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More Poetry from Mechtild of Magdeburg

How God speaks to the Soul
And God said to the soul:
I desired you before the world began.
I desire you now
As you desire me.
And where the desires of two come together
There love is perfected.

How the soul speaks to God
Lord, you are my lover,
My longing,
My flowing streams,
My sun,
And I am your reflection.

How God answers the soul
It is my nature that makes me love you often,
For I am love itself.

It is my longing that makes me love you intensely,
For I yearn to be loved from the heart.

It is my eternity that makes me love you long,
For I have no end.

How God comes to the soul
I descend to my love
as dew on a flower.

(From Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, edited by Jane Hirshfield. These poems translated by Oliver Davies)

A Poem by Mechtild of Magdeburg

A fish cannot drown in water
A bird does not fall in air.
In the fire of its making,
Gold doesn't vanish:
The fire brightens.
Each creature God made
Must live in its own true nature;
How could I resist my nature,
That lives for oneness with God?

Seeing the Signature of God

A reflection on Exodus 1:8-2:10 and Matthew 16:13-20, Proper 16A

A colleague tells this story about one of the first computer games his family ever got. He says:

“Atari became all the rage. As I recall Atari initially had four different games. My favorite was called Adventure. It was your basic dungeons and dragons genre, with different castles and rooms, a key, hidden doorways, a bat that could steal the key, even whole areas where obstacles were invisible.”

He goes on to say, “Our whole family got into it. The kids, of course, quickly surpassed their parents. They would come home from school with new tips and tricks. Some of them were…maneuvers not written down in any manual. One of the most amazing came home from junior high with my daughter: In a particular place inside the “black castle,” the diligent searcher could find a small white dot that was too small to be noticeable as a normal game object. Indeed, if you did find it you would think it was only a glitch in your video monitor…

Reflections on my Chrysalis: Epilogue

Throughout the last 10 days, as I've reflected on my chrysalis a few people have wondered why I did this, why I wrote this. As is typical of me I didn't set out to write a multi-part reflection of such length and detail - that evolved as I started. I think the genesis for this reflection was the culmination of several things.

For a number of weeks lately I have been thinking of chrysalis. It's come up in my comments on blogs, as a read about various blog friends who are going through what looks like their chrysalis. And it came up in a sermon I preached just before I started my "stay-cation." So, the first reason is that chrysalis has been on my mind.

I suppose another reason is that I have been home these last two weeks and have had the luxury of time to rest, reflect, and write. Since I have taken this new call I don't have as much time for this as I did at small church. So, it's been good to slow down and be reflective.

A third reason is that I began thi…

Reflections on Chrysalis: Part 10

Shortly after ordination I accepted a job back in the diocese. We moved back to the city we had lived in before the exile and put our kids back in the same schools - it was as if we had taken an extended vacation to a winter wonderland and now returned to life as usual.

The church of my first call was a very large highly structured place. In many ways it was the complete opposite of the church of my internship. There, at internship, I was on a collegial staff, invited into all levels of decision making and team leadership. Here, at first call, I was in a hierarchy of leadership that required a lot of learning how to do it the "right" way. I won't go into details but suffice it to say that it was stifling. I truly wanted to learn how to do ministry, I just wanted to be me in the process...so, much of what I learned was what I did NOT want to do...overwork clergy as if the American corporate model was what we should be doing in church...emphasize perfection as if perfect is…

Reflections on Chrysalis: part 9

The General Ordination Exams are a series of exams, timed essays, taken over four days in early January - usually Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri., with Wed. off. Some of the essays are all day questions, with 8 hours to write an essay of no more than so many words. Others are half day questions, two questions per day. The writers are assigned a number and the responses are sent all over the country to be read by "readers" - a panel of people who qualify by virtue of some criteria, to do this. Therefore the writers are anonymous eliminating the possibility that a reader may be biased for or against someone because they know the person, or how they feel about women priests, or how they feel about a particular seminary ie liberal or conservative. Nonetheless the GOE's are a bit controversial. Some dioceses exempt their candidates from taking them, some diocese put a lot of weight on them. At that time in my diocese the chair of the standing committee was of the opinion that if a …

Reflections on Chrysalis: Part 8

In the spring of 1998 I graduated from the seminary with the M.Div. degree. I still had one more year for the MSW and I was moving deeper into the process toward ordination. The process in my denomination takes several steps: in the initial stages of discerning one is called an "aspirant." After "the weekend" if one is given the go ahead the one becomes a "postulant." Each of the next steps must take a minimum of six months to move through and allow for "formation." I was made a postulant in Feb. so by August I found myself going to the diocesan center to meet with a committee who would determine my readiness for "candidacy." Usually this meeting is a simple check in, no big deal. But that was not to be the case for me.

First of all I was given only a few days notice of the meeting. Secondly when I arrived the group informed me that they had not received any of my paperwork from the diocese and therefore knew nothing about me. I was ask…

Reflections on Chrysalis: Part 7

In February of 1998 I attended the required (and dreaded) "Discernment Weekend." This weekend begins Friday night and ends Sunday afternoon and is the "final" step in the discernment process toward postulancy and ordination. (well, almost final step). I was attending with my friend K, the one who lived down the hall and had become my good friend. She and I were so excited and anxious as we drive to the retreat center. I was certain they would hear a call in her, it was so apparent! But me, well, who knew?

We arrived early Friday evening and checked into our rooms. The weekend basically looks like this: Friday night group gathering, introductions, and group activity. This is followed by evening worship and "social time." Saturday begins with morning prayer, breakfast, and a group activity (role playing as the aspirants are observed by the psych listeners - ours was a clergy support group is discussing what to do with a couple who want to marry in the church…

Reflections on Chrysalis: part 6

When I started this reflection I did not intend to write so many parts. But as I have thought back to those days a lot of memories have risen up.

My first year of seminary went fairly well, academically. I learned a lot although I continued to struggle with words like: "Justification" and "righteousness" - it seemed like the different theologians I read all used these words (and others) in a slightly different way. By Ash Wed. of that first year my church had called a new priest and so I was able to begin the process of working with him. He was a wonderful priest, very calming, gentle, smart. After about a year of knowing each other he received permission from the diocese to begin a discernment committee for me. It seems after much reflection and work with my SD I had decided that I thought God was calling me to ordination. I was in my second year of the dual degree program, my first year at the social work school. I was doing an internship at a local hospital, for…

Reflections on Chrysalis: part 5

Chrysalis is the process in which a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. Murry Stein, a Jungian analyst, wrote a book titled: "Transformation: The Emergence of the Self" based on a long process in which humans reach a kind of "fulfillment." It is this process in my life that I am reflecting on.

I started seminary in the fall of 1995. To say it was intimidating is probably an understatement. Luckily I am a risk taker, a bit of a pollyanna, and really able to just dig in and do something while being a little naive.

And, I had seminary professors who were willing to grade on a wide curve accepting me along with the other students who were recent graduates of Ivy League Universities (Oh, you know, Princeton, Yale...) who were also religion majors. It's no wonder that I never opened my mouth in class. I just took copious notes and read as much as possible. I do think it was a bit much when our church history professor went through something like 60,000 years of human his…

Reflections on Chrysallis: Part 4

I had the opportunity to stay on campus at the seminary between Friday night and Saturday but I chose to commute. I lived about an hour away and had small children so it was really good to be home with my family in the evening. On Saturday I returned early in the morning. I really don't remember much about that day, with the exception one primary event. But before that happened I somehow ended up in a classroom in a small group discussion about ordained ministry to the priesthood. I was clearly thinking seriously about this. Not that I was certain about it, but I was giving it a lot of thought. In retrospect I can easily see that I was being led toward ordination, it was really me, not God, who was hesitant.

After that small group conversation the seminary had a variety of tables set up in the hall. These tables offered materials on various ministries and people to talk about them. I found myself talking for a long while with PK (no, not my blogger friend, but a member of the semi…

Reflections on Chrysallis: part 3

In the spring of 1994 I was deep into the process of discerning a return to school, graduate school. My research had led me to know what kind of degree I wanted, now all I had to do was figure out where to get the dual degree. One seminary in my area offered this dual degree in conjunction with a Jesuit University, but it was not the seminary of my denomination. Thankfully all the local seminaries had an agreement: students could enroll in one but take classes at other seminaries. My tentative plan was to enroll in the one offering the dual degree but take as many classes as possible at the seminary across the street, the Episcopal seminary.

Sometime in March or April I received an invitation from the Episcopal Seminary to attend a "Discerning Your Vocation" weekend. I signed up immediately. The weekend included a Friday afternoon tour, attend classes, and worship. Saturday offered a variety of small group discussions on the various kinds of ministry: lay, ordained, priest, d…

Reflections on my chrysallis: part 2

Once I decided that I wanted to acquire a dual degree M.Div/MSW my next step was to determine which seminary I'd go too. The School of Social Work was a given, so no searching there. But the seminary was a concern for me, and to get at what that was all about I need to fill in a few pieces of my past.

When I was 15 my family and I were living in Ft. Worth, Texas. A freshman in high school, the year was 1971-72, a time of great transition in this country. It also became a time of great transition in my life. For one thing, my family decided to leave the church. Being the prodigy of pioneers who risked life and limb to travel west for their faith, this was a big deal. But at the time it didn't seem that way. It just seemed like the right thing to do, given who my immediate family had become.

As a result, I wandered for the next 16 years without a church. I still continued to believe in God and I still talked to God all the time. But I was quite convinced that being a Christian was…

Reflection on my chrysallis: part 1

Ten years ago this past June I graduated from seminary. The next year I graduated from the Jesuit University with a Masters in Social Work, thus completing a dual degree M.Div./MSW. It was a wild journey that took 4 years of intense education and a major learning curve. You see, my undergraduate degree was in dance. Which is a decidely non-academic field. And I also had a certificate, earned after 14 months of intense training (learning physiology, anatomy, and technique) in Massage Therapy. But none of my previous education had really prepared me for the high level of academia of an M.Div and or an MSW. But actually - I'm getting ahead of myself - and need to back up.

It all started when I had this gnawing inside that would not go away. I was working as a part-time massage therapist in a vital private practice. And I had begun a volunteer ministry in a local hospital giving massages to parents who had sick kids. I would go room to room and visit the parents and offer them a 10 min…

Garden View

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Before I left Chicago one of my friends gave me this statue. It now resides in my backyard next to a blooming bush of some sort. Today while swimming my husband and I were astonished to see all the moths, butterfly's, and black wasps buzzing around the orange flowers of this bush...I need to figure out how to make and publish a video on blogger so you all can see it...it is an amazing sight!

All afternoon it looked as if a monsoon was going to blow in....but instead they just kept blowing around us. That means we were able to take a long walk with the dogs. On this walk we encounter a herd of caterpillers....yes...a herd of caterpillars, yellow and green striped...walking up a hill, dozens and dozens of them, looking for food and a place to build their cocoons....it was incredible, I have never seen so many at one time.

After the walk we were able to come home and take a swim...a very refreshing swim...and watch the buzzing bush...and some amazing lightening...but no rain.

The stage…