Saturday, October 27, 2007

James of Jerusalem

Not my sermon, but the fabulous one I heard preached at Clergy Conference. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, even without the preacher's voice and gestures to nuance the text...thanks, Joy, for sharing this

James of Jerusalem – the somewhat surprising, acknowledged leader of an ancient Church;

James the Just -- tradition calls him; not warm and fuzzy but clearly affirming;

James, Martyr – 3 decades after the Crucifixion, stoned to death by order of the high priest, – for persisting in his dangerous proclamation about a Crucified and Risen Messiah; a judicial murder, Josephus called it. Apparently, it ran in the family.

For I find that the most intriguing, and mysterious label for James, is the NT claim that he is the brother of the Lord.

Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?

James and all those brothers and sisters give Jesus a certain credibility. I have a brother of my own; if you ask me, a savior without siblings has not been put to a serious test of sinlessness.

Whatever your personal pieties in such matters, I claim a logic that allows an imaginative leap to suggest that a woman from Nazareth, a woman named Mary, raised two boys, and then lost them both to the family business, the God business.

Mary, Mother of our Lord – the Gospels call her.

Theotokos – God-bearer – the church came to call her;

Mother of God, some name her.

So, that logical leap again – if Mary is Mother of God, does that make James the brother of God?

There’s an interesting sibling dynamic. God’s brother.

Did James ever wonder if Mom always loved Him best?

We do.

And maybe here is where James makes room for you and me, now. In the way that Jesus is our brother, too. As Vicki Garvey once said, we are all related to God – on his mother’s side.

I cannot help but wonder if James’ big scene in our Christian history, that fractious council in Jerusalem and his role in it had something to do with the fact that he too was his Mother’s son. Maybe she sang the same lullaby to both boys.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.

He is now the leader of a beleaguered church – a church threatening to come apart at the seams. Over an issue that Jesus’ never mentioned. It is interesting to think about what are not red-letter words in the New Testament. (a comment aimed at Tony Campolo, our conference speaker, whom I blogged about previously)...

He is finding that the ‘we’ve never done it that way before’ rallying cry is as challenging in the first century as we find it in the 21st. He must preside over a Council of angry, passionate, pushy, ‘positive that they are right’ folk from all sides of the spectrum. The Conversations are getting tense, nasty, loud – and folk are slamming doors and threatening to leave if the other side doesn’t.
It’s hard to imagine being part of that kind of a church. Or not.

And then I wonder what it means that the angry voices filling that council room are all male – all Jewish men.

All of them getting pretty exercised about a theme that was pretty near and dear to their . . . ‘hearts.’ Clearly this Council is a guy thing.

I hope no one misses the irony here – that a preacher like me is challenged to ponder the question of whether circumcision is meant to be an essential sign, a mandatory mark, for full membership in the Christian community.

So now I wonder, where was Mom? Or Mary and Martha, or Mary Magdalene, or Joanna, wife of Herod’s steward, or any of those other women who once followed Jesus – from Galilee, to Calvary. Women who stood at a Cross – and showed up at a tomb.

Somehow, I don’t see them going away – resigning themselves to the dreary reality that the ecclesiastical battles of a developing church had become more important than their trust and faith in a Crucified and Risen Lord.

So maybe they were there, in another room, during all the fuss. I hope it wasn’t the kitchen; maybe they were knitting prayer shawls.

I’m only guessing they had a few rude jokes to share on the subject.
We can imagine that conversation –

Do you believe those guys?

They are ready to break up a church over that!

What are they afraid of?

The high priests are rounding up disciples; the Romans are getting restless;
the lions are starting to roar in the amphitheater.
People are frightened; children are hungry; families are losing their land.
And what about the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ –

(actually it has been over 20 years since we headed out from that empty tomb) -- someone should think about writing one down).

What happened to proclaiming the vision of a world that works the way God intends – what happened to Jesus’ news about the Kingdom of God.
What happened to a church fired up and sent out to show the world what that can look like!

What happened?

Maybe all those women had differing opinions. But I’m betting that the issue that topped the council agenda wasn’t one they cared most about.

And I hope that one of them had heard rumors of some crazy letters from the wild man of Tarsus, the odd bloke giving fits to all the Jerusalem guys – maybe she caught just a snippet that went something like, in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female . . .

So a good Jewish woman, a woman who already had staked her life on a crucified Messiah, realizes that maybe, just maybe, there was something important at stake here for her in this debate in which she had no voice. Something really important for her, for anyone who was odd or different or foreign or female or . . .

Another uppity woman from another Christian communion adds her two cents to our current fray. Sister Joan Chittister wrote a column last month – We all need the Anglicans right now.

“So the question the Anglican communion is facing for us all right now is a clear one: What happens to a group, to a church that stands poised to choose either confusion or tyranny, either anarchy or authoritarianism, either unity or uniformity? Are there really only two choices possible at such a moment? Is there nowhere in-between?”

(It makes one wonder if James asked that too.)

“We seem to think that we have only two possible choices: the authoritarian model, which requires intellectual uniformity and calls it ‘community’ or a kind of intellectual anarchism, which eats away at the very cloth of tradition in a changing world.

The problem is that threatened by change we are more inclined to suppress the prophetic question than we are to find the kind of structures that can release the Spirit, that can lead us beyond unthinking submission while honoring the tradition and testing the spirits.

From where I stand, we need those who can develop a model of faith in times of uncertainty in which the tradition is revered and the prophetic is honored. Unless we want to see ourselves go into either tyranny or anarchy, we better pray for the Anglicans so that they can show us how to do that.”

Maybe James already did.

James so long ago convened a council in Jerusalem in turbulent times, in a dangerous and changing world, to face the prospect of a radically changed church.

He helped an infant church move into unthinkable newness:

From enforcing old rules to developing new relationships;

From making ‘them’ just like ‘us’ to opening hearts and minds to the truth of lives unlike our own, yet marked by faith as fervent as any of our own.

From clinging in fear to an old covenant to accepting – maybe even while they were still fearful -- a new kind of Communion;

James might tell us that it isn’t easy – then or now;
That staying the course can get someone killed;
That you can make everyone angry with you;

Even that you might be wrong – James was once.

Remember when he and Mom tried to take his crazy brother back home, before he got in real trouble?

But God was still present;
Jesus still loved him;
And a fiery, windy Spirit blew him open and out into a faith and a future, he never would have imagined.

And maybe the way he did it is still how you change a church that could change the world – by holding on to a heritage and to a hope.

The model is biblical;

At the risk of anachronism, I believe the process is what it means to be Anglican.
And promise in it all – the truth of James himself:

How Jesus’ Brother came to know what it means and what it costs and what can happen when he was ready to become a brother of God. How he reminds the likes of us who would call this Jesus our brother – that any sisters and brothers of God must be as well sisters and brothers of one another.

Our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord;
Our spirits rejoice in God our Savior.

Joy Rogers
Clergy Conference, Diocese of Chicago
October 23, 2007

For a diocese that stands poised on the eve of electing a new bishop this sermon was a call to walk into an unknown future confident that God is leading us. Confident that we can do a new thing. Confident that together we can find a third way to get through the confusion. We have five good men on the slate. Four of them can articulate a clear vision and each would make a good bishop. (The fifth is a sweet, passionate man, but no clear vision, at least not for Bishop)...But none of these men brings a new vision. They are each a continuation of the same. The same that we have had for many years. They will enable us to stay in the "We've always done it this way" mode.

We have three women on our slate of nominees. Each one is incredible. Each one a clear strong visionary voice. One of them is a partnered lesbian. She is the best candidate on the slate for a whole host of reasons. The question is, will the Spirit lead us to elect her? And will we have the courage to follow?

Friday, October 12, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: The B-I-B-L-E

My first response to this FF5 is, "I'm Episcopalian, we don't know the Bible..." but that is not really true. The Bible shapes and forms our Book of Common Prayer. We read three scripture passages and a Psalm every time we worship, on Sunday morning and we pray the Daily Office (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline). So. We know the Bible. Although I have never memorized parts of I have internalized a lot of it. So, now, onto answering the questions...

1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text? When I was a child my family and I would gather every Christmas eve and read the birth narrative in Luke. We'd bring out our nativity set and "re-enact" the story. When I was old enough to read I loved to be the "narrartor."

2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes). I really enjoy The Message. I use this version for our Holy Week readings, from Passion/Palm Sunday through the Great Vigil. This version is so dramatic. The language is close to what we use everyday which makes the experience of Holy Week feel like it is in present time. I love that Peterson has made such an effort to go for the spirit of the verses not a word for word interpretation. I also like the RSVP because, well, that's what we use and the one I am most familiar with. Sometimes I like the KJV, but rarely will I use that any more.

3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage? I love the Gospel of John and the entire section we read during Lent in Year A. This section moves us through the raising of Lazarus, the questionin of Nicodemus,and the adocity of the Woman at the Well. These are powerful stories for me and I love to reflect and preach on them.

4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther's famous words about James, to be "an epistle of straw?" Which verse(s) make you want to scream? Oh gosh, the verses in the Psalm about God crushing babies heads on rocks, the stories of God destroying the enemy of Israel in Joshua and Kings, for example. No, I don't need to just hear stories about a warm and fuzzy God. I like that our scriptures challenge us to "Love God, Love Self, Love Neighbor." I think that if we really strive to do this love-thing we find that it is HARD and anything BUT warm and fuzzy.

5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral? Absolutely for. But I am also for striving to use poetic language. Some inclusive language sources are dry and abrupt, "God be with you." I still want the language to flow like poetry or prose.

Bonus: Back to the Psalms--which one best speaks the prayer of your heart? Psalm 121 "I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come?" and Psalm 104:26-27 "Yonder is the great wide sea with its living things to many to number, creatures both small and great. There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan, which you have made for the sport of it." I just chuckle every time I read it - "which you have made for the sport of it..." I

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"This I Believe"

This year my parish is participating in NPR's "This I Believe" essay project. I was inspired to do this by Grace-thing. She published her essay on her blog awhile back which lead me into a conversation with her about the project. Several other Revgals have participated in this project with their churches or dioceses.

Some of you may remember Edward R. Morrow’s series from the 1950’s, “This I Believe.” These essays offered an intimate glimpse into what the average American believed. The essays were not intended to be sermons or editorials or even specifically religious beliefs. Rather the series requested the real beliefs of real people. No reiteration of church dogma or doctrine. But the essays could be about faith, God, and what one believes in one’s life.

In 2005 National Public Radio resurrected “This I Believe” by inviting people to write essays following the original guidelines from Morrow’s series. You can hear these essays read by their authors on NPR on Monday’s “Morning Edition,” and “All Things Considered.” They are also available on line at

Our theme in "small church" this year is, “Deepening Our Faith.” One way we will explore this is through participating in this series. Each month we will feature an essay written by a parishioner. We have done a variety of exercises from the workbook available on the NPR website for writing essays with houses of worship. Here is my essay....

On All Saints’ Day 2006 I developed the first symptoms of what was to become a life threatening illness. An infection formed from a fractured tooth and traveled into my jaw bone and up the side of my face. The normal mouth flora grew where it did not belong and caused havoc. For eight days I lived with increasingly excruciating pain which finally sent me to the hospital. After another 48 hours, when I failed to respond to IV antibiotics, the team of doctors decided to drain the site. In this surgery a three inch incision would be made just below my jaw line to drain the infection. Then drains would be placed into the incision and up the side of my face, between the bone and the muscle, to further facilitate drainage. Because my jaw muscles were swollen with infection I could only open my mouth wide enough to squeeze in a small pea. Providing oxygen for me during surgery would be complicated, they had to intibate through my nose. Then, as a precaution, they gave me a tracheotomy. Surgery took place in the early evening. While I waited for surgery, in my pained and disoriented state, I remember praying. In essence I put my life in God’s hands, live or die, I cared not. I just wanted the pain to end.

Now, aside from lingering numbness in my chin and mouth, I have healed from the infection. In its place, scars remain. To a certain degree these scars define me. From this illness and healing I have a metaphor for my life. I live my life with the belief that God created us and therefore has a vested interest in who we are and how we live our lives. It’s not as concrete as God has a “plan” for us and all we have to do is figure it out. It’s more like a desire. God desires each of us to be a vibrant and vital part of creation. This is similar to what a parent hopes for in a child. Becoming who God desires me to be is a life long process of formation; it requires that I work on my relationship with God. Over the course of a life time my formation has included many seasons, good and difficult, healthy or sick, rich and poor, fertile and dry. There have been times in my life when everything feels harmonious, life cruises along like a boat sailing in a gentle breeze. But, like everyone else, there are other times when I encounter tremendous challenges.

The year preceding my illness, like the year that has followed, has been arid. Not only has it been dry and barren, but also dark. Like a moonless night in the desert. Except this desert place of my soul does not cool off at night, there is no reprieve. In the dark I was directionless. I had no idea where I was or which direction to travel. The hot dry desert heat, like an unbearable summer, has left me parched. Like someone craving water and food, I yearn for a new season of life, a season that includes healing of mind, body, and spirit. Now, eleven months later the incision wounds have healed, only scars remain. Like our body, spiritual, psychic, and emotional wounds leave scars as well.

Scar tissue is tough and inflexible. Because it is stiff, adhesion's form which can cause more problems than the original ailment. Moving about can be uncomfortable. The scar pulls and tugs and itches as it intertwines with the surrounding tissues of skin, muscle, and connective tissue. At the very least it is annoying; on other occasions it is downright painful.

As a metaphor for physical or spiritual wounds a scar becomes that which continues to remind us of our fragility. Some scars are small and on the surface. They never bother me. However, those things in life which cause deep wounds, physically, emotionally, or spiritually, leave profound scars. The scars that remain will continue to remind us of the pain we felt. The pain of struggle, tragedy, loss, and sorrow all leave their mark on us. We are all wounded.

These last few years have been a time of intense challenge in all aspects of my life, physical, emotional, spiritual, personal and vocational. There has been no place to turn for reprieve, the challenges were everywhere. My prayer life was reduced to a simple silent gasp in the darkness. Slowly the season is changing. The air is cooler, and the wounds are closing. Soon scars will form over the wounds of these last few years. I believe that our scars can be the place of ongoing bitterness in our lives, the place we hold resentment, anger, fear. Or the scars can become a place that reminds us that even (or especially) our woundedness is the place where we can find hope. Many times a day I apply cocoa butter and vitamin E to the scar on my neck. This keeps it soft and pliable and reduces the amount of adhesion that forms. In a similar way I will need to add salve to help soften and heal the spiritual scars. The healing balm for this scar is prayer. I believe that prayer is a fundamental source of healing in our lives.

I believe that Jesus knows the agony I felt on that gurney before surgery. I believe that Jesus knows the intense emotion of dark, silent, gasping. Jesus understands human despair, and therefore so does God. In the midst of his pain Jesus turned himself over to God. In response God did not take away the pain nor stop the suffering. God’s response? God brought Jesus back to life again. Jesus came, neither as someone healed, nor as one unmarked. No. Jesus came as one still carrying fresh wounds. In the resurrection Jesus shows us his wounds and reminds us that regardless of how dark our lives get or how much pain we encounter, He is here with us. In the pain. In the suffering. And in the healing.

I believe in the resurrection, and that somehow, over time, in God’s time, God transforms our pain into something new.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Few Things I'm Getting Tired Of

Last night while watching "Boston Legal" James Spader's character was arguing a case for a 15 year old girl. His character (whose name I can never remember) usually gets the best cases to argue. And he always makes a strong case for some issue we are facing in our country. Last night in his closing argument he brought up "faith based" initiatives and how the "current administration" has broken the boundary between Church and State.

It gave me pause to think. I really appreciate that prime time television is taking on major issues and arguing them a moral and ethical point of view. I appreciate that they bring faith and religion into the mix.

I am tired of people in the media, whether a TV program, the news, the radio, the newspaper, defining faith ONLY through the lens of ultra-conservative, sometimes fundamentalist, Christianity.

There is a more diverse perspective in this country. There are deeply caring thoughtful people of faith from all across the spectrum who are wrestling with the issues we face today. But only one perspective makes the news. Or at least the headlines, the other perspectives may be buried in the article or a subtext to program, however most people stop reading or their attention wanders before getting that far.

I am tired of the idea that there is a separation of church and state when in this country there really isn't. And, I'm not sure we should go on pretending there is. I think we need to have a broader range of faith based voices speaking up and discussing issues.

I'm tired of headlines about schism. As if THAT is the issue...

I'm tired of anything having to do with Brittany, Lindsay, Paris, or Nicole.

I'm tired of the media obsession with Diana, let the woman rest in peace.

I'm tired of Presidential debates.

I'm tired of media speculation about everything and anything.

I'm tired of the war and the lying and the torture.

I'm tired of an administration that acts like a school yard bully.

I'm tired of studies that indicate this or that causes cancer.

And then next week a study that counters the previous one. I'm tired of those too.

I'm tired of reality TV shows and bad comedy, cop shows, and doctor shows...

I'm not in a bad mood today. I'm not whiny. I'm just sayin'...

...what about you? What are you tired of?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tuesday Morning

This morning has dawned crisp, cool, and sunny. The record breaking heat wave is broken, fall has returned. I didn't really mind having summer back, even though fall was but an infant when summer blew back. Still it was hot and we are all ready for cooler temperatures. In the heat the leaves, which were changing colors, just dried up. Now, maybe the rest of the leaves have a chance to turn into glorious fall colors.

I had an interesting weekend. First I hosted the RevGals Preacher Party on Saturday. That was fun to create and stay connected with all day. It is a little intimidating, at first, to put up ones creation on such a public event, and hope it works. I am so grateful to the RevGals community for the support I have received over the last year. I'm happy to give back by taking on some of the leadership responsibilities.

Sunday I had a parishioner preach. It was the first in a series for the month of Oct. called, "Why I Come to Small Church." He did a nice job. I helped him connect his thoughts to the readings. Interestingly enough, what he was saying about his faith journey and his experience of worshiping at our church fit in well with the readings. There's the Holy Spirit for ya.

Sadly, though, being Columbus Day weekend, many of my parishioners were out of town. Between our two services we had less than 30 people. LESS THAN 30! Usually we are around 60. How can half the congregation be gone over one weekend?

Which makes wonder once again about the viability of small church. I got a call late Friday from a Deployment Officer for a Diocese that has been courting me. I have been in 4 search process for this diocese and not been offered a call by any of them. (Actually only one of the four was an exciting good fit, the others were all iffy, so I'm ok that none offered a call). Still. It brings up, yet again, do I stay or do I go. What makes it all the more difficult is that this Diocese is across the country, in the Southwest. I have to call this Deployment Officer back today and let him know if I am interested in having my name and materials submitted. This church seems to be good, so it has loads of potential. And it's BIG, so I appreciate that the Bishop thinks I am qualified to (potentially) lead it. Ahhh, so. I guess I'm going to put my name forth. Sigh.

Yesterday my family and I went into Chicago. Husband, daughter, Ryan, son, and son's friend, and me. We went to the Shedd Aquarium where I saw the Komodo dragon (woa).

Had a delicious lunch overlooking Lake Michigan.

Then Ryan and daughter went to the Dolphin show and the Field Museum

while the rest of us walked up to the Art Institute. Son and son's friend are taking a photography class in school. I thought they might see art in a new way now that they are actually working on it themselves. After the Art Institute we walked back the Shedd, past Buckingham Fountain, to the garage where our car was parked.

Last night I grilled Steelhead Lake Trout and steak. We ate that with some homemade pasta salad and potato salad (that I had made the day before) and steamed asparagus. We had a family dinner, laughing and sharing stories about our day. Good day.

Today, we are all back to our daily stuff. Work. School. And in Ryan's case, vacation. He's home until a week from Sunday. He has to be at the airport at 8:00am on Oct. 21 to return to Afghanistan. Sigh. Really enjoy having him home, having our family together. Although he is our daughter's boyfriend he is like a son to us and fits in so well with our family. After four years (they met when daughter was a sophmore and he was a senior in High School) I think he's a part of us forever.

Well. That's what's been happening in my world. Hope all is well with all of you...

Friday, October 05, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Thankfulness

List at least five things people, places, graces, miracles for which I am thankful...

People I am thankful for:
1. My husband. He is a hardworking, kind man of high integrity, the love of my life.
2. My daughter. She is a beautiful young woman dedicated to her work with horses and to Ryan, who is safely home on leave from Afghanistan (for which I am grateful).
3. My son. He is a joy.
4. Our Dogs, the keep me healthy with their playfulness and love of life.
5. Steve the Chiropractor and Steve the Jungian who have helped through the dark ages.

Places I am thankful for
1. My house. We don't own it, the church does. But it is the biggest house we have ever lived in. Large enough to be comfortable for 5 adults, two dogs, two cats, and a bird.
2. Small church. I am thankful for the people here, the church itself, and the 5 acres of land which house the church and rectory. A lot of creative energy and potential.
3. Chicago. It is one of the best cities anywhere. Great museums, beautiful lake front, landscaped sidewalks, clean, and vibrant. And not far from where I live.
4. St. Benedicts, a retreat center north of me. It is quiet and peaceful, beautiful. I go there every year with the vestry for a retreat.
5. The room where I sit in the mornings and read, blog, or write. My daughter did a home-make over on the room last summer. It is a lovely space with a comfortable chair and a great view out the window. Some days I a work here for hours. Being a solo pastor I do not keep many hours in the office where I am all alone in that big building. I do a lot of my work at home. And this room is my office.

Graces I am thankful for...
1. Finding RevGals. Reading, writing, being a part of this community is, and has been, a profound grace in my life.
2. The potential to remain at small church which enables my family to be stable and offers the hope of some real growth.
3. The dedicated hard work of the Bishops in the Episcopal Church who struggle to be together as a whole even as there are things they (we) disagree on. The fact that most of the Bishops are willing to walk together is Grace. Our Presiding Bishop is a sign of Grace as she works to heal the fractured. Despite some of the mean-spirited behavior of a few Bishops the overall Church in this country is learning how to be together in a new way. Yes. We have a long way to go...
4. That the darkness has lifted and I feel hope and energy in my life again.
5. God's quirky sense of humor...

Miracles I'm thankful for...
Miracles are far and few between. I dare not suggest five of these in my life. But there has been one, recently. Which I wrote about in my post below...which is what I mean by God's sense of humor - gone from my life for two years and then BAM hits me over the head with a I am, God says...and here you are...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

And in my town, it's the High School Homecoming Weekend...

Coming up, will it be: Lamentations, Habakkuk, Psalm 137 or Psalm 37, 2 Timothy, or Luke - pick your team players! Me, if I were preaching, would go with the Gospel, Luke 17:5-10. I'd ponder what it means to be "rooted" in faith like a mulberry tree planted in the sea. I wonder about how the rootedness of faith would shape and form the way I live my life. I wonder about how faith informs the things we do in every day ordinary ways - like Jesus speaking to the disciples about their faith. He says their faith is enough, it is rooted, now it just needs to be lived. Slaves were everyday ordinary HARD working folk, disciples should be the same, living faith in everyday ordinary hard working ways so that the Kingdom of God can come near.

But to live life in ordinary ways we need to be fortified. Especially when ordinary life includes exciting things (like play off games and High School Homecoming and sermon prep). So to keep us well nourished I'll be around all day. The first meal will be pancakes, eggs (how do you like 'em), bacon and sausage, French Toast, real maple syrup and butter. Next meal, turkey wraps in flat bread with Munster cheese and lettuce. Dinner will be an assortment of grilled meats with salads. A choice of beverages will be flowing all day, or bring your own.

Last week Abi hosted a fabulous Southern Buffet, and this week I'm going to return the favor and strive to host a Northern Brunch. Have a seat, what can I get you?

Ladies and Gentlemen, strap on your helmets, it's time to fortify ourselves for "game time"...

....let the party begin!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

And the World Tilts the Other Way...

As off kilter as yesterday felt, today moved in a complete opposite direction. The morning dawn brought bright blue skies and a vibrant sun. I rose early, got my son to school by seven and dropped Ryan off at a local health club to work out. He said that many of the guys his stationed with are getting fat. He doesn't understand that. He describes his time there like the movie "Ground Hog Day." Every day is the same as the last, get up, go to work, leave work, work out, eat a huge dinner, and then feel tired enough to go to sleep. Next day, repeat. Of course there is the matter of daily rockets that hit inside the base and destroy buildings. There is the matter of him sleeping lightly and waking to every sound. But, he says he is sleeping better now, than when he first got there in January. Then the sound of a door slamming shut and the sound of a rocket/bomb bursting were too similar. Now he can nuance the difference in his sleep. A little while later my son sent me a text messae, he got is sweater and Mp3 player back. The kid who sits behind him picked it up when he forgot it yesterday and gave it to my son today. Acts like that restore my hope in humanity. A teenager looking out for another...

After dropping Ryan off I went to work. Mid-morning I left for an appointment with a Massage Therapist. I continue to have work done to heal my neck and face. This treatment was phenonmenal. Not as mystical as the Sacral Cranial Myofacial work. But I know massage therapy, have had lots of it. Last week's MFR and Sacral Cranial was my first for that particular kind of body work. But the massage was great.

Returned to work with a long list of things to do. I had been there about ten minutes when a man walked in. Now. I usually work by myself. I never let anyone in when I am alone. But I happened to have two other folks there, a male colleague from a nearby church and a parishioner. The doors were unlocked and in this man walked. He was looking to speak to clergy. He said he had a story to share.

My male colleague, who was about to leave, came back in. The man said to him, maybe I sould speak to you. I said, not wanting my friend to be mistaken for the parish priest, "No, he doesn't work here, I do." "Oh," the man said, "He may want to hear it anyway." Then he launched into what I could tell was going to be a long story. My male colleague, hesitant to leave us alone with a strange man in the building went to work assisting my parishioner. I sat in the very public area of the narthex (entry way) and listened to this man's story. It goes like this:

"Last week my mother fell and hurt herself very badly. She's fractured her skull and her brain is mush. She's in the hospital. My mother is a woman of deep faith but my father would never let her practice her faith. He forbid her. My father was a cruel violent man. My mother is kind. She's had a very rough life but she has always been kind and looked out for me. I am not a person of faith. Oh, I believe in God, but that's about it. Now my mother is in the hospital on life support. I've been praying every day that she would get well. The hospital staff has called me repeatedly to tell me that putting her on life support was wrong and I should not do it, should not have done. My aunt, a woman of deep faith, told me to take her (sister) off the life support. But I can't do it. I needed her to be on the life support because I needed some time."

"I've gone to the hospital every day since Saturday. She has not gotten better, in fact she developed a very high fever, 104. Last night I asked the nurse if there had been any change and she said no. But the fever was gone."

At this point I said, "Isn't that a change?" and he said, "Yes, exactly. It took me awhile to realize that."

"Anyway," he says, "I was sitting there next to her, praying. And then I had to stand up. When I did I noticed that I felt so much better. All of a sudden I was filled with this sense that everything would be all right. It's like I heard God speak to me and say, 'Your mother will be alright."

So, I asked him, "What does that mean to you, that your mother will be alright?"

He said, "She will be healed and be fine." I said, "Ok."

He continued to his story, telling me about what a horrible person he has been, much like his father. His mother was good, but his father was awful, and so was he.

"But now," he said, " after that experience yesterday, I am no longer like my father. I am like my mother. I have a way to really believe, to understand what it means to believe in God. So, I've been going around telling people about it. I just have to share it. I want people to pray with me and for me."

"I know that somewhere in the Bible it speaks about people arguing with God. I 've been looking for that but I can't find it."

"Well," I said, "You'll find it in Genesis, in the first book of the Bible. Abraham argues with God..." and I went on to tell about Abraham, then Moses arguing with God, and then the Psalms..."The Bible tells us an amazing story of the history of people and their relationship with God. We believe that God lives in and through people and is active in history, in our lives. You've just had an experince of God. It's called an 'Epiphany.'

"Oh," he says, "I know that word, I never really knew what it meant." "It means," I said," An experience of God breaking through into our lives." "Wow," he says.

Then he says, "My friends are not people of faith. Some of them may believe in God but most of them are agnostic or aetheist. This story of my mother is blowing their minds. One said to me, 'I just don't believe in that invisible man in the sky."

I said,"Maybe God is not an invisible man in the sky. Maybe God is a woman, or a Being, or a presence..."

"NO," he said "I cannot, will not believe that God is a woman. It says in the Bible that God created man and woman in his image, the woman from the man."

I said,"Well, that is one of the versions of creation. Our Bible has two."

He stopped and said, "What???" I said, "Yes. Chapter one in Genesis and chap two in Genesis are both creation stories. But they tell a very different story about the creation of human beings..."

"Woa," he says, "You've just 'flatlined me..." I smile and waited.

Then I said, "The Bible is full of contradictions. In one book it will say one thing while in another it will say something else. As a whole it gives us a rich diverse picture of how people have experinced God. And it is not a black and white picture, it is shades of gray. On top of that the Bible was written a long time ago and has been interpreted and reinterpreted many times. Not every Bible says the same thing as another."

"Well," he said, "How do you know which is the right one to read? There has to be one 'right' tome?"

I said, "You read the one that speaks to you and helps you understand God, the relationshp people have with God and helps your relationship with God. You have just had your own real experience of God, that is your story. Now the Bible will help you make sense of that story along with the story of a history of human beings."

And he sat there stunned. Finally he said, "No one has ever said that to me. I am so glad I stopped in here today. I have a lot to think about."

Somewhere in the conversation we also spoke about his mother being on life support and "getting well." I said that even though God desires her to be well our bodies are not controlled by God. Anything could happen. God has a desire for us to live healthy lives but shit happens. And when it does God scoops into the muck and strives to pull out good. God does not make the bad but God strives to restore good from chaos. And so, I said, whether or not your mother recovers and lives or if she dies, she will be fine. You know that now because God has told you she will be fine. He said, "I already know that if she is not better by Friday I will pull the life support. The doctors have said she is fine on it until then, but after that the life support she is on will begin to cause other complications. So, I will have it removed and we'll see what happens. Either it has given her time for her body to heal and to what it needs to do or not. But, yes, now I know she will be fine. And so will I."

I ended our conversation with a prayer for him and his family. I prayed for the grace of God to continue to fill his life.

Like I said, after my day yesterday, when all went askew, today the world tilted the other way...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Four Things

I've been tagged by Presbyteriangal...

Four jobs I've held:
1. Technical Director for a Dance Theater shop. I designed the lights and ran the technical end of dance concerts for every weekend and most week nights for four years. Until all the concerts began to look alike and then I left.
2. Next I sold shoes and hiking boots at Eddie Bauer on Wabash Avenue in Chicago.
3. Then I spent four years working for a VERY FAMOUS interior designer, but oh was he nuts. Really cruel and out there. But talented.
After that I was a stay at home mom and then went to school to be a trained and licensed Massage Therapist (not a masseuse). And from there I became an Episcopal priest. Go figure....

Four films I could watch over and over:
1. The Count of Monte Cristo - I really like how the main character evolves and is really out for revenge but then softens when he realizes that the love of his life has always loved him. (Ok he still does the revenge stuff, but he changes tactics).
2. The Italian Job - I love the whole get it back, but it's not about the money (ok, it is about the money, but I also like Mark Wahlberg in this film and Charliez Theron). (Maybe it was the mini-coopers)
3. Bourne Identity - I like Matt Damon (and again, the mini-cooper)
4. Freaky Friday - I like Jamie Lee Curtis and I can totally relate to this movie

Four TV shows I watch:
1. Boston Legal (on shortly). I love the fast paced dialogue with a hint of social commentary and justice. (sometimes more than a hint, it's a 2X4).
2. How I met your mother.
3. ER(I know I should be way over it. I am like an addict to this, I just keep coming back for more).
4. Grays Anatomy (need I say more)
5. Men in trees (although I dunno, it was losing me after awhile, we'll see how it goes)
6. and I have to add, The Riches. It's Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, wow

Four places I've lived:
1. Salt Lake City, Utah
2. Nampa, Idaho (home of the flat topped mountains)
3. Waupun, Wis. (home of the state prison)
4. Fort Worth, Texas (in 1971)

Four favorite foods:
1. Sushi
2. Chocolate
3. Sushi
4. almost all vegetables, raw, steamed, or baked.

Four websites I visit every day:
1. CNN
2. Bank
3. Episcope (for news on the Episcopal Church)
4. New York Times

Four favorite colors:
1. Green (teal)
2. Blue (bright)
3. Pink (soft)
4. black (I wear it all the time)

Four places I would love to be right now:
1. Sleeping in a cottage in the country where I could keep the windows open for the fresh air and breeze and crickets (but no traffic).
2. In a really nice hotel with fine linens and room service and my hard working husband. (not working).
3. In my father's mountain cabin with a raging fire in the fire place, my family around me, and a good meal on the table.
4. Sitting around a room with my good friends, a fine glass of wine, and lots of laughter.

Four names I love but would/could not use for my children:
Megan (husband did not like)
Deanna (husband wanted, I did not)
Roland (grandfather's name. I like it but what do a call a child named Roland? Rolly?)...
Henry (my FIL name, but well, it just seemed too old for a kid today and kinda dorky..sorry FIL, it never made me love you less)....

Ok. Now. who shall I tag...I'll think about it and post later. Or, if you want to play, please do and let me know!

Safe and Sound plus other stuff on this crazy day

Some days just seem to go off kilter. I woke up this morning feeling a little anxious about Ryan and the timing of his arrival. But the morning went well. We heard from him about 8:15. He was at the airport in Atlanta about to board a flight to Chicago. My daughter would be able to pick up! This was very exciting. She hasn't seen him since he was home 10 months ago, before he was deployed to Afghanistan. So. Very exciting that she could get him.

So, I exercised and showered and did some work, and prepared for my lunch meeting and afternoon meeting. She took off to get Ryan. And that's when everything began to unravel.

Not bad, just little anxious things. All day. First. The airport is under construction. Signage is bad. She got turned around and couldn't get back to the correct parking lot nor to the arrivals. She called me panicked. I talked her down, all the while wishing I had gone with...sigh...even and 19 I want to do for her...but she managed to get herself back around and to arrivals. Not an easy feat in Chicago when the entire highway system around the airport is also under construction with exits closed and entrances blocked. But she did.

She called again to say she had been waiting at arrivals for a while and couldn't find him. We were worried about her getting a ticket because the Chicago police will ticket you while you sit there waiting to pick someone up. But finally she saw him and he saw her.

I got to see Ryan for 3 seconds between the time he arrived here and I left for my meeting. It was a lovely lunch with a young mom and her 19 month adopted son from Guatemala. But it took a long time. I had to rush from there to the pet store for dog food and then to the 3:00pm meeting I was hosting. That meeting lasted longer than anticipated and I arrived home to an anxious husband. Our son left his sweater at school with his Mp3 player in the pocket. He needed a ride back. SO. off we went. But no luck, it's gone. More anxiety. He'd only had it for two weeks. It took all our spare income to get it. It will not be easy to replace. Won't happen any time soon. Sigh. He feels bad. I feel bad. My husband had to rush off to work, feeling bad. And on top of it, it seems he did not know I had that 3:00 meeting so he's been anxiously waiting for me to come home from the lunch...sigh...I could swear I told him. But no. I think he and I have got to figure out how to communicate amongst all of our busyness. Because we don't need anymore angst than we have. Certainly not from little things we can manage, like confirming schedules.

Anyway. My daughter is at work. Ryan is off doing who knows what, but he's here safe and sound. My son is grieving. I feel bad about my son, my husband, and my day..... Some days just go off kilter. And now it's about to rain so the dogs won't get walked...sigh.

I hope your day was better.

Ryan Update

He is boarding his flight in Atlanta and will arrive at O'Hare a little after 11am Chicago time. Our daughter (his girlfriend) will be able to meet him at the airport. Now I just pray that the fog lifts and he is not delayed in the air...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

A few of the things I'm thinking about this morning.

1. I had to delete my YouTube post "The Servant Song." I posted it yesterday as part of the Sunday afternoon RevGals reflection on hymns and what we sang in church. I like the song and enjoyed singing it. But the YouTube clip had a guy singing it to a friend acappella. I don't know the guy, and generally speaking I try not to show photos of people on this blog, especially photos of people I don't know. Having his image on my blog was bothering me. Nothing personal, I don't know. That's all.

2. We finally heard from Ryan, our soldier who is deployed to Afghanistan and coming home on leave. As of 9:50 this morning he is at an airport in Kuwait waiting for a flight to Ireland. From Ireland he flies to Atlanta and then to Chicago. He should arrive here sometime tomorrow (Tuesday). At least so far he is safe.

3. He will be exhausted from travelling for five days with little sleep.

4. It's raining here, a gentle fall rain. Lovely. Perfect for a day off.

5. Today I am going to go out for breakfast with my daughter. Exercise, go to the grocery store. And have a night off with my husband. He is scheduled to work every night this week, except tonight. (sigh)

6. Read. I think I'll try to catch up on some of my reading... Elaine Pagels, "Beyond Belief"; Renita Weems, "Listening for God"; Tony Campolo "The God of Intimacy and Action" (he's the speaker at our Clergy Conference in a few weeks and will be speaking from this book)...

7. Well, that's a snapshot of my musings for this first day of October.

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 ...