Thursday, November 30, 2006

White Walls

A fresh canvas... a clean slate... white walls... an empty schedule. How many times have I thought of those things from both ends of the spectrum? When my life is cluttered they loom large as desirable, enviable. But I have had white walls and it was a b*tch trying to decide what color I wanted to live with. I've had clean slates too, but as Kabat-Zinn says: "wherever you go there you are." Edith Ann would add "and that's the truth!"

Yet in spite of that knowing, I'm already excited about my upcoming long retreat. In the past we had these week-long silent times together as a community, always in the summer at the Melrose convent. In recent years it became obvious that we weren't really all together; there were always one or two missing, away at a workshop only offered in August, plus two more who acted as cooks and bottle-washers for the group, who took their retreats at other times.

So this past year we decided to try doing them individually. Mine is scheduled for next week, starting Wednesday. I'm leaving for my favorite monastery upstate. I was able to rearrange schedules and responsibilities and will be off the planet (as my ex-husband used to say). Wahoo!

I'll have no internet access, no email, no newspapers (not that I ever read them anyway) no TV, no talking, zip, nada, nothing. An empty schedule... Of course there will be the daily offices and a daily Eucharist to anchor me, but everything else is up to me. Sleep, read, walk, write (in longhand), and listen...

When nothing else is vying for my attention I'm a pretty good listener. Hope God feels like talking.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Queen of Denial

The first part of today's Gospel lesson from Luke (Luke 18: 31-43) reminds me of just how powerful (and protective) denial can be. Jesus tells his disciples "... everything written about the Son of Man will be accomplished." And he goes on to lay it out in blow-by-blow graphic detail what's going to happen in Jerusalem. But they understood nothing about all these things; in fact, what he said was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Okay, I can relate to that, put myself in their shoes. Ohhh that's terrible. Wonder who the Son of Man is... Duh. But it's not the message I wanted to hear just now... that you are going to die... that you are going to be insulted, and spit upon, and flogged, and then killed right before my eyes. So... I am in complete denial about what you just said.

It happens all the time in so many small ways that protect us from difficult truths we aren't yet able to face. Where am I in denial today God? What have you just told me I didn't want to hear?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Where does hope come from?

Where does hope come from in times of despair?

Today is Christ the King Sunday, and our celebrant reminded us that it's damn near impossible to find meaning in that when the world is falling apart. If Christ reigns eternal, then where does He reign? Not in my backyard, not in Iraq or the Sudan. The Gospel reading this morning was the story of Jesus facing Pilate. Jesus tells Pilate, "I came to testify to the truth." Pilate asks "...and what is truth?"

But the scripture doesn't say, and the answer is shrouded in mystery. The closer we come to an answer, the more discouraging it seems. Let's isolate that one and focus on other truths, ones that are easier to swallow. A baby will be born... a savior of the world. Time to start planning his birthday, start wrapping presents, baking cookies.

I spent my creativity time and some of Thanksgiving weekend devoted to image-making... Christmas imagery. Perhaps it's a throwback to earlier years, when my tradition was to create an annual Christmas card on Thanksgiving afternoon, but it goes deeper than that. The meaning and texture of Advent has changed significantly for me since I came to the convent.

Advent is a time of despair... a time of facing up to the ugly truths about my own self and the world I inhabit. Christ does not yet reign in glory, because He does not yet reign in each individual heart. "Repent!" cries the Baptist. But repentance is a hard-to-sell commodity. Not yet, please. Too much work, repentance.. too discouraging.

Where does hope come from? My guess is: the same place the light comes from... from the depths of the abyss. That is absurd, of course.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

May this season
of thankfulness and bounty
keep your heart warm
throughout the long winter.

All my love, Claire Joy

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Luke 17: 11-19

Maybe its because I have so much to do... or am in a holiday spirit, or just didn't care much for the lesson today, but Bible Study took a turn south this morning, at least for me. It was the story from Luke about the ten lepers. They call out to Jesus (from a distance) for him to heal them, and he tells them: "Go show themselves to the priests at the temple." So off they go. I kept remembering the line from Chicken Licken: "and off the two went, and off the three went..." well, in this case, off the ten went.

On their way they were healed. And one, noticing he had been healed, turned back. I can picture the discussion as each one in turn became aware that his leprosy was gone. Hey Levi! Your nose looks better... You should talk, Simon, you've suddenly got all your fingers. Then the one decides he's going back. The others try to dissuade him: The Master told us to go to the temple... that's where I'm going. Well, my mother told me it's always nice to say thank you. Yeah, well what if the cure reverses itself because you didn't do as you were told? Look, we have to get a clean bill of health from the priest or we can't go in the synagogue... But he turned back anyway.

And when he found Jesus, he praised God and fell prostrate before him. Oh and by the way, this man was a Samaritan. (Finally) Luke's agenda becomes clear. Just like in the story of the "Good" Samaritan, everyone else is chopped liver. Jesus' response is a very unusual the-glass-is-half-empty approach: "Wait a minute, weren't there ten who were cured? Only one comes back to say thank you?"

Hey, you told them to go to the temple. Obedience is a virtue, remember?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Rule of Life

Writing a rule of life, (or in my community's case—rewriting it) is an awesome undertaking. Some orders have taken years to rewrite their rule, many have never attempted it.

There are the few basics, the principles of faith that have stood the test of time, but other words are crumbling under the weight of new discoveries, new focus. Our current rule was written in the 50's but it was modeled after rules of earlier origin, and now it's time to bring it (and us) into the 21st century. The language will be examined and reworked, specific details that no longer apply will be discarded, and what will emerge will be infused with the Holy Spirit. That is the dream, the plan.

But with every dream, there must be a committee to implement it. There's the rub. A committee, by its very nature, can bog down in the frustrating process of compromise. The language—carefully crafted so as not to offend anyone —ends up inspiring no one. It's why the group must be selected with care, and those interested in the work must step forward to volunteer. And it won't end there. As dedicated and prayerful as their efforts may be, the drafts must all come before the entire community for discussion and affirmation. No wonder it takes years. Much easier to form a new community, write your own inspired rule and take those of like mind with you. (That's been done plenty of times too.)

But that's not what we're doing. And (I believe) it's to our credit that we're willing to get in there and tackle something this large, something this fundamental to our life together. In my imagination I envision a mud pit where women in bathing suits wrestle, fall down, attempt to find a hold, only to have their hands slip... as they go splat yet again. Difficult dirty work, infuriating and funny. May we keep laughing through it all.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What price validity?

Consider these questions:

Do the ends justify the means? If the results are not what you expected (or wanted), does it follow that what led up to them was a waste of time? I'm asking these questions (always) in the larger context of the teachings of Jesus, but I'm also asking them here and now in the context of my life in community.

Depending on how I spin the question here, most always the pat answer will be "No." (or maybe even "No, of course not, silly." What I loved about you last week is not negated because you've disappointed me today. Are you sure about that?

Jesus preached a radical ministry: Turn the other cheek. Return compassion for hatred. Love your enemies. That he died on a cross like a common criminal had to have had an effect on those who were following him, especially those still in discernment about whether he might be the next King of Israel. Okay, he's dead. Nice thoughts, but scratch those teachings. Until he rose. Aha! We knew it. We knew it all along.

I don't think so. Plenty of people never believed he actually rose from the dead, even those who believed in his message. Just a plot cooked up by the disciples to keep the movement going, some said. On the other hand, others who bought the resurrection story, took everything Jesus had said (and done) in a new light. He wasn't some crazy crackpot afterall, He was the son of God.

So my point is... the results do matter, no matter how much we protest that thay don't. And... it rankles that we insist on reassuring ourselves and each other that we are above all that. We describe results in poetic language and make distinctions between earthly success vs. heavenly success. But we want results, whether here or there.

I have a suspician that God is above all that, and we know it intuitively, much as we don't understand it, approve of it, or want it.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The work of discernment

Discernment is tedious work. I would never have even thought about how tedious it can be, had I not had to be in the process. It's sort of rewarding (in its own way) because I can actually see how far I've come—and subsequently fear how far there is to go.

For one thing, the questions I asked my first year were different from those the second, and those the third. Now I'm starting year 4... and, sure enough, the questions are all new. So many questions... so many different shades of gray for the answers.

My first year I asked things like "What was I thinking? When am I gonna get bored with all this praying? Will I want to do this for the rest of my life? Why am I here God? Did you possibly make a mistake? How can I ever live with these neurotic women?" All the focus was on me, me, me... and them, them, them. My second year was still very much me, me, me, but the emphasis shifted to " I'll never measure up. What were you thinking, God? Why is this so hard?" My third year was more along the lines of: "Am I wasting the time of these women I now love? What if I do decide to leave? How will that feel? Why am I still hanging around if I'm even considering leaving?"

Each step along the way I've had wise counsel from mentors and fellow candidates. I've complained and laughed and prayed my way through most of it, with only the occasional response from God. So far that response has been: Stay put, I want you here. I can use you better here. and I rejoiced the occasional times I heard that loud and clear. Last year the question: "Is this just necessary training for something else... something harder?" kept cropping up. That one hasn't been answered. Another thought: This life is too easy. How can it be a real call if it's this easy? But of course the life is not easy— It's only easy in ways I've never experienced before.

So where am I now? This very minute? Well, the questions are more thought-provoking and have more to do with the community itself than with me being a nun. What does this community really stand for? How do I fit into that picture? Do they really mean what they claim to profess when it gets down to the nitty-gritty? Do I really mean what I claim to profess?

Discernment is tedious work.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Creativity Days

We've set aside two days for creativity. Today is day 2. These days (scheduled throughout the year) always make some sisters nervous; they feel they are on the spot to do something creative on demand. Apparently in the past there was "show and tell" at the end of each session. No wonder there's stress.

I haven't suffered from the fear of creative inadequacy in a long time... especially since I can find so many outlets here: yesterday I cooked supper. That was it. Some people might not consider cooking supper a worthy creative project. But it's like life... everything is what you make of it. Cooking, cleaning, writing, painting... all of them can be a drudge if I don't feel like doing them when they have to be done.

Since it was Friday, I wanted to make salmon patties, but changed the recipe to reflect an Asian theme. (I was using up all the frozen rice to make fried rice.) Then I made eggrolls. The guts were from scratch but the wrappers themselves I purchased from the local Asian market. (Some grocery stores carry them, but not around here.) I was in the middle of the wrapping part when I realized I'd made way more insides than I had outsides to stuff. I ran out to get more wrappers. Since I was in a hurry, I checked out a new market just up the street, closer to home. They didn't have eggroll wrappers, but they had spring roll skins. Okay, we'll try those. Oh my God. Flaky... crunchy... I may never buy egg roll wrappers again.

And... as I was drifting off to sleep last night I wondered, could spring roll skins be substituted for philo dough to make baklava? Hmmm... there may be a Greek meal in my sisters' future.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My cousin (not Vinny)

When I was growing up, as far as I knew, the word "gay" did not refer to sexual preference... it meant merry and joyful, as in we had a gay old time. I never knew any gay men until college; never knew any lesbians until I was in my thirties. I take that back. I may have known them; I just didn't know their secret.

Homosexuality was a huge secret then, whispered about and giggled over in the hallway. Even the words to describe gay people were offensive: queer, faggot, and worse. My cousin, who was two years older than I, announced that he was gay when he was twenty-three, after a disastrous engagement to a young nurse he met while attempting to learn a trade as an x-ray technician. My aunt didn't like her, said she was a gold digger. That she was digging for gold at a useless mineshaft never occurred to anyone I don't think, except maybe me. My cousin was an optimist and a dreamer... a lazy one at that. He was lots of fun to be around, but you wouldn't want him trying to support you, you'd starve to death. He was constantly borrowing money from me, me... who got a third of his allowance.

Although they were shocked at the announcement, and devastated that there would be no grandchildren, my aunt and uncle loved their son. Deeply. He was adopted and you'd never want to meet a more cherished and catered to child than he. When we were kids, I was often jealous for no good reason... he was spectacular at any sport he tried, but he was a dud when it came to school. I was just the opposite. It made me mad that he got $5 for every A on his report card and I got $5 deducted for every C. But he was so kind hearted, and let me tag along sometimes when he went out with his pals.

In the early years as a young gay man, he got along famously with my mother... they both liked to drink. She even called him a queer to his face, and he put up with it. He brought his boyfriends home to meet my mom long before letting them meet his own parents. But he couldn't hold down a job. Usually his partners were the breadwinners and that got old.

My uncle, on the other hand, was hard working and a good businessman, and had amassed a sizeable nest egg for his retirement, not to mention he stood to inherit another $80,000 from his mother when she died. He deliberately set up a trust fund for his son, with so many legal locks on the principal and contingencies for disbursement there was no way anyone could go through that money before it ran out. What he never bargained for was dying so soon after his retirement.

A bizarre chain of events unfolded... my uncle died and my aunt followed within the month, and then my uncle's mother kicked the bucket the very next week. Nobody anticipated all that life insurance with nobody to inherit it (to filter it) before it went to the sole surviving relative... my cousin.

Wahoo! He and his then current lover moved to Las Vegas and they lived high off the hog for a couple of years. I don't even know how much money he inherited (my mother estimated over $300,00 plus furniture and antiques) but he went through it in nothing flat. Then his lover split. At the time I was pinching pennies to raise two kids, I had no sympathy. He and my mother were estranged, and I just lost track of him. I heard he had moved back East, and had a new partner. He still had the trust fund, although it was stringently doled out only four times a year.

Decades later we reunited. I don't even remember how or when we resumed our correspondence. I may have called him to let him know that my mother died, but once reconnected, we exchanged letters and Christmas cards every year. I visited him one Thanksgiving in the 90's, and three years ago he died.

Toward the end of his life he had a series of cancer and surgeries... prostate, lung, colon. At the last he lived in a wheelchair tied to a colostomy bag. His attitude was still optimistic and he was still dreaming. His joy was his computer and he had a string of email friends he was in touch with every day, me included.

It never occurred to me to look down on him because he was gay. That was a non-issue. If I were going to judge him for anything it would have been for his extravagance and foolishness with all that money. But it was his money, not mine. Once I accepted that it was never mine to spend or manage, I could forgive him for the way (I thought) he wasted it.

The same is true in my relationship with God. Who gets what and how much... of God's grace and blessings is not mine to determine. It all belongs to God to give or not. Like the owner of the vineyard in today's Gospel: those who worked for one hour got a full day's pay. It was his money, quitcherbellyachin.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

In the language of our times

Hebrews 9:24-28

Our celebrant preached on the Epistle rather than the Gospel this morning. Nice change, especially since just about everything that could be said about the widow and her mite has already been hashed over a hundred times. We know what Jesus said, we know what he meant, we just don't care to follow His instructions... myself included, I'm sorry to say.

In the letter to the Hebrews, (as our celebrant explained) there's a different problem... one of understanding Scripture based on prevailing worldview. The theology being explained in that letter was from Leviticus, written centuries before. The worldview then and the worldview at the time of the letter were significantly different, and our worldview now is different still. He went on to suggest that an understanding of all three helps to make sense of what otherwise would be just a lovely and poetic metaphor. I can relate. So much of the Old Testament seems (to me) to be poetry, not fact, especially in light of scientific discovery. It's close enough in a metaphorical way to comfort and enlighten, but not so far-fetched as to give me reason to doubt. I've been challenged before on my simplistic acceptance of what the Bible says, just as I've been challenged in my skepticism as to whether Jesus really said all that stuff. But that's a whole 'nother issue.

(In the letter to the Hebrews) the real world was heaven. The shadow world was here, where we live. Christ was from the real world, but entered the shadow world, bringing light. His incarnation transformed our world in ways we cannot necessarily see, but nevertheless transformed it. Sin, though seemingly still with us, lost its deadly hold on this world. "Once for all " as the text reads.

The whole point of the homily was to encourage us to translate Scripture in today's language, expressing the writer's same conviction in Jesus, but in the context of our present understanding. It reminded me of a book I read: The Holographic Universe. Current string theory and holographic theory explain in a new language the difference between the real world and the world we can actually perceive, much as the analogy of heaven and the shadow world. The language exists. We should use it.

Ancient Tarot Wisdom... or not

My daughter-in law had this quiz on her site and I took it twice and came up with two different Tarot characters... Maybe that means I'm schizophrenic. Mybe not... they both describe me pretty well.

You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

You are The Wheel of Fortune

Good fortune and happiness but sometimes a species of
intoxication with success

The Wheel of Fortune is all about big things, luck, change, fortune. Almost always good fortune. You are lucky in all things that you do and happy with the things that come to you. Be careful that success does not go to your head however. Sometimes luck can change.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Rest in Peace

R.I.P. Malachi

Much has been written about whether there's a spiritual destination for our pets: Do they go to "heaven" when they die? Will we find them waiting when we arrive? I read an email story about a man turned away at the pearly gates because dogs were not allowed, so he and his dog kept traveling down the road, only to find the real heaven where all God's creatures were welcome.

While it was a nice story, it still smacked of God testing us yet again. What's with that? Why do so many of our stories about God deal with testing? Personally I think it says more about us than God.

Malachi was born on Christmas day in 1990. The runt of the litter, born of a calico mom and a black manx dad, he was distinctive from all the other kittens who were either calico or black. He was an odd combination: gray tabby body with gray points and HUGE blue saucer eyes. And half a tail. It was love at first sight. I picked him out and then went home to wait for him to grow big enough to leave home. After a week or so, all the other kittens were thriving except mine; it was a large litter and he just wasn't getting to the food counter in time. The owner took them all to the vet for their baby shots and the vet advised her to put him down. "That cat's never going to be right. He has a birth defect, maybe an undeveloped digestive system." But she knew I would be heartbroken, so against all odds, she took him home and force-fed him from a bottle. He got the hang of it after another week and began to gain weight and play along with the others.

He was not an especially intelligent cat. (Maybe he did have a birth defect.) But he was the most loving cat I ever owned. He came when I called, woke me up in the morning with a kiss on the nose, accompanied me to the bathroom and drank out of the faucet. Every time I moved, he went with me: to New York City in 1995, to Queens in 2000, to Long Island City in 2002, and finally in 2003, when I entered the convent, he went back to Florida to live with my ex-husband. He was not fond of other cats and there was a housefull, so he peed all over the carpet to show his disapproval. I personally would not have put up with that (he never peed on my carpet) but my ex-husband gets along better with animals than people, and he was gracious and forgiving. Malachi finally settled in and made friends, and (mostly) quit peeing on the carpet.

About six months ago Malachi was diagnosed with feline diabetes. Today he drew his last earthly breath, just a month short of celebrating his sixteenth birthday... a pretty long and exciting life for a cat who was judged "never going to be right." He was blessed at St. Bartholomew's Church on St. Francis day for three consecutive years. He had flown on an airplane, ridden the subway, and made a cross-country trip by car. (He liked to move but hated traveling.) And he got to spend his retirement in Florida.

Is he in heaven? You betcha.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


It's been a long time since I memed anything... they get old after awhile, but this one from Rev. Ed had too many things I've actually done, and I felt like sharing (bragging? confessing?):

Which of these 100 things have you done? I've marked the ones I've done in italic.
1. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
2. Swam with wild dolphins
3. Climbed a mountain (Mount Washington even!)
4. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
5. Been inside the Great Pyramid
6. Held a tarantula My son's... yuk.
7. Taken a candlelit bath with someone. (Showers too)
8. Said "I love you"’ and meant it!
9. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped
11. Visited Paris
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea
13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise.
14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (Does a Rangers game count?)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables.
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars.
20. Changed a baby'’s diaper. (Duh)
21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon. (several)
22. Watched a meteor shower. (way cool)
23. Gotten drunk on champagne
24. Given more than you can afford to charity. (usually auctions)
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope.
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment (wet my pants too)
27. Had a food fight.
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight.
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can.
32. Held a lamb. (in more ways than one)
33. Seen a total eclipse.
34. Ridden a roller coaster.
35. Hit a home run (you must be kidding... can't even hit the ball)
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking.
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment.
39. Visited all 50 states
40. Taken care of someone who was drunk.
41. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country.
42. Watched wild whales.
43. Stolen a sign. (It said No Berry Picking.)
44. Backpacked in Europe
45. Taken a road-trip.
46. Gone rock climbing
47. Lost over 20 pounds. (Pregnancy counts)
48. Midnight walk on the beach.
49. Gone sky diving (It's a long story)
50. Taken a train through Europe. (Switzerland)
51. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love
52. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger'’s table, and had a meal with them.
53. Milked a cow(not very well)
54. Alphabetized your CDs
55. Sung karaoke (secretly wanted to... too chicken)
56. Lounged around in bed all day
57. Gone scuba diving.
58. Kissed in the rain.
59. Gone to a drive-in theatre.
60. Started a business.
61. Taken a martial arts class
62. Been in a movie
63. Crashed a party
64. Gone without food for 5 days
65. Gotten a tattoo
66. Got flowers for no reason (There's always a reason)
67. Performed on stage. (High School)
68. Been to Las Vegas.
69. Recorded music. (Does singing into my own tape recorder count?)
70. Eaten shark
71. Buried one/both of your parents (I didn't dig any holes, but I scattered my mother's ashes)
72. Been on a cruise ship. (Probably stretching it since it was a dinner cruise on the Potomac)
73. Spoken more than one language fluently
74. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over.
75. Been to the Statue of Liberty.
76. Had plastic surgery
77. Survived an accident that you shouldn'’t have survived
78. Wrote articles for a large publication
79. Piloted an airplane
80. Petted a stingray
81. Broken someone'’s heart (Depends on who you talk to.)
82. Broken a bone
83. Eaten sushi
84. Had your picture in the newspaper. (and very embarrassing it was.)
85. Parasailed
86. Skipped all your school reunions
87. Shaved your head (Not exactly, but I got a buzz cut once.)
88. Caused a car accident
89. Pretended to be "sick" (It's called a mental health day)
90. Surfed in the ocean
91. Saved someone's life
92. Fainted
93. Been in the room while someone is giving birth. (Do I count myself?)
94. Hitchhiked (picked them up too)
95. Adopted a child (Been adopted.)
96. Been caught daydreaming
97. Been to the Grand Canyon
98. Called off a wedding engagement
99. Donated your blood (I can't anymore——veins too small.)
100. Become a follower of Jesus Christ

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What goes around comes around.

Ever since I was introduced to that concept, I've been aware of just how fast the coming around can be. A few weeks ago I was labeled imbecilic for a post I wrote about Jesus and the disease of bipolar disorder. Fair enough. (that it was tongue in cheek is beside the point... some people find it in poor taste to laugh at [or about] God.) But recently that same commenter accused me of bad theology and a poor understanding of church history. It was done in the same breath as a slam to ECUSA. I thought I was at least in good company, and felt only mildly smug that this person used poor grammar and couldn't spell. In their haste to gloat over my lack of knowledge and understanding, they typed too fast. (There's no spell check available in the comments section, as most of us have been embarrassed to note.)

So today I come before you, with egg on my face, because of yesterday's post: The lesson actually stopped at 9, not 13. Oops. So... never mind.

But... my own lack of attention to detail and inaccuracy in yesterday's case is in itself, a good case in point. We all make mistakes. I blow it on a regular basis these days, and some of the time I can rightly attribute it to old age. My mind is no longer the steel trap it once was. (I think I may have said that already in a recent post.) Not only is my memory failing, but my ability to proofread, sing, walk two miles and stand for long periods has gone kaput.

That I can be picky about other's failings makes no sense. I'm in the same boat with them. And as soon as I get an inkling of a suspicion that in some way I'm superior to the next guy...Wham! what goes around comes around.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How does this relate?

Luke 13: 1-13

Today's Gospel lesson is one of those seemingly mixed bags. It always makes me wonder why the framers of the the liturgical calendar lumped some things together... were they on a deadline? Were lessons divided up by word count?

Today we hear Jesus consoling and warning in the same breath: The Galileans who were killed by Pilate were no guiltier than anyone else, yet if you don't repent, then you'll die the same way. Now wait a minute... which is it? The Message gives a clearer picture when it translates "... but if you don't turn to God, you too will die." As in really die. Die in so many ways, on so many levels.

When I am not focused on God, (or just unfocused) anything else can command my attention, get me off track and out of whack. Then little things that hardly matter irritate me and I end up in a funk for no good reason. I die to the joy of living, breathing, tasting, being in this physical incarnation. I die to the connection I share with other people, to my connection with God. Repent means simply "to turn". Turn from and turn to. My dad used to bellow "Time to turn to!" when he wanted us to get to work. And repentance is definitely work. It requires so much more than "oops, I'm sorry," or "awww I'm sorry... again." Being sorry means nothing unless it's followed by a change... a change of heart which leads to a change in behavior.

Next Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree which hasn't born fruit. The owner wants to cut it down, but the gardener says "let me fertilize it and give it another year... then if it doesn't bear fruit, cut it down." Okay... seems like we're getting another chance message here: one year to get your act together, or else.

But in the final paragraph today, Jesus heals a woman who has been crippled for eighteen years. That's a long time to be bent over in pain. He touches her on the Sabbath in the synagogue and she stands (straight up) and praises God. The end. (Well... the end of today's lesson.) So what's that got to do with repentance and fig trees anyway? How does this relate?

Tomorrow we'll read how everyone was furious, and how they will say it was because He was healing on the Sabbath. I don't think so. That's just the excuse. He touched a woman in church. And it distracted them from their focus on God. Jesus was focused, the woman was focused, yet all those detractors seemed not to notice. I'll bet KJS can relate. I can.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Where are your marbles?

Although I was born into historic times, most of my life I never noticed much. I stood (or sat) on the fringes of every major change to sweep across my country: beginning with the end of WW II, and onto to the subsequent fear of Communism, Nuclear Destruction. (There was one bomb shelter in my town, a novelty that never quite caught on.)

The Civil Rights and Women's Movements passed me by. I joined the Navy during the Vietnam Conflict because I needed a summer job. Later I sang protest songs in a coffee house because I liked to sing. I was not one of those people who felt I could, or even wanted to, change the world.

Once I watched a movie called Same Time Next Year and was shocked at how incredibly amazing my century had been: the changes in thought, technology, music, culture. I had not even been involved and felt a little sad, left behind. Occasionally I'd go to some political rally but I was generally bored with the rhetoric. As I've mentioned before, the people I voted for always lost their elections, so I gave up voting.

So... how ironic that at the tail end of my life, I seem to have landed smack dab in the middle of the greatest crisis our species has yet to face. Worldwide population is out of control. Extreme hunger, disease and death stalk more than a third of Earth's inhabitants. As a nation and a culture we continue to exploit each other and the natural resources to live an affluent life denied everyone else. We wonder why people hate us, why they'd blow themselves up to get our attention.

Most of us who call ourselves Christian ignore the main focus of Christ's Word... service, sacrifice, generosity. We focus instead on who may and may not get into heaven, who may and may not belong to our club. And if someone we disapprove of (for any reason) is able to join, let alone lead, we pick up our marbles and look for another place to start a game.

Katharine Jefferts Schori was invested as the Presiding Bishop of our church yesterday in Washington, DC. I was actually there. That she is the first woman is historic, of course. (And did I mention I was there?) That she preached her own sermon may have been historic, I don't know. That she focused on the Word of Christ rather than gender victory or the deadly schism we're currently dealing with, was, in its own way prophetic. To read the entire thing yourself, it's here. The woman is no slouch, and it's already obvious she will be loved by many. However, like Jesus, she's going to make waves and more than likely, a lot of enemies. I will probably never change the world, but I can change. And I can refuse to allow or watch another crucifixion.

Friday, November 03, 2006

All Souls and my Grandmother's Toast

I don't eat toast much anymore. The convent keeps a good stock of English muffins, and if I eat breakfast at all, it will be one of those. But today was all mixed up. First, we had to pack lunches for our trek to Washington, DC for the investiture, and when I walked out to pick up my coffee cup there was a loaf of my sister's homemade sour dough bread on the counter. So I cut a slice and popped it into the toaster.

It was then that I went back in time. As I started spreading my butter, I realized the toast was hard as a rock. I spread the butter evenly, softly, and then I mashed harder, smashing the bread. My grandmother always smashed the toast when she buttered it. In her kitchen, at a checkered oilcloth, I sat waiting patiently for her to do her magic. After tasting her toast, I never let anyone else butter mine, especially if they spread lightly, never marring the surface. Hers tasted better. I decided that arbitrarily, as kids will with their food preferences.

So I took my first bite of the unsmashed side of my toast. Then a bite of the smashed side. It tasted like my grandmother. Rest in peace, Nana. I said your name yesterday at mass. I said Grampa's name too. Vengeance belongs to the Lord.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All Souls

For all the faithful (and unfaithful) departed...
may they rest in peace.
May all souls be redeemed in God's sight
when the kingdom comes at last...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Feast of All Saints

This morning's celebrant decided that since today is a major feast day of the church, that he could and would give us a few thoughts to reflect upon. Weekday celebrants are not required to give a homily; in fact, they are discouraged from doing it because we have a schedule to maintain... Morning Prayer at 6:30, Mass at 7:00, breakfast at 7:30... too much to do in too little time, and a sermon that lasts more than five minutes upsets the apple cart.

But we like this guy, for one thing, and he pretty much kept it to five minutes. His question was: what exactly makes a person a saint? How are they different from the rest of us in their saintliness... what criteria gives them the right to have St. before their names? He was looking more for an inner dialog as he threw out his own main point, but two of us approached him later with out own additions...

Brutal honesty was his criteria. A saint lives his or her life for God and is true to that call, whatever and however it's perceived. Even when that honesty is offensive, and leads to big trouble, they persist. Another sister added transparency and I added consistency.

What would you add?