Thursday, March 30, 2006

golden calves

My friend gives me his sermons to read, since I don't get out to hear him anymore. He was finishing one up today when I arrived to sling cans in the church pantry. I asked him what it was about, and he mumbled something about God changing his mind about destroying the people. Oh, you mean Nineveh? No, the Israelites. Oh, when Moses stood in the breach? Yes, that's the one. But his sermon wasn't really about God changing his mind. It was about fear.

He began by talking about the fear of falling being an inborn human trait. I think that's so, I did a ropes course once where I had to fall backwards out of a tree twenty feet above the ground. It felt like dying. Once the harness caught me, I laughed hysterically for at least five minutes.

But in this case, he equated that falling feeling to the way the Israelites felt when Moses was gone so long on the mountain. They felt abandoned, and abandonment I can definitely relate to... I remember waking up once as a small child and finding my mother and father gone. I screamed bloody murder for what seemed like hours. Apparently they were just next door for a few minutes, and couldn't comprehend the fit I was throwing. That fear was unbearable. It may have been the foreshadowing of my dad's later abandonment, and the reason I have issues (as they say.)

So Moses is gone. Gone a long time. Gone with God. And the link between God and Moses somehow got crosswired to God is gone. Aaron!!! we need new Gods. Anyway, my friend went on to talk about golden calves and Moses interceding, and threw in a quote from Herbert Driscoll about needing an ultimate focus for one's life... "a commitment that is ultimate". Uh oh. The "C" word. Be careful what you ask for, little girl.

But I got to thinking about just how necessary it is to try to find a substitute when God is gone. Not that God is ever gone. But He's a silent cuss sometimes, and it feels the same. The void is unbearable; the sense of abandonment is overwhelming. Faith helps. But faith is a capricious commodity. Once you begin the downhill spiral, it isn't easy to reconnect to faith. So the Israelites built a golden calf. (Not an especially intelligent choice, but they were probably working from memory and the available jewelry at hand.)

If God is my ultimate focus (and that's what I'm striving for) then when I feel deserted, what might be my golden calves? I can't answer that at the moment. But I think it's worth exploring as I face into this storm called commitment. When it happens, if it happens, I want to be totally aware of when I start melting down the jewelry.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shell shock

Today was a long day... (what I once would have called a long damn day...) a facilitated meeting in the city with all the sisters: difficult topics, things we'd discussed already but still had not resolved, nerves frayed, feelings hurt. "Plowing the same ground" is what I called it, an expression once used on me by an ex-lover... and rightly so. I wasn't happy with the status quo in that relationship, but couldn't make it turn my way. So I kept discussing it, hoping he would see my point, hoping he would change his tune. He never did.

Tonight, on the other hand, three of us attended the installation of a rector in a nearby parish, a woman who celebrates for us twice a month. As with all celebrations of this sort, I was moved to tears by this outward, visible sign of commitment.

I feel the same tingling in my bones at life professions, weddings, baptisms... so much hope and potential invested in such an unknown future. In these moments of professed commitment, I live vicariously. Something stirs up my own need to commit, my own deep understanding that this road I'm on is the right road, the one God has chosen for me.

But I also question it on a regular basis. I struggle daily with: Yes, it seems right now, but is it forever? Yes, I am gaining a new awareness of my own contradictory capacity for cruelty and compassion, but is this place merely a training ground for something else? Is there unfinished business that I must resolve, is that what God has in mind? Inquiring minds want to know... my inquiring mind wants to know the end of the story before I'm through the second chapter.

Yet the sermon tonight touched me. (Slammed me is more like it.) "Living in community requires more than good manners. It requires hard work." was the first statement that zinged past me like a bullet. I was still recoiling from that, when he sent the next volley, so while I unconsciously knew it had hit me broadside, what I consciously thought was I needed a pen to write it down, because I was too stunned to comprehend exactly what he'd said. Even now I have no idea what he said. Whatever it was, it exploded somewhere deep, and life will not be the same. Ever.

Tonight I received communion with an entirely new understanding of Good Friday, a totally new appreciation for the Son of God, a ridiculous new willingness to let my gratitude rule my life. Will it last? Beats me. Will I flag? Most likely. Do I care? Not at the moment. At the moment I am at peace with investing all my potential in an unknown future... because it's the least I can do to say thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Lord Will Provide

I just love Barbara Crafton's way with words. What, you've never heard of Barbara Crafton? She's an Episcopal priest, actor, writer, spiritual director, wife, mother... all time incredible wonderful woman. And she's funny. She wrote a hilarious book called Some Things You Just Have to Live With... Musings on Middle Age that made me wet my pants, but she also writes serious, thoughtful meditations. She's done them for Advent, Lent, the Psalms. Take a look at her website found on my sidebar: The Geranium Farm.

Anyway, she also sends out emos. These are almost daily meditations on whatever she's thinking about at the moment, and she sends them by email to a select list. (You can be included just by asking. See her website.) Today's made me laugh out loud, given my rant on Ken Gire's putting words (not supported by scripture) into people's mouths. For some reason her doing it doesn't bother me in the least. I like her style. I like her. Ken I don't know. The following is from her emo today. (See if you can figure out who is who in the conversation... duh.)

"...but what good are these for so many?" —John 6:9

Well, that depends -- how foolish are you willing to be?
But it could get really ugly. There are way more of them than there are of us.
Yeah. But then, a lot of them won't like a three-mile hike back to town in the dark, either.
But what happens when we run out? Five loaves and two fish aren't enough. We won't be able to feed everyone!
And how many are you feeding now?
Well, what's our exit strategy?
What's an exit strategy?
Oh, jeez.
No, I mean, I don't like this. This is not going to end well.
It hasn't ended yet. Just wait and see. Trust me.

Sometimes, you have to start your good thing, even if you don't have an ending clearly in mind. Sometimes you just have to do the good thing right now, even if you don't know how you're going to finish it. Even if you don't have all the pieces yet. Even if you don't know what all the pieces are.

The Lord will provide.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

No Guts, no Glory

As I've mentioned before, (ad nauseam, probably) I'm still involved in the online course: The Universe Story. All my reading and dialog with other students is beginning to take its effect on every aspect of the way I think and process other information. [When you consider a history that's been unfolding for 13.7 billion years (the current estimate), it's no wonder it's taking me so long to process it.]

You may also remember I'm also involved in an online book club. (See link in the sidebar called "Book Club".) We're reading Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire, and I'll say right now, were it not for the group members, it's a book I would have put back on the shelf long ago. Gire's style is too schmaltzy for my taste, and he takes tremendous liberties with his meditations, putting extra thoughts and words into peoples mouths and hearts that aren't supported by scripture. When did that become an issue for me, you may rightly ask. Aren't I always reading more into those particular written Words myself? Maybe so, but this guy makes me look like a literalist.

Anyway, one of the chapters this week was on the Transfiguration. The sacrificial nature of the Universe is one of the compelling pieces that (for me) links the Universe story to Christ.

In our culture, most people avoid pain, suffering, even sacrifice, at all costs. Yet it seems Christ was the only one who understood that the way God ordered the unfolding of time and space, galaxies and evolving life on planet Earth, required death. Required that one species be sacrificed to nourish and bring forth the next. Millions of years ago the first cells realized they could eat each other to live. Through evolution that way of nourishing ourselves was passed down to today's life forms. Some species eat plants, others eat animals, humans do both. It is an intricate web, each part sustaining and complementing the others, but all are a part of the whole web of life. For humans to believe that we need not play the game as other life forms do, is both blasphemy and idiocy. As we continue to destroy and degrade all life forms (in an attempt to make our own lives more comfortable) we end up destroying ourselves.

The Transfiguration was a glimpse of glory... heaven on earth, the kingdom come. Gire thinks that everything paled in the face of that astounding light. My sense would be that everything glowed even brighter because of it. Here finally was one human being with the face of God, who could see and understand the ways of God and was trying to teach them to his fellow humans. But as Peter did, we do. Let's memorialize the event and then we won't have to live it ourselves. Christ was trying to tell us... no guts, no glory. Literally.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Try it, you might like it meme

This one is courtesy of my daughter-in-law. (See her link on the sidebar.) This woman actually loves my son. What more could a mother ask for?

What are ten things you would tell other people to try?

1. Eating organic for three months
2. Blogging
3. Substituting cilantro for parsley
4. Raw milk
5. A full body massage
6. Cooking with wine
7. Getting rid of things you have two of
8. Ginger scones
9. A money magnet
10. Living on half of what you earn

Monday, March 13, 2006

Questions, questions, and more questions

Have been on a reading jag... some books I read because I liked the author's other works, some because they are required for a course, some because the picture on the cover looks interesting. I have no discipline in place for my reading. Usually there are five or so books on my bedside table and I'll drift through them all every night, a few pages here, a chapter there.The goal is to finish the book, that much I know, but some books never make it to the finish line. They wear out their welcome and I put them back on the shelf. I may read them years later when the cosmic need arises, or not.

I've read most everything that Daniel Quinn has written. The Story of B was my first, then Ishmael. After that I was hooked. So I've just finished The Holy, by far the darkest of his novels I've read so far. One sister started it before me and handed it off because it was too scary. I'm not much for scary anymore, myself, but hey, it was Daniel Quinn. So I began reading. Yes, it was scary to begin with and got worse as I went along. This is Daniel Quinn? I asked myself. I kept reading. Ah... concepts I've heard before... familiar territory with a twist. I loved it. But, as most of his books do, it raised questions. Why do we see the world as we do? Who told us it had to be this way? What authority did they have to say it had to be the only way to think?

I know I am a liberal who treads the razor's edge between truth and blasphemy. I've been cut more than once. But I also know in my heart of hearts that our God wants more from us than a blind "yes sir, no sir, anything you say sir..." If it were not so, why give us brains? Brains that can reason and question and realize on a deep level that there are some things we just don't (and maybe never will) understand.

Friday, March 10, 2006

High School Memories

Okay, here's a high school meme from Natty and Seeking Something, both sister bloggers. (You can read their blogs by checking out the sister bloggers ring in the sidebar. I told you already, my toolbar doesn't have a link button!) And my high school was a long damn time ago, so don't expect much.

1. Who was your best friend(s)? Marcia, Libby, Linda, & Ann
2. What sports did you play? none, too uncoordinated.
3. What kind of car did you drive? My mommy's... and once, my uncle's jeep.
4. It’s Friday night, where are you at? Behind the preposition. No, at a record hop. (groan)
5. Were you a party animal? Nope
6. Were you in the “In Crowd”? We probably thought so.
7. Ever skip school? Only that one time when I ran away from home.
8. Ever smoke a cigarette? probably could have, but didn't until college.
9. Were you a nerd? Yes, but we didn't know that word then.
10. Did you ever get suspended/expelled? No, but I got into a ruler fight with some boy and was sent to the principal's office.
11. Can you sing the Alma Mater? No, but I can sing my grade school Alma Mater.
12. Who was your favorite teacher? Paul Pettingill and Claudette Blais... hey! she became a nun.
13. Favorite class? Study Hall (I got to hang out in the library and play with the rubber cement.)
14. What was your school’s name? Lancaster High School
15. School mascot? Can't remember, did we have one?
16. Did you go to Prom? Now that's a good story. I went with two boys.
17. Would you go back again and do it over? Not unless I could know everything I know now. I'd be a whole lot more compassionate and a little less arrogant.
18. What do you remember most about graduation? We had a major scandal the day after.
19. Favorite memory of senior year? wearing sundresses to school the Monday after we all went to the lake.
20. Were you ever posted on the senior wall? Don't think we had one.
21. Did you have a job your senior year? I had summer jobs from the time I was fifteen... worked after school cleaning my mother's beauty shop. (no pay)
22. Who did you date? Other than that junior prom thing... nobody. My heart throb was way older than I was and wouldn't date me. He only took me places in broad daylight, like skiing, hiking, always with a group.
23. Have you gained weight since then? well, duh. I probably weighed 100 lbs then.
24. What did you do after graduation? Went to college.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Problem with Pronouns

Recently when I was posting on another site (link to Book Club on the sidebar) I was expressing certain personal beliefs concerning God, and used the pronoun He (She). I've done this before with varying success, but this time I was called on it by another participant in our group. She asked "Do you believe God could be a woman?" Uh oh... loaded question.

My answer at the time was: Do I think God is a woman? No. And Yes, I believe God has feminine aspects we don't recognize in our patriarcal language. While that was a truthful answer, it goes much deeper than that. I was brought up on the standard King James Version of the Bible. It's beautiful and poetic language. There are many psalms that I still prefer in that language..."I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills... The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want...", etc. But the language is basically masculine when we speak of God: Lord, King, His imperial Rule.

Inclusive language in worship is a huge issue for some of us. While it really isn't that huge for me, I do know that God is bigger than that... and sadly, we have no suitable pronouns in English to describe Him (Her). "It" (which is neutral) certainly doesn't cut it; God is not a thing. In fact if I get right down to it, for me God is a verb... always moving, transforming, creating, encompassing, loving, compelling... a force so powerful and integral to my being that I sometimes forget Him/Her/It on a conscious level. Like breathing. Without breath I would die. Yet I don't think about breathing much of the time. When I do slow down enough to concentrate on my breathing (during meditation or in moments of crisis) I am grounded by it. Grounded in my physical body, grounded to the physical world I inhabit, yet linked inextricably to the spiritual dimension in which I encounter God. In those encounters I "get" (understand, know) the force that surrounds me, fills me, protects me, upholds me, in ways too large and too small to describe in words.

That's the trouble with pronouns.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Remember you are stardust...

Sister Lilli Ana posted a thoughtful meditation for Ash Wednesday, (See link to her blog in sidebar) inspiring me to continue with my Lenten images.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006