Friday, February 24, 2006

Friday Five

This "Friday Five" from fellow sister blogger Susan Rose... (who got it from somewhere else)

I've been reflecting this week on the gift of friendship, of people who will be there no matter what you need or when you need it. Sometimes a friend accompanies us through a dark place or dances with us through a joyful time or simply walks down the road of an ordinary time beside us. Name five friends who have been there when you needed them.

I thought this would be an easy post. No way. Impossible to limit it to five, so there are more missing than listed. But here goes anyway...

Charlie... My high school church youth advisor, who rescued me from a dysfunctional alcoholic home, taught me my first lessons in compassion by being compassionate, took me to my first Benjamin Britten concert, let me drive his car, sent me roses on my sixteenth birthday... the first love of my life.

Jean... who gently brought me back into the body of Christ by convincing me I'd like singing in the choir with her. Who grieved with me during my mother's death, and notified everyone about the memorial service, who has patiently suffered my outrageous comments and foul mouth, and still loves me.

Nan... the only friend I know who loves giving presents as much as I did, who could always anticipate when I'd be depressed and have some special treat waiting at my workstation, who offered sound advice without ever judging. She was also the best boss I ever had: the perfect combination of friend, colleague and supervisor.

Richard... who loved me at a time when I was sure nobody could, would or should; the father of my two beautiful children, who danced with me at our son's wedding, even though he was remarried and his wife had to sit it out alone.

Steve... who has had more good sense on more occasions than I care to remember, when I've impulsively spoken without thinking... who told me once when I said I thought I wanted to be a priest, "Why can't you find a way to use the talents and the gifts God has already given you?" and was more right than he'll ever know.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hearts of Stone

I realize for most moviegoers, this post will be outdated. But yesterday I went to see Brokeback Mountain... one of the most disturbing and heartbreaking films I've seen in a long time. I say disturbing... that word is inadequate. I was not disturbed by the sex scenes... I found nothing there gratuitous or obscene, simply the reality of life. What disturbed me was the reality of violent intolerance on the big screen, in my face. I live in a convent. We practice, with some success, a culture of tolerance for each other and for our annoying idiosyncrasies. On the bigger issues, we can actually be compassionate and forgiving. I forget that the world is not inclined to be compassionate, but cruel, ugly and judgmental... that people condemn out of hand, and actually kill each other over practices they don't understand or don't agree with or believe are somehow alien or immoral.

In this case, love could not be open. The time, place, culture... all worked against these two men. They did the best they could. Tried to fit in, lead society's version of "normal" lives, but there was nothing but a wake of heartbreak in their choices. God forgive us this kind of intolerance.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Creative project: Tinfoil Icons

Some of you have emailed me directly about the tinfoil icon project, so here are some directions in case you want to try this yourself. Keep in mind that icons are meant to be viewed by candle light and these are no exception. Also keep in mind that scanning a crinkly shiny surface is the pits. They look a whole lot better in real life. :)

Supplies you'll need:

Tinfoil (we used heavy duty, but any kind will work)
Sharpies in a good variety of colors (Staples carries a 24 pack with lots of pastel shades for appx $15)
A picture to trace (color book style pictures are great, but any picture you can outline will work)
Cardboard for padding
Soft pencil

Lay down a sheet of tinfoil shiny side down on the cardboard. Gently tape the image you want to trace over the tinfoil, both top and bottom. (This keeps it from shifting while you work.) Your final image will be a reverse of this, so you may want to scan and flop your original. Now with a soft pencil trace all outlines you wish to include in your finished icon.

Remove the tracing and turn over the tinfoil so you are working shiny side up. Using sharpies, color inside the raised indentions created from your tracing. You can blend colors by outlining an area in a darker shade and coloring over it with a lighter shade. (Experiment on a scrap piece of tinfoli.) You can also add texture to your finished icon by laying it over textured material (braiding, loosely woven cloth, sandstone) and gently rubbing over the desired area with the top of a closed sharpie. This is called burnishing and it gives some cool effects.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Prayer for an Insecure Heart

Hey, God. I know you listen.
Are you listening?
I know, too, that you don't necessarily
answer—at least not right away...
at least not in words that match
my questions and complaints.

But I know you listen. Are you listening?
First, help me always to remember
to thank you: for life, for breath,
for knowledge, for talent.

My worry is those gifts will be wasted
in my inexperienced hands—that I
will not have listened closely enough,
that my preconceived ideas of what you want
and your purpose in my life
will cloud my mind and interfere
with your Spirit's flow.

Forgive me, God. I am so insecure.
My faith hiccups in fits and starts.
Could you once again tell me it will
be all right and that I will be enough?
Thank you God. I know you listen.
Are you listening?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day

Thanks to Jules for this link...

Your Candy Heart Says "Hug Me"

A total sweetheart, you always have a lot of love to give out.
Your heart is open to where ever love takes you!
Your ideal Valentine's Day date: a surprise romantic evening that you've planned out
Your flirting style: lots of listening and talking
What turns you off: fighting and conflict
Why you're hot: you're fearless about falling in love

What Does Your Candy Heart Say?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Sunday's Sermon

Lessons for the Sixth Sunday of Epiphany:
2 Kings 5:1-14
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
Mark 1:40-45

As I write this I'm still in Cody, WY where for the past three days I had both the pleasure and honor of leading a workshop on "Creativity and Spirituality" at Thomas the Apostle Center. In this retreat setting we explored different ways of expressing the Holy... in art, meditation, alternative worship liturgies, music, drumming, not to mention a very frigid labyrinth walk. We used methods that were both ancient and modern, and my intent, as leader, was to provide time and space for these participants to think outside the box... but more importantly, to encourage them to be as creative as they were led to be.

My final task for the weekend was to preach at Christ Church. As this Sunday had already been designated "Evolution Sunday" the sermon was to be on the topic of Evolution vs. Creationism. But the Scripture lessons were mostly to do with healing, or at least health related, (as you'll see). Time for me to put my money where my mouth was about thinking outside the box, and come up with something of value to say based on the texts at hand. I gave it my best shot, and the congregation was wonderful about bearing with me. What follows are excerpts to give you the gist of the sermon:

Beginning with the lessons: basically, you could say they are all about health. The first and last deal specifically with illness, (both cases just happen to be leprosy) and their subsequent healings. Then in the middle there's Paul's letter to the Corinthians where he essentially says: "Keep in shape! Stay fit so you can run the race, but more especially so you can run it to win." For Paul, keeping fit in this context is of utmost importance. He's not concerned about your abs or your muscle tone or that you'll be more attractive and have more friends. He wants you to win. Paul would be an excellent Olympic coach, except that for him, this is a race of life and death, a race of good over evil.

So... what does health remotely have to do with evolution?
Not much.

So lets dig a little deeper. In 1 Kings we have a story of a quite important man—Naaman, commander of the armies of Aram. He's successful, yet he's also been brought low by the disease of leprosy. In his time this disease doomed anyone who contracted it to the life of outcast. (Much as the disease of AIDS has done in our own society.) But his wife's slave girl knows of a prophet in Samaria, and she claims he can heal Naaman. At this point I'd like to take a different spin on the text and suggest that the story is not so much about healing as it is about misconceptions and preconceived ideas. Case in point: Naaman's king. He sends a letter of introduction to the King of Israel. "Here's my very important commander of my army; heal him of his leprosy."

Whoa— that's not what Naaman's wife's slave girl said. She said prophet, not king. But kings have their own ideas of how these things work. They know all about political ramifications and appropriate protocol, and Naaman's king only talks to other kings. He only has part of the picture and that's what he acts on.

Moving on... the King of Israel gets the letter and he panics. Tears his clothes. Probably convenes his cabinet— and comes up with the second misconception—the conclusion that the King of Aram is trying to pick a fight.

Thankfully Scripture makes a long story short. Elisha the Prophet hears about the problem and sends his king the message "Not to worry. Send him to me and we'll get him healed and the God of Israel will be glorified." So Naaman arrives at the prophet's house with his contingency of camels and gold and silver and party outfits, and we're on the brink of our third misconception.

Elisha sends out the hired help. Leaves Naaman essentially parked at the curb while the valet delivers the message "Go dunk yourself seven times in the Jordan." Naaman is insulted. He has in his mind a very vivid and preconceived idea of how this healing should and therefore will occur. he has no room in his mind for an alternative approach, and as a result he shuts out totally a healing opportunity that's staring him smack dab square in the front of his face. He won't see it. It's not possible.

But Naaman is a lucky man. He has servants who appeal to the side of his ego only they would understand..."If the prophet had asked you to do something difficult, you'd have done it. So why not give this a shot? What do you have to lose?"
Well, if you've read the lesson, you already know the rest of the story. They prevail and Naaman is healed. In spite of himself, he gave in to that last appeal to think outside of the box.

Now lets move on to Paul. (Bless his heart.) I think that's what they say in Texas... about somebody who can be difficult or disagreeable. Well, Paul, bless his heart, has a very good point in this scripture. But he's also missing a very important piece of the puzzle and mystery of our life together in Christ. And that is the concept that Henri Nouwen calls the power and ministry of the Wounded Healer. Paul makes the assumption that only the fit can win the race for Christ, and in my heart of hearts I know that's just not true. It's a preconceived and dated idea that leaves no room for broken people to minister to other broken people. Yet we do it all the time. If I have sinned (and I have) then I have walked in your sinful shoes. And I can compassionately embrace you because in this we are more alike than we are different.

Now to the final lesson: in which the leper, who starts out so exquisitely humble in his statement of faith, "If you choose you can heal me"... once healed decides he knows more than the Son of God what to do with this information. Despite Jesus specifically saying "Tell NO one", he spreads the story all around the countryside. From one end of town to the other... and as a result, Jesus cannot walk the streets openly anymore.

So, in conclusion... (to those of you who have waited so patiently for me to get to the evolution vs. creation part, you can stop holding your breath.) Because I'm not going to say much about that. Except this: These three lessons are brimming with examples and metaphors of people and situations where someone had a preconceived idea about what God looks like and how God acts. These ideas were based on their own individual pieces of the puzzle. They were, in truth, partly correct. It was in assuming that they were totally correct that they sinned, and ended up missing out on the mystery and majesty of what was smack dab square in the front of their faces.

Genesis gives us one of the most poetic and condensed metaphors for God's creative process. Evolution, along with the New Story of the Cosmos and our unfolding Universe, gives us a much more drawn out and detailed description of God's creative process. For me, each is an individual piece of the puzzle. As we study both, let us pray that we do not assume that the box in which we wish to stick our God is where He, or She, or It, or We will stay forever. Amen.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Looking ahead...

My apologies to anyone who's tuned into my nothing-more-than-drivel for the past week. Been totally under the weather with allergies/asthmatic bronchitis. The penicillin is finally kicking in and I'm now focused on what's ahead this week: my first retreat in Cody, Wyoming.

This same retreat was scheduled for last September, but had to be cancelled for lack of participants. Now it's on the docket again and I've approached the whole weekend with an attitude so unlike me, it's scary. I'm usually an organized compulsive nit-picky details-oriented person. Yet all my thinking toward this retreat has been wide-screen, big picture conceptualizing. I already had a theme: thinking creatively... outside the box, a title: Glimpses of Heaven, and an assortment of fun creative projects in mind, but it wasn't until Saturday that I had the energy to even notice the obvious fact that my ducks were spread all over the place and none of the necessary little details had been considered.

My generous and compassionate sisters came to my rescue. Yesterday we staged a mini-rehearsal in the afternoon and I was able to talk through my ideas and get immediate feedback. (Need more cardboard, another set of sharpies) We watched one of my meditation slideshows (the music wouldn't work) and then attempted one of the creative projects... painting icons on tinfoil with sharpies. Okay, if that sounds ghastly, just remember the theme: thinking outside the box. (The finished results were incredibly beautiful, with a somewhat Mexican flavor.)

It takes a village is somewhat of a cliche these days. But my village gave me valuable feedback, more great ideas, and the confidence that this aardvark project would not only fly, but would be fun too. I'm relieved and inspired, but most of all grateful. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Do the "i's" have it?

This morning I was lying in bed (coughing as quietly as anyone can with a touch of bronchitis) and thought of a great post. The theme started with "i"... and I worked it all out in my brain what I would say. Except now I can't remember. Imagination? Was that it? I can't remember. Intuition? Inspiration? It's a total blank. Maybe I should just go back to bed. If I remember, I'll let you know.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Is this getting boring?

Sorry guys, but I seem to be only up to quizzes. (Allergies got me way down)

You Are a Newborn Soul

You are tolerant, accepting, and willing to give anyone a chance.
On the flip side, you're easy to read and easily influenced by others.
You have a fresh perspective on life, and you can be very creative.
Noconformist and nontraditional, you've never met anyone who's like you.
Inventive and artistic, you like to be a trendsetter.
You have an upbeat spirit and you like almost everything.
You make friends easily and often have long standing friendships.
Implusive and trusting, you fall in love a little too easily.
Souls you are most compatible with: Bright Star Soul and Dreaming Soul

What Kind of Soul Are You?