Thursday, August 23, 2007

(Job Before God)

I have spent most of this day in a futile attempt to write my sermon for Sunday. I have read, reflected, prayed, pondered, taken notes, thought I had an idea (once or twice) then changed my mind. I even fell asleep. (Sometimes ideas, direction, solutions come to me in my sleep). But alas. Nothing. Of course it doesn't help that we have torrential rain and severe thunderstorm or tornado warnings all around. Even sirens going off (not in my area, but I hear them off in the distance). None of my family is home. Son went to a friends after school. Daughter is at the barn working. Husband at the office. It's me and the dogs, the cats and the bird, and the flickering lights.

So, I think I am relatively safe from the worst of the storm which is traveling well south or north, I'm in the middle with just wind and rain. (back now 20 minutes later...the uh, wind got really bad, almost lost power a few times and wondered about the trees, thought for sure one of the was going to break in half and land on the house...) Now, all is settling, I'm going to play a game. I've been tagged by revdrkate. The rules are:

1.You have to use your own belief system for the meme. No fair using someone else’s to make a joke or satire. Being humorous about your own religion is encouraged!
2.You have to have at least one joy and one trial. More are encouraged. And no, they don’t have to be equal in length, but please be honest.
3.You have to tag at least one other person. More are appreciated!
4.Please post these rules!

One Joy: This is actually difficult. I haven't had much joy lately. Definitely not much joy regarding my faith life. I'm in a Jobian time, I think. The joy I have felt is coming from a couple of newcomers to the parish who are jumping in getting very active. One is making our flowers for Sunday mornings. Here is a sample of the floral arrangement she made for the funeral I had last weekend: . We always have a floral arrangement around our Paschal Candle for Easter, Christmas, other major feast days, weddings, and funeral. It's lovely, don't you think?

The other parishioner is joining our choir and comes with twenty years of experience. So, I hope she can bring us some new energy.

I continue to find joy in my little parish. It is a joy mixed with frustration, but a joy nonetheless. I am able to be really creative and explore liturgy in many ways and they go right along with it, liking much of what we do. Of course I always say, "We're just trying this. If we don't like we won't do it again." And, I often ask them in the service and one on one what they think of what ever we do. I hope they feel like they are given a voice. As a worship committee of one I rarely have a chance to create with others, so I try to invite folks in this way.

A third joy is my denomination. Even with all its flaws, struggles, and failures, I a find so much joy in being an Episcopal priest. Of all the potential directions my life might have gone in I am glad it went this way. Thanks to the woman minister who married my husband and me and who suggested we try the Episcopal Church, even though she was UCC. (We were married in THE HIP UCC church in town, drawn to it because it was very diverse).

Trials: Well, like I said, I feel as if I am in a Jobian state. Not much is actually going well in my life. And that leaves me wondering where God is. I feel abandoned by God, prayers feel so futile I've given up altogether. (OK, as is clear from a previous post, I still pray
just not in an orthodox way).

As I've also said before, much of my stress is financial, personal and parish. It is really scary to be on the financial brink in one's personal life and professional life. So, in that regard I am not exactly like Job. I haven't lost everything, yet.

But I feel like Job because it seems all I can do is sit here and wonder where God is. I am impotent to really change any of the dynamics at work here. I've tried, to no avail. I mean I am not just being passive and pouty. I am being resolute: OK God, I'm in your hands. Or as someone recently said: God, move that rock.

Not a terrible fun game to play, if one is honest. My faith, my feelings about religion and God are truly being tested. I have a difficult time preparing for Sunday morning, proclaiming the Good News when I don't feel it in my own life.

I've never lost hope before. But I have now. Isn't that weird? Have you ever lost all hope?

Ok. Now that I've said all of this. Please realize that I am plodding on. I get up every day and exercise and live and work and take care of myself and others. So. I realize that this is just a season of my life. It too will pass...eventually. I'm just not sure who I'll be when it does...


Gannet Girl said...

There have been many periods in my life of no hope. None. Absolutely none. The only thing I hae found that works is to wait for there to be hope. Listening carefully helps, but it can still be a long wait. I have no idea why this is. Sometimes we are just called to experience the hold of darkness.

mompriest said...

Yes, sometimes we are called to experience the hold of darkness...well put. I may be able consider this time of my life a "calling" - especially since we rarely know where a call will lead us...

Songbird said...

I've been in the darkness, too, mompriest.
Do you know Renita Weems' book, Listening for God:a Minister's Journey Through Silence and Doubt? It was a great comfort to me to know I wasn't alone in having the disconnected times.

mompriest said...

I do not know that book, but I am ordering it right now! thanks!!

Presbyterian Gal said...

Oh darlin, most of my life has been spent slogging through darkness. My only knowledge of God as a father with a maligned sense of humor as he pings me on the head when I walk by. Which is what Job had to have felt as God used him to make a wager with Satan. Who I've often yelled at God for loving more than me.

But then, always Jesus comes through. And the Holy Spirit. Always there. Very often to shush the Father's heavy handed playfulness and comfort those of us limping from the pings.

It's when we relentlessly consider the lilies. It's when we keep our eyes on the prize. It's when we pray outside the box. That's when the "flickering" light grows steady. And all that's dark falls away.

And I thank you for posting this. And inspiring me to walk back to that lily field.

RevDrKate said...

Oh, Mompriest.....holding hope and lifting prayer for you. Such a hard place this is...keep looking for that yoga's there somewhere!

mompriest said...

RG - I suspect our lives have traversed similar paths. It does help to have companions on the journey, even, or especially, through the darkness.

revdrkate - thank you for the prayers...oh, I think I saw that yoga mat somewhere in the mileu as I was deep where was it?

Diane said...

mompriest -- I'm next doing this meme and have been putting it off. I'm thinking of your and praying for you. Yes, I have had periods of darkness, also the "not quite dark" gray-ness, too. Financial has been part of it. Loneliness (when I was single), also during a particular time in a relationship that was not healthy. Thank you for your honest joys and trials.

Have you read The Dark Night of the Soul? -St. John of the Cross.

I will continue to pray for you. This community does help me sometimes. I hope you too. take care.

mompriest said...

yes. I have found wonderful companionship through this blogging - I am perpetually grateful for RevGals - you all have been amazing - fun, interesting, thought provoking, supportive, kind, generous,

Grace thing said...

YOU have been a joy for me, mompriest. So for that, thank you. And for your honesty and vulnerability. So know that even during the darkness, you have been able to emit light to others.

mompriest said...

grace-thing, thank you. and thanks be to God that my struggle to plod along carries some light that can be shared with others.

RevDrKate said...

In Richard J. Foster's book Prayer:Finding the Heart's True Home, he devotes a chapter to what he calls the "Prayer of the Forsaken." I re-read it last night after reading your post and wish I could just give you this book right now. He speaks of this kind of time as one of the "Deus Absconditus"...God who is hidden, when God, though always truly present "withdraws our consciousness of his presence." He has so much to say that is powerful and comforting. He recommends prayer of lament and complaint with the Lament Psalms. He says: "They allow us to shout out our forsakeness in the dark caverns of abandonment and then hear the echo return over and over until we bitterly recant of them, only to shout them out again. They give us permission to shake our fist at God one moment and break into doxology the next." He also frames what you are already doing...going on, going forward every day, as "beating on the cloud of unknowing 'with a short dart of longing love'" and counsels "wait on God." Easier said than done, I know....been there, too. I wanted to say also how much I appreciate your willingness to be so open about your pain...that is a gift and a grace. Thank you.

mompriest said...

revdrkate - those words and thoughts are very comforting and affirming. I especially like the "beaating on the cloud of unknowing with a short dart of longing love..." and the counsel to "wait on God." thank you for re-reading them and bringing them to me. I will get that book as well as the one Songbird recommended.

Part of the process for me of "seeking authentic voice" is in fact being as authentic as I can. From which I trust I will know myself better and be able to speak with authenticity what God is stirring up in me. I am grateful that you all can hear my attempts to do this as not whiney (not that that's wrong, its not my intent) but as an effort to be honest.

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