Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Monday, July 30, 2007

Stage 2: Anger

The second stage in the famous "Five Stages of Death" is Anger. As with denial, anger can exhibit its presence in a variety of ways...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Another Birthday!

My grandson John (who is named after his Dad, who was named after a good friend of his Dad's) is celebrating today!

Happy Birthday BooBoo! BooBoo is sort of like Bubba... family nickname. He's one of the sweetest kids I know.

When he was just a toddler he would watch his dad get dressed for work every evening. (A police officer has a lot of gear to put on.) He would put on his own little jacket, baby backpack and ballcap, and wait by the door, ever hopeful that his dad would relent and actually take him along. Then he would sob inconsolably (for about five minutes) each time his dad left. It was gut wrenching. His dad works days now, so he sleeps through most of the early morning departures.

This picture was taken in June when I visited. He has thick brown hair that grows like weeds. His mom finally issued the ultimatum: haircut time!

Queen of Denial... still

Ah... denial, would stinkweed by any other name not smell?
As discernment progresses, so do the manifestations of this insidious stage:

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Queen of Denial

Denial is a wonderful state of mind... it acts as a transitional buffer from one understanding of reality to the next. Of course it's not meant to be permanent, but I've been known to carry it to it's umpteenth extreme. The funniest thing about denial is that everyone else recognizes the symptoms before you do...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fish or cut bait...

So... it's time.

I've known it was coming, I've looked forward to it, dreaded it, pretended it could be avoided... but here we are. Today was my evaluation/formal request/lets talk it over meeting with the community council. All that remains is I write the letter. (Yes, that would mean put it in writing that I really do want to be a nun when I grow up.

My friend, the deacon had a suggestion yesterday. He said I should just draw a cartoon. Well, of course. (Not!!) But the more I thought about it, the more the idea appealed to me. I've been drawing cartoons about God lately, but why not draw cartoons about myself? They'd probably be less inflammatory, anyway. I've begun with the Kubler Ross Five Stages of Death... nice touch, don'tcha think? The first stage is DENIAL. And here's the first cartoon:

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Feast of the Parents of Mary

It's an odd feast day, this feast of Sts. Anne and Joachim.

In some cultures, our celebrant explained this morning, it is more than a feast to honor the grandparents of Jesus. It is a feast to celebrate aging in and of itself, and the mysterious way God works.

One of the myths surrounding these parents is that they, like the parents of Isaac, Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist, waited a long time before conceiving their child of destiny. After all rational hope is literally dried up, God acts. What's with that?

Whether or not this legend is true, it still points to the real fact that in our own culture, where youth and vitality are the prized possessions, God still works through the old, worn out, and frail. As one who has already gone over the hill, I find that, not only a huge comfort, but an inspiration to keep plugging away... to keep creating, writing, drawing, photographing, questioning.

Grandma Moses started painting in her seventies.
I guess I can draw cartoons in my sixties.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"Martha, Martha..."

Sunday's Gospel was the oh so familiar story of tension between Mary and Martha. On one of the apparently many occasions that Jesus visits his friends in Bethany, Martha's doing all the work, Mary's sitting at his' feet, and suddenly, the sparks fly.

"Don't you even care that she's left me to do all the work? Tell her to help me."

How many variations on this theme have we heard in sermons? There's the premise that we all contain a bit of both Mary and Martha in our personalities and the point is to find the balance. There's the theme that we get all tied up in our doing for God and don't spend enough time being with God. There's the whole: you have to take it in context and this was Jesus (yet again) expressing radical views on women's rights...

All are great interpretations. I wouldn't argue with a single one of those explanations of what this scripture means. However, something our celebrant said yesterday hit me. He said: Martha's home was a safe place for Jesus.

Of course he said a lot more than that, but that particular statement got me thinking off on a tangent... about how I act when I'm visiting very close friends and I feel absolutely safe. So safe in their love for me that I know all the inside jokes and tease them mercilessly, as they do me. In those safe encounters I let down my guard, act goofy, sometimes drink too much and always laugh a lot.

What if... this was nothing more than a verbatim conversation about a standing issue between the three of them? What if... they were only teasing each other, yet again, as only close friends can get away with? What if this story was just that... a story, from the life of the very human Jesus?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

and your point is...?

Proficiency comes with practice. Nothing new there... except that I forget how easy it can be to add a small discipline to my daily routine that helps with whatever I'm doing (or want to be doing).

I am no longer naive enough to think I have any kind of will power to exercise on a regular basis, or go on a successful diet, or even stick to a decent meditation routine... but these things have a way of accessing my schedule, not by choice, and without my realizing it, until... oh, hello. Am I finally losing the weight I gained on vacation? Did I just sit quietly for a whole hour without thinking of anything? Did I walk the dog four blocks so he could do his morning business?

I love being outside early in the morning... but only when I have to be outside early in the morning. What's with that?

Our interim dog walker is visiting her family this weekend and I am the reluctant backup. Yet it was glorious outside in the park at six a.m... crows were squawking to each other from the trees, there was a fine mist on the river, the normal city sounds: sirens, delivery trucks, garbage trucks, taxis honking impatiently—were non-existent. Cool, quiet, pleasant.

The dog was ready to come home before I was.

I'm also figuring out how to write and draw at the same time. I thought it was impossible... too taxing creatively... something would suffer. And of course something did. But not forever. Maybe that's the point, or at least one of them.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The two's have it

It's hard to believe it's been two years... feels like more than that. I never knew how much I loved to write before this blog, and... (as I've mentioned before) my daughter-in-law can take the credit for getting me started. Loyal readers can take the credit for keeping me going when stumbling blocks of various sizes threatened to put the fire out. Even annoying anonymous commenters can take the credit for keeping me on my toes when I'd just as soon be flat-footed. It's been a great two years. Here's to a couple more... cheers.

Monday, July 16, 2007

the illusion of permanence

...life is about changes. There is no standing still, only movement. What feels permanent is itself dynamic, always in the process of ending so that a new moment can begin. —Tom Ehrich

"make this life in community permanent"
Yikes... did I actually say that? Out loud? In writing?
Hmmm... yes, I guess I did.

But reading Tom's commentary this morning has also reminded me that no amount of planning, imagination, determination, faith or wishful thinking can make things stay the same if they're going great, or speed their passing if they're going badly. Everything changes and life always moves on.

My friend Pat often speaks of life as a dance. It's a great analogy. Sometimes it's a square dance and we have a lot of interchanging partners. Sometimes it's a waltz and our partner steps on our toes. Sometimes the dance is a solo endeavor, and one of the joys in that is you can just sit down when you get tired. I like to dance but I get tired a lot.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

no is just a slower form...

A friend of mine posted a poem on her blog here. She writes lots of poems, but the words in this one resonated on some deep vibrational level, so I told her how much I loved the thought.... that in fact, I might even want to steal it for my blog.

Here's an excerpt... the words that struck me especially in the context of my decision to make this life in community permanent:

Yes is yes,
but no is just a slower form of yes
until we learn the steps

the dance is all there is.

I thought of all the times I had joked about "running off to join the convent if things didn't work out", about all the prayers to God to match me up with a nice Christian guy who was interested in a life of service, about every time the idea of being a nun flitted through my consciousness I had said: not only no, but hell! no!

Another reader took issue with us, both with her words and then my agreement... as if he knew so much more than we do. She patiently explained her point but he kept at it, and at it, and at it.

And, his point was valid, in the context he was coming from. What rankled was his inability to see any other point of view. This is obviously an intelligent man. But in this particular case, it would appear his need to be right overpowered his own intelligence.

I agree the dance is all there is. But if someone keeps stepping all over your feet, he might want to invest in a course at Arthur Murray.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

who is my neighbor?

It turns out that faith is not a secret code of rightness that will unlock the treasure of eternal life. It turns out that faith is a relationship with God and with the world, and that the name of this relationship is love. —Barbara Crafton+

An anonymous commenter responded to my potato salad post: "I'm wondering, Sister (Doctor?), if you might give us an example or two of doctrine as "arbitrary" as dill over sweet?"

Well, first of all I'm generally not in the mood to respond to anonymous anybodies anymore (unless it's my son). If you can't be bothered to type in your name, you don't deserve a reply. Second of all, I'm not a Doctor, nor do I have an MDiv. I do have a Bachelor's in fine art and graphic design... but that's not exactly credentials for interpreting the Word. Interpretation requires no credentials, actually requires less than a brain... I may need my brain to put my thoughts together and type them out in written form, but I only need my heart to recognize the truth.

Still, it's a good question, (especially if you're a lawyer) and even more so if you'd like to put me in my place for spouting unfootnoted opinions about scripture. Maybe it was the word gospel that did it... even though I used a little "g".

Tomorrow's Gospel: (Luke 10: 25-37) the parable of the good Samaritan is as good an example as any, so I'll use that. Luke implies that the question the lawyer asked was meant to trip Jesus up. And Jesus didn't bite the bait, at least not in any way that would be satisfying... he told a story.

He told a story about a man who might be called an unbeliever by some of today's scripture police. This man performed an unsolicited act of charity. He saved a life, took a risk, treated a perfect stranger in need as if it were someone from his own household. The implication to this story was that this unbeliever, having acted with compassion and love to his "neighbor" would in fact, inherit eternal life. (You didn't get that part?)

But how could that be possible? It says in Acts 4:12 that you must believe in Jesus Christ to obtain salvation. (Well at least Peter said you must.) Yet, in Acts 10 this same Peter gets his comeuppance directly from God... and a bunch of gentiles receive the Holy Spirit before they even get baptized.

My priest friend and spiritual director her site is here concluded her thoughts on the good Samaritan parable with these words:

It turns out there's no secret code, no hidden key. There's no need of one: eternal life isn't locked. Anybody can live as a lover of God and neighbor, just by walking out his front door and looking around at what needs to be done. And then doing the first thing that presents itself. And then another. And another. As many as you want — they're all your neighbors. And the Christ who lives in you also lives in each of them.

Oh... by the way, she has the credentials.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

surprising neighbors

... faith isn't about doctrine, institution, career, or being right. Faith is about God and the many surprising neighbors God sends to help us along the way. —Tom Ehrich

I wonder why it takes so long to understand these things? And why, once we do understand them, we forget them again?

I remember my move to New York twelve years ago with an entire fantasy in tact of what this city would be like, what this stupendous move would mean. I had been "sent forth" by my loving congregation in Florida, and here, in this amazing city I would somehow find my place, do God's work as well as my own, make a difference.

The reality was nothing like I imagined. Much as I loved the energy of the city, I was overwhelmed by it. I walked to work every day, learned to navigate the teeming sidewalks... learned the rules: (never stop) but on weekends I holed up in my tiny studio, ordered Chinese food delivered to my door, and didn't set foot outside until Monday morning. I'm still like that in many ways. I love going and coming, but only if there's somewhere to go. Otherwise I'd rather just stay inside the house.

The difference now is that I have family inside... a big family by all my old standards. One sister came to hug me last night before she headed off for her trip, another called up to see if I wanted to sleep in an air-conditioned room... little acts of charity that remind me I am here, with neighbors, and... I seem to belong.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Happy Birthday

I have a dear friend who has known me forever... (at least a quarter of a century.)

She brought me to New York to work for her... doing a job for which I had absolutely no experience, yet she was willing to take the risk. She had once worked for me when we both lived in Florida, so we played "turn-about" and I worked for her, until she moved on to another position.

When I left my job in Florida, I had recommended her as my successor, and in New York she did the same for me. They might call it karma in some cultures, but for us it was a unique blend of friendship and common sense. As close as we were personally, it never interfered with our professional relationship.

I was present at her wedding, the baptisms of both of her darling boys, birthday parties and New Year's Eve celebrations. She helped me with our community's benefit last year by providing new talent... she has been an inspiration and a strong support for my "call" to the religious life, not to mention the generous funder of many breakfast and lunch dates when one or the other of us needed to talk.

Today is her birthday.
Blessings (dear friend) to one of the true gifts of my lifetime :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Independence Day

I'm still pondering last Sunday's readings...

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul talked a lot about freedom (vs slavery) both in the literal sense and figuratively. I have no way to relate the experience of literal slavery, either as an owner or as one owned. I know about prejudice, but slavery? Even my active imagination can't wrap itself around the degradation of that kind of possessiveness.

The early followers of Jesus came from all sections of society, but especially from the marginalized: the poor, the slave, the disenfranchised. Many of them had next to nothing to lose, they'd already lost everything. But some, like Paul, had a lot to lose. Jesus made no bones about the cost of discipleship. he told his followers they'd lose family, status, even their lives if they followed him. Yet they followed him anyway. The freedom he promised was too real to ignore. The cost of that freedom is something I think about a lot.

Today is our nation's anniversary of freedom from European rule... a bold uprising in a backwater colony... Like the early Christians, the early Americans paid a huge cost for the freedom they achieved. I wonder if either group would recognize the current version of what their sacrifices produced?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

potato salad gospel

We're getting ready for our 4th of July picnic... barbecued chicken, potato salad, cole slaw... the standard stuff most Americans would eat on the 4th. My first husband taught me how to make potato salad, just as someone else had taught him. He said one of the secrets was to boil the potatoes in their skins and peel them after they were cooked. Today I used red potatoes, so I only peeled half of them, to give the salad some color. He was also a stickler for green onions instead of white, and I always follow that rule. He used sweet gherkins, though, and I prefer dill, so in that sense I've altered the recipe and made it my own. We do that in many aspects of our lives... not just cooking... take someone's cherished idea or tradition, change it just a bit, and make it our own.

The followers of Christianity have certainly done that through the ages... sometimes for good, and sometimes not. Doctrine as arbitrary as a preference for dill over sweet has caused cruelty and untold suffering for those caught in the middle, as well as those defending either side. I wish we could just give it a break, this constant need to be right, this constant need to convert others to our version of right.

Independence Day: "We hold these truths to be self-evident... that all men are created equal." except when those men (or women) aren't doing it the way we think they ought to. Then we damn them to hell. So... will I go to hell for using dill pickles in my potato salad? Maybe, but only God knows that... not all the sweet gherkin advocates.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Facing forward

As the time approached for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Then he and his disciples went to another village.
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
He said to another man, "Follow me." But he replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
—Luke 9: 51-62

As our celebrant reminded us this morning, today's Gospel from Luke is so densely packed it would take four hours of sermons to cover everything. My deacon friend is preaching today on the very last sentence, and has woven his points around those twenty-three words on plowing. Another friend, a gifted writer, priest and spiritual director, wrote about the dead burying the dead.

Our celebrant emphasized the beginning: He set his face toward Jerusalem. He spoke of the rejection in the Samaritan village, of the things Jesus told one potential disciple versus what he told another. In this morning's sermon the focus was that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and he knew the cost of it. Three different takes on the same lesson... yet... All three of these friends touched on one unifying point: our temptation to live in the past.

As I continue to journey the path God seems to have plunked me down on, I realize that I, too, am sorely tempted to look backwards. I have not set my face toward Jerusalem or anywhere else, for that matter. Not really.

It occurs to me that much of my concern over the relationship with my ex-husband stems from a subtle, yet delusive, desire to recondition and overhaul this failure of my past. Perhaps the fact that I was allowed to "do over" other early failures...[ I quit college (practically flunked) in my third year, yet in my 30's went back and graduated with honors.] I secretly thought of course I'd get to do that one over too. But living in the past creates its own bondage, and if I am to be free to tread this path in peace, then facing forward is the only choice.