about me:

"You are cautious as often as you are bold. An enviable balance. Your world might explode every now and again, but you were pretty much done with it anyway."

I guess that about sums it up.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Red Hair

Went to have my hair cut today and "glazed"...a gentler coloring process than "color"...I don't quite get it but that's what the hair dresser tells me. I use it to tone down the gray and give it a softer look....This time the glaze was made a little warmer and I ended up a red head. Now I look like my mother. (She always had beautiful red hair, as does my brother)...and gone is my gray...oops.

oh well. It's only hair. I can always cut it off and go gray again. which I probably will in a year or two. 'cuz that's what I do...

Tuesday Topics: Dream Big Edition

Deb over at Another unfinished symphony says

Dreaming big... The "Come Away" Edition
(This is what I get for procrastinating and surfing instead of studying...)

Gary Means wrote:
"If you could start any ministry, and have it fully funded by an anonymous source who did not want to be credited, what would you do? I guess I should limit the amount, otherwise everyone would just end world hunger, etc. So, let's say you were given a mere $5,000,000."

So. What kind of ministry would I do if I could dream big and had the resources to do it?

I think I'd like to build satellite resource offices around the metro to help in the resettlement of refugee families. Right now we only one center in the city, which makes it difficult to work in wide region. So, for example our church is hosting a family for a short while, but we are a good hour's drive away from the center, which means a long commute there and back two times a day whenever the agency needs to bring the family into the center for anything (processing paperwork to be legal in this country and giving them their public aid cards for meds, etc.) All the families need to have housing in a small area or be along the train line for an easy commute to one main office. If we had satellite offices around the metro area we could house families across the city and still provide the services they need: English language classes, job training, instructions for using public transportation, medical care, child care, etc. The agency I am working with offers a comprehensive program to provide for the needs of these families for three months, or longer. The goal is a successful resettlement and a good new life.

This could be accomplished by renting office space and hiring staff in one or two suburbs. 5 million would not go far, but it could be well utilized. And it could help to relocate these new families in safe areas and in areas where their are other people from the same country who will assist in helping them assimilate into life here.

My vision is a broader networked community building on what is already in existence. I don't need reinvent the wheel, just make it more accessible.

I'm not sure how many refugees there are in the world today. Millions, I think. And our country brings in maybe a few thousand a year. The rest go to other countries, or wait year after year for a placement. We will help resettle as many as 60 families over the next few months - which is huge. I am currently working on establishing a consortium of churches that will warehouse items needed to set up an apartment: dishes, pot and pans, linens for kitchen, bath, and bedroom, etc. I have seven churches willing to help.

But this small piece of the dream could be expanded into even greater potential.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

Monday. My day off. And I am exhausted. But, alas, no rest for the weary. Today I make my quarterly sojourn with MIL to the doctor. Mind you, this takes all day to accomplish one doctor's visit. First I drive an hour to pick her up. MIL is 83, and moving very slowly. Then we drive another 30 minutes to the hospital where her Dr. has an office. Doctors office is always crowded and the wait is long. Finally, we meet with the doctor and I watch while she, with Parkinson's related dementia, and doctor discuss her various ailments. I try to fill in the missing pieces while trying to leave her with as much dignity and autonomy as possible. After doctors visit we have lunch. Always in the same corner diner near her home. I drop her off, she is thoroughly wiped out and takes a long nap. I drive an hour home in bad traffic.

I'm not complaining. I love these days with MIL. It's just difficult that they always come on Monday when I'm tired.

Today I am tired because, well, yesterday was Sunday. And then about 4:00, just as I was leaving to take dogs for a nail trimming, I got a phone call from Refugee agency. They need someone to make sure the young boy is taking some medicine. Oh. But wait. First, could I take young boy back to the clinic, where he was Sat. night, so they could look at the infection in his finger and then could I get the prescription filled? Husband and I drop everything and go.

This requires us to get mom on the phone with an interpreter who explains to her why and where I am taking her and the young boy.

I go into the clinic with mom and young boy, husband goes to the drug store...Thankfully someone at the clinic remember young boy from the night before. He is a refugee who arrived late Friday, so none of his official paper work for welfare will be completed until today. Which means they have only one little card that states they have refugee status, but no other documentation - not the kind of stuff clinics need and drug stores need. (Yes, I paid the $83 to fill his prescription, what are you going to do?).

Turns out that the clinic decides to open the wound on his finger and drain the infection. This required several shots to numb the finger, which did not really work. Young boy was in excruciating pain during the procedure. We could only speak to young boy in pigeon English. Soon, and it was funny, the doctor and I were also speaking to one another in pigeon English, and then laughing at ourselves for doing so... Anyway, two and half hours later we leave and take young boy and mom back to living quarters. This requires another call to the interpreter to explain taking medication, especially the Tylenol every four hours for pain - and do not let the four year old take medicine.

By the time I got home to hungry dogs and hungry people it was after 7. We finally ate and relaxed from a busy day at 9.

I'm tired. But what a weekend of good work. And now it starts all over since my day off is not real a day off.

Oh. and did I mention that it is my turn to lead the benediction at city council tonight. So. I will be there at 7 to pray before they begin the work of the city...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Refugee Temporary "Home"

So. They arrived. A mom and her five kids and a grandmother. After sixteen hours of travel, the youngest is four, the oldest is 60 something. They looked completely shell shocked. Totally overwhelmed. We took them on tour and showed them how to use ovens and microwaves. Only one speaks English, and that one quickly turned the TV to Friends...ahhh. So much is universal. I know we overwhelmed them with info. I know I will need to review with them later. When they are rested. We had to instruct them to watch the kids, the little ones, nine and four. We have a fenced in playground the kids aren't used to fencess. In Africa the kids run free in their towns. No cars, or few cars. We have lots of traffic, lots of cars. So much could happen.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to hug them. I wanted to say, "It will be ok." But right now they are probably in no place to hear that. They aren't even in their new home. They are all housed in one room of a church. Granted, they have lots of room to roam in the church. But their official space is one room and a hallway. Still. It's safe. Warm.

Today I made up seven beds. Each one has it's own comforter and comforter cover in bright colors, seven different ones. The kids quickly choose their bed based on color, I think. That is what I hoped. That by at least giving them color they would have some choice.

So. For now. They have beds, food, some privacy, and a place for the kids to play. They even have a TV. Which since only one of them speaks English is intersting. The rest speak a dialect of French. I could understand a few words: quatre, size four for flip flops.

In a few days they will be gone. Moved to their new home. I will never see them again. That's ok. I just hope they find a good life, at last, in this city and this country. Because I am sure they really deserve and need it.

RevGals Friday Five: The Big Event

Songbird over at RevGals says:Did you know that the major purpose for forming a non-profit, RevGalBlogPals, Inc., was to be able to attract grant support for a large scale RevGalBlogPal meetup? My dream from the beginning has been attracting financial support that would allow as many of our bloggers to be together as possible.

RGBP, Inc. now has a planning committee, and we are in the early stages of planning the RevGalBlogPal Big Event. What, When, Where and Who are all on the table at the moment. In that spirit, I bring you the Big Event Friday Five.

1. What would the meeting be like? (Continuing Ed? Retreat? Outside Speakers? Interest Groups? Workshops? Hot Stone Massages? Pedicures? Glorified Slumber Party?) I enjoy a combination of learning opportunities with plenty of rest and reflection time built in. I like speakers who give me something to ponder during that reflection time.

2. When in 2008 might you be able to attend? January? Shortly after Easter? Summer? Fall? Some other time? Life remains uncertain. But I would guess either a Lenten retreat or after Easter and into the summer.

3. Where would your dream meeting location be? (Urban Hotel? Rural Retreat Center? New England Camp? Southwestern Fantasy Hotel? Far away from civilization? Nearby Outlets or Really Great Thrift Stores?) Because I like lots of time to reflect I prefer places where I can hike or walk. Some conference centers are in or near cities but have walking grounds which accomplishes both.

4. Who would make a great keynote speaker? (That's if #1 leads us in that direction.) There is a lay woman in Chicago who is a phenomenal speaker and retreat leader. She is a former RC nun, seminary prof in Hebrew, and OT scholar, very witty and funny, great stories. We could reflect on women in the OT? Or Women in the Bible? She does a fabulous presentation on the Psalms. She also presents on the Gospel of John. And she is a trained cathechist and Godly Play leader for kids...really she would be incredible.

5. Did I leave out something you want to suggest? Oh yes. Private bedrooms and bathrooms are always a great treat. We'll probably pay more, but oh so nice.

Dream big for the Big Event!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

If It Weren't Such A Bad Image I'd Call This Post Hotel Rwanda...

Tomorrow we will host a family of refugees from Rwanda. The house they were due to move into is not ready. They arrive tomorrow afternoon and need some place to stay. So. The church will give them a place to stay for a day or two. A family of seven. A mother, her five children, and a grandmother. We have the room, and showers, and a kitchen. It's not the best. But it will be something. A roof.

This is one of my ministries. I have been working to help resettle refugees for a few years. I care deeply about this. I realize, all too keenly, that I am blessed to live here in this country; to not worry about losing my home, my family, my life to war and politics or worse, genocide.

These refugee families come here after living through incredible violence and fear and loss. They have been dislocated and cannot return "home" because they will lose their lives. That is the primary difference between a refugee and an immigrant - refugees cannot return home for fear of life. So, by the time they are relocated they have survived 10 or 15 years in a refugee camps. Refugees do not have a choice on where they are relocated or when. They can, via a lottery, be relocated to any of the various countries that receive refugees. If they have family in a particular country they stand a good chance of being relocated to be with that family. But if not, you go where ever once your number comes up. They come here with incredible survival skills. They are not, necessarily "happy" to be here, which I think makes sense. They would rather be home, if home were safe. But, they will work hard to build a new life.

Today I bought seven sets of sheets, comforters, pillows, towels, toothbrushes. And food: chicken, eggplant, leeks, oranges, mangos, keifer. Tomorrow seven twin size beds will be delivered to the church.

So, my wish for them during the time they will be staying with us: that we can help them make a good entrance into this county. We can give them comfort, and peace, and privacy. And maybe, hope.

A Funeral Sermon: Healed by Love

There a few elements of life common to all people. Basically they include living, loving, suffering, and dying. All of us experience these aspects of life. The quality of them we may describe as good or not so good. Regardless these elements of life form who we are in deep and profound ways.

Gathered here today we celebrate all of these.

We celebrate the life of Lynn, wife, mother, sister, daughter, niece, cousin, friend. We come her today to honor all the ways she lived and you knew her in life. We remember her love. We are relieved that her suffering has ended. And we mourn her death.

What I know about you all as a family is that you will do this well. Today and in the days ahead you will celebrate Lynn’s life with funny stories and laughter, with tears and sorrow. You will grieve her loss and you will rejoice that you knew her.

In life we all suffer times of great sorrow.

Our lives are peculiar. For just when we think everything is great, life is wonderful, something happens. An illness, a death. Something unexpected happens that turns a perfect life into chaos. The chasm opens and we fall in. Suffering is the one element that is the same for everyone.

There is nothing good about suffering. Suffering thrives in chaos. Life as we know it has changed. A wound has been opened and we fear it will never heal. Tears come easily and often.

One of the great mysteries of life is that suffering eventually ends. Life is such that the wound does indeed begin to heal.

Not today.

And not tomorrow.

Memories will catch us off guard, but over time, the tears connected to the memories come less often. Slowly over a long while a scar is formed. To many this scar will look like the healing itself. But the scar is only a sign of the healing that is taking place underneath. The scar is the place where the wound has closed over, but it is not actually the healing.

The scar will pull at you and tug. The scar will never let you forget the wound. Living just in the scar will keep the pain fresh and will leave us bitter. Underneath the scar real healing can occur.

In this place deep inside we begin to realize a few things. Grief and sorrow do not last forever. In time the memories that are so tender and ripe today will begin to feel solid again.

We remember how much we love and are loved. It is this love that heals the wound. It is this love that enables the scar to become a sign of wholeness instead of brokenness.

True, our scars can leave us bitter. We can push aside the love, live in the scar and reside in anger. But love will pull at us. Love will eventually ask us to let go of our anger, let go of our sorrow, let go of grief.

Scars heal from the outside in,

love heals from the inside out.

In time the scar, once a sign of our broken lives becomes a sign of wholeness, because the way we remember love.

Here. In this place. The very place of my deepest wound is also the place where I know I have been loved and where I love.

Christians know God to be the source of all love. And we see in Christ, in his death and in his wounds from the cross, the signs of God’s love for us. Christ comes to us scarred, as one who knows suffering and loves through the pain.

The same is true for this family; a scar will remain. It will tug at you and pull on you. The scar will never let you forget. Just as Jesus appeared, wounded and scarred to those who loved him, the love of God comes to us in our darkest days through those who love us. For Christians this is the sure and certain sign of the resurrection, the love of God that prevails.

Our understanding of this profound love is feeble at best.

But certainly we are pointed in that direction when we begin to remember how we are loved and are able to love again.

I am sure that Lynn, where-ever she rests this day in peace, will continue to bring you love. She will love you in the memories you have of her. At family gatherings memories of her will bubble up, the way she laughed. The joy she brought. She will be with you in those memories.

She will love you in the simple ordinary ways of life.

She will love you from the inside out.

The scar that remains will be a mark of her love.

(Lynn was 53, died from lung cancer although she never smoked. Life is fragile)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

sudden weather change

One day it's 90's and sunny, the next day it is 60's and stormy. Of course it usually works that way in the Midwest - heat followed by storms and cool weather. What I keep wondering about is: why do we no longer have just simple rainy days anymore? No gentle rains? No soft rains that last all night or all day? No, we have, over and over again, intense down pours. Rain so thick you can't see across the street. Rain so intense it runs off the ground and causes flooding instead of soaking in.

We were out walking our dogs today. A nice sunny day when we set out. But shortly into the walk, the clouds blew in, dark and threatening. We cut the walk short. And good thing. The sky opened and the rain came down in buckets. Luckily we were home. Actually I was just getting in the car at the grocery store when the storm unleashed its furry. Forget about seeing anything within one or two feet. So. Just wait it out.

And now. The sun is shining on wet grounds, everything is sparkling. Weird to think that just hours ago I presided at a funeral, the weather was sunny and beautiful. So difficult to think about days she (the dearly departed) will never see again. So odd to remember that...our lives go on, but for our departed loved ones, they no longer share in this life as we do. And we no longer get to share life with them. No more sunny days. No more rainy days.

My mom died nearly three years ago. Suddenly, of a massive heart attack. We had the best relationship possible given the circumstances.

My mother was horribly abused as a child by alcoholic parents. I remember my grandparents with fondness, but I can imagine that they were not good parents. So. My mother was compromised. She did the best she could. She taught me to strive for what I want in life, to not settle for anything, that as a girl/woman I was still capable and able. She taught me to go to college and take care of myself.

On the other hand. When you are raised by a parent who has been abused, life is warped. The view of reality is distorted. I have gone to lots of therapy to understand this. I do not harbor ill feelings toward my mother. Like I said, she did the best she could. But still. I was raised by a woman who didn't really know how to love. My brothers and I are scarred from this.

Over time, I have found peace and healing in the "details" of my life. I'm ok with my mom being who she was. Yes,I wish she were able to be different. She was smart and funny and witty. She could have been awesome, if she weren't so scarred. At times I yearn for that mom, the one who was mostly healthy and just leaves her kids with the normal challenges. Mine, well I had major work to do. But I did it. I am mostly whole and well.

Now my mother is dead. And. I do not have any sense that she is with me. I have no feelings of her abiding presence, no sense of her love embracing me. Even though I preach about that, and think that some folks actually feel it. I do not.

Nonetheless, I think she has found wholeness and true joy in life as she knows it after death. At least I hope she has. Joy and peace at last.

I hope that same thing for everyone who has died. That life is whole and real and good in whatever life one knows after death. All the brokenness and sorrow and pain is over. Life is whole. And I suspect, the gift they would give us, if they could (our beloved departed) would be: trust it. Life is good. And it only gets better. Regardless of the weather.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Funeral, honoring the sorrow and the sweetness of life

I have a funeral tomorrow for the sister of a parishioner. C and J come to church regularly. C was on the search committee that called me to small church. We have dinner with C & J once or twice a year (husband and me). I blessed their house when the moved and buried J's father. And now, with the death of J's sister, I once more enter into the lives of her extended family.

I first met the extended family when J's father died, suddenly, about four year ago. Her parents had just arrived at their winter home in Florida. They had to bring the body home. Everyone was in shock. It was so unexpected. I was the new priest at small church. J called to see if I would preside at the funeral at the funeral home. No one could remember or knew if her father had been baptized. Not much for church this extended family did not know how to proceed. And J, being a church goer, was concerned about what could be done. What about her father's soul? How do we have a funeral like this? No problem I said. We can do this, we can honor your father's life and trust in the love of God to take care of everything else. He was a good man. A family man. He loved and was loved. The funeral was just what they needed. Now. I have been asked to preside at the funeral for the sister.

She died Friday of lung cancer. Just three years older than I am. She never smoked. The illness was agonizing. Painful. She was not a person of faith. No church community. Her husband is devastated. The family wanted to know if I would do the funeral. So. Tonight the wake, I will say Prayers at the end of a wake. Then tomorrow, the funeral. I have written and rewritten the funeral liturgy hoping it will speak words of hope and comfort to this family who know little about hope in God, little about the resurrection. They are, I imagine, angry with God. How could this happen? I understand.

I will offer a short reflection. It is still being formulated in my being. Something about life. How life brings profound and sudden changes. Life as we knew it is over. Everything is different. And in that change, that experience of chaos and sorrow and pain, we are an open wound. Life leaves us wounded, marked. Eventually the wounds become scars that pull on us and remind us of what we have been through. What we have lost. The wounds also have the opportunity, in the scarring, in the healing, to make us whole again. This wholeness, includes the scars, but it also includes hope. Hope is found in the memories of the one we loved. Hope is found as those memories cease to be filled with pain and instead begin to remind us of love. The love we had and the love we continue to have. Love does not die. Love lives on. In loving and being loved we are able to move through the sorrow into a new day. The scar, no longer an open wound, is healed by love. Love prevails and life goes on. We become whole again even as we are forever marked.

I'll work on it. I may even bring in Jesus, the crucifixion and his woundedness, and how Christians have found hope in those scars, have found love in the brokenness, the love of God who is with us always, but especially in our darkest days.

What I know about this family is that we go out for lunch afterward. And they will tell funny stories about their sister and they will laugh. In their sorrow they will find some healing in their laughter. That is how they will heal. That is where they will find love again.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Warmest Day Since August 23, 2006

The weather forcast for today: sunny, high of 85 degrees. And, it's my day off. So I'm going out. Taking the dogs out. Having lunch with a friend. Windows open and airing out the house. wow. I love it.

**Note to self. When it is hot outside, wear as little clothing as possible and make sure to wear cotton....also. No dog park today. Ruby (Viszla) has eye allergies which kicked in after we went to dog park yesterday. So. It's eye drop time and a walk through the neighborhood...question: how can she be a bird dog, bred to run in the fields and grasses and then be allergic to them...?

Trying On Clothes, A Metaphor for These Days

Over the last year I have entered myself into (or been entered in) five search process for a new call at a new church. It started in Sept. of 2006 and culminated last week when four out of the five called, or sent a letter, letting me know that they have chosen someone else. (Ok. so there is still one out there, but I haven't heard from them in weeks, so I'm thinking they have gone in a different direction)...

Ok. Yes, it is true that I felt that none of these churches turned out to be a good fit for me, so the calls were all correct. But can I say that it still stings? It's really hard to maintain the perspective of call and realize that the Holy Spirit is in here somewhere when the EGO keeps getting in the way. (ie "What's wrong with me? What did I do/say/not do/ not say???).

In many ways I am relieved. My family does not want to move anywhere. Our daughter is just getting herself established in the world of horses, competing, and all things equestrian. But she is not ready to live on her own and support herself. The stress of it all was causing her to have health problems. Our son has settled nicely into High School with good friends. He has a girl friend and they are going to prom. It's a little freaky to see your little boy grow up. More so than my daughter, I think? And. Like I said, none of these churches, in the end, felt quite right. Weird.

On paper they all seemed "perfect." The phone interviews gave me more info. Some were exciting, others a bit more "dull." The on site visits, here or there, really told the truth.

A friend of mine used the analogy of buying and trying on clothes. You want a new outfit so you go shopping. You bring several items into the fitting room, excited at the possibility. But, when you try them on, nothing fits quite right.

Sadly, small church, where I currently serve, is running out of money. Or to continue the metaphor, it's getting old and worn out. Yes. I can continue to "wear" it for awhile longer. It's comfortable and a reasonably good fit. But it will not last forever.

So. I will need to go shopping again. But. I think I need to wait a few days for I start looking.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Shadow

Our sweet black cat, named Shadow by our son, loves to sit on top of the computer monitor and watch the curser and/or letters as I type. I imagine she would love to "catch" them. She is actually quite good at catching. Flies in mid air. Once, sitting on top of the refrigerator she got a spider as it trailed down from the ceiling fan. She lept off the frige, smacked the spider between her two front paws, in mid air, and landed on the floor where she played with the stunned spider. Eventually bored, she let it escape. (great, now I need to find it)....so amusing. But best of all she likes to curl up in my lap while I type, fall asleep, and purr...sigh.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Pot ta toe, Po tah toe...Either Or

ReverendMother over at RevGals writes: There are two types of people in the world, morning people and night owls. Or Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. Or boxers and briefs. Or people who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't. Let your preferences be known here. And if you're feeling verbose, defend your choices!

1. Mac? (woo-hoo!) or PC? (boo!)
Why yes, the Friday Five author reserves the right to editorialize! Mac. That's my preference. But sadly, we use PC these days. Not by choice.

2. Pizza: Chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid? Chicago style. After 35 years of living here and eating the good stuff...what else could I say?

3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts: No nuts. They give me mouth sores....

4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?I go both ways or either or...no big deal to me....

5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs? I usually start by squeezing it in the middle, then end up squeezing it from the bottom up.

Bonus: Share your favorite either/or. Latte or chocolate mocha. Chocolate cake or ice cream. Knit or blog. Blog or work on sermon. Blog or go to work. Blog or watch TV. Blog or blog or blog or blog... :-)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Standing Still

two out of three parishes that visited recently have called the other person. i wait to hear from one other. and two churches are quiet, who know what direction they are going in? i think i am going to stand still. i think i am going to stay right where i am for now. i wonder what God has in mind for me?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday: A Real Day Off...

A real day off today. No work at all. I blogged and read blogs, helping me to begin the process of reconnecting with my cyber space friends. I cleaned my house. My daughter and I went out for lunch and took the dogs to dog park. We made dinner from scratch, hamburgers (homemade) on the grill, sauteed onions, homemade fries. Ok not a complicated meal, but delicious. Add a glass of red wine, and a full day like this leaves me feeling almost normal and human again. Almost. It was a beautiful sunny day here in the low to mid 80's. Rain storms coming, but the day was fabulous.

Monday Morning Musings

The whirlwind of interviews is over. For now. I may have one or two more coming up. But for the few weeks I am done. The process of interviewing is fascinating. Getting to know a community from what the say and present and from what they do not....and also what they come to know about me (or not). I allow myself to be appropriately transparent. I am looking for a good fit, a place that really excites me, and a community I grow in and with. I am who I am, and that includes some strong gifts for leadership and ministry. So, I am discerning. And it's possible that of these three churches none of them will be the place I go to. And, while I have two others that I am considering, they are very quiet, so not too hopeful there either.

Which means I may end up starting the entire search process all over again.

So. On this Monday Morning. My day off I am thinking about the call and where the Spirit leads. I am working to stay reflective and hopeful. I am tired. On this day I will try to catch up on blogging. I will clean my house and take my dogs to the dog park. I will rest. I will wait to see what churches move on, which ones I pull out of, and where this leads me.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

A Woman's Burden

Four hours of grilling. I have done lots of interviews. I may be the church job search pro. I'm good at it. But yesterday I experienced an interview that beat all others. Four hours of talking. This after a 90 minute phone interview earlier. This after a two hour lunch the day before where I barely ate as I answered question after question. This after they have spent 12 hours interviewing members of my parish and other references....Then in the midst of this a sixty some year old man asked me my views on abortion and how I would counsel a "13 year old pregnant girl who did not have supportive parents and came to me because she was pregnant." (Ok so no one else is every confused about a prepnancy, only poor girls???)....

Now, I am not about to get on my soap box regarding the abortion issue. But suffice it to say it was headed in a bad direction when he said that he believes abortion is wrong even in cases of incest and rape. And then I was virtually speechless when he said, "It is a woman's burden to bear, even if she has been raped or is a victim of incest. It is a woman's burden to bear." Men are not culpable in any capacity for any kind of inappropriate behavior? It's just a woman's burden to bear???

Later he told my husband that when he and his wife were living in Australia she saw a large scorpion on the drapes. She went to kill it but knocked it down instead and it landed in his gym bag. She never told him there was a scorpion in his gym bag. He found it later....(and obviously lived to tell the story)....

'nuff said???

Thursday, May 03, 2007

One More

I have just returned from meeting folks at a church where I am considering a new call. It was a good, insightful visit. Not the "perfect" church but maybe the good enough church...We'll see if they call with an offer and what can be negotiated...but I am excited about the possibility.

Now I have one more visit, beginning tomorrow (Friday). This search committee will be here for three days. I still have two other churches that may be a possibility but they are moving slower - good back ups in case these first two fall apart.

I am tired. I am excited. I am hopeful. I don't want to over think the process.

Thank you for prayers. Thank you for continued prayers.

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...