Tuesday, August 28, 2007

can you spell c-r-e-a-t-i-v-i-t-y ?

It's "creativity time" again starting tomorrow. We have only three days scheduled, so the time seems tight to me for some reason. I have a list (that keeps growing) of things already started that I want to complete, another list of new ideas I'd like to explore... more cartoon ideas to flesh out.

You've probably heard the expression: I don't have a creative bone in my body? I once told a sister "All I have are creative bones." If that sounds like boasting, I should also mention that I have a very wide definition of creativity: If I can use up three out of four leftovers in my meal tonight... transformed (disguised) from their original use to something new and still edible, then that's creativity. I don't have to be painting or writing. Vacuuming means I get to rearrange the furniture, watering the plants means I get to prune, taking out the compost means I can search for wild strawberries, which leads to thoughts for tomorrow's menu... it's all connected in one intricate (often messy) creative web.

But when we have special creative days set aside... then I sometimes like to be focused and productive with the time. I'm making Christmas presents. (Yes, I know it's only August.) I came from a background of cultural conditioning where most of my gifts would have been purchased by mid-July. Now I hardly purchase anything, although we do receive a small monthly stipend that can be spent however we choose. (Just four trips to Starbucks will blow that away.) So I'm back to making gifts; arts and crafts... my favorite of all the art classes I've ever had to take.

But... most arts and crafts require materials. I spent half of yesterday (and most of my stipend) tracking down heavy card stock... really heavy card stock. Three hours of travel and searching, three stores and 130 lb cover was the heaviest I could find. I think it will work... we'll find out tomorrow.

Friday, August 24, 2007

A dream is a wish your heart makes...

Jesus formed radically open circles of friends. We erect intricate and inflexible institutional barriers that admit only those whom we deem worthy. Jesus stood up to the religious establishment. We are the religious establishment. — Tom Ehrich

Ouch! And yet... right on!

I've been having what my deacon friend calls "cold feet" dreams. Why I didn't expect to get cold feet (at least a few times before my life profession) is beyond me. I guess I expected to sail straight into the sunset with Jesus... once I had said yes.

Isn't that a laugh? Jesus never sailed into the sunset with anybody, whether he got married during his lifetime or not. If he did, that wife was left at the foot of the cross or the door of the tomb, just like everyone else.

Anyway, in my dream I was being cross-examined by my sisters about my cartoons. Some sisters think they are hilarious, some think they are cute, but at least one thinks they are blasphemous and heretical. In my dream she had rallied several sisters (who had never even seen them) to her point of view, and I was being asked to cease and desist if I wanted a "yes" vote from the community. Uh oh. Deja vu time. Didn't we already go round the bush about this with the blogging theme?

Yet in my dream I spoke up quite forcefully this time. "I'm sorry sisters, but I believe I'm called by God to draw these cartoons and I have no intention of stopping. For you or anyone."

Excuse me? So, as the dream progressed to its logical conclusion, I was not voted in and was given the option of hanging around for another year to try it again. I said "Nope, I'm outta here."

Just like that. All that work, all that prayer, all that discernment. "I'm outta here." When I awoke I was flummoxed. Is that how I really feel subconsciously? What about all that talk of accepting the vow of obedience? Ahhh... will have to look at all this a little more carefully... again.

My friend talked about various interpretations, (skirting the obviously silly one that God might be calling me to draw these somewhat subversive cartoons.) Cold feet. You are both individuals... the one for and the one against, the party line and the troublemaker. But one key component was how quickly I jumped at the chance to be kicked out. Aha! Of course that rings true. That way I don't have to decide. It's not my fault. Whatever happens next... I hate dreams that reveal all my inner flaws, don't you?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

God isn't "nice"

Luke 12: 49-56

Some preachers will focus on the last verse of today's Gospel, where Jesus tells the crowd they can read the weather but not the signs of the times. In our generation apparently we can't do either; global warming being just one case in point. Our celebrant chose the verses in the middle: "Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth?" (Well, uh yes. Weren't the angels singing about that at your birth?) "No I tell you, but rather division."

He related the story of a famous theologian who told his class about the experience of his own Sunday school training: In a Texas drawl: "God is naa-ice. And He wants us to be naa-ice."

Well, doesn't he? There are cute little signs in catalogs that say: Nice Matters. And what about Forgive your enemies, turn the other cheek, run the extra mile, give up your life for your friend? The point was, of course, that these are not matters of nice. These are radical dangerous ideas, counter-intuitive to the way the world runs, and if you follow Jesus' radical teachings, you will be divided, and in radical ways. "Father against son, Daughter against mother. Mother-in-law against daughter-in-law." Our church has been fighting over itself since the early days when it was little more than "the way." We call it the Holy Catholic Church, and then go on to accuse each other of apostasy, heresy, apathy. If Jesus came to bring division then he has done well: we are divided.

But there is more to the reading... the very first verse says: "I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!" We could take this as a warning, or we could think of it as a promise. Fire is symbolic of punishment and judgment, yes. But it also stands for purification, refining, enlightenment. "How I wish it were already kindled." Maybe he was having a bad day. maybe he was envisioning possibility. Either way, he was reminding us that life isn't always nice, and neither is God. I'm reminded of a line from C.S. Lewis referring to Aslan: Is he safe? Well of course, he's not safe. But he is always good.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

God knows I'm no virgin...

and neither is my name "Mary", yet here it is the feast of the Blessed Mother herself, and I am ready to hit "send" to the email going out to all professed sisters in our community.

It's as finished as it will ever be—five pages actually, with only a minor addition suggested by my mentor. And... it's pretty much what I wrote nearly a week ago when my deacon friend plunked me down to get busy and just do it.

For those of you who left thoughtful comments with suggestions, thank you. I did glean a little from my old blogs, and I did write snatches of this and that, and pieced those thoughts together in a somewhat rambling, (hopefully cohesive) explanation of my reasons for desiring to move forward.

I'm not young and inexperienced like Mary; I've been around the block a few times, but since these letters only go out to the life professed sisters, I've never seen what anyone else may have written. I'll be number 69 in this community, so sixty-eight women before me have done this very thing.

Hundred of thousands of women have responded with some kind of "yes" to the call for a different life, different than the one they were born into or conditioned by. I'm not unique in any way. As my friend Pat once wrote: "no is just a slower form of yes" and in my case, with this choice, that would have to be true.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

putting it all together

Luke 12: 33
Sell your possessions and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Our celebrant this morning always thinks it's ironic when she has to preach to us about giving up the things of the world. But once you've basically de-cluttered your life of material possessions, the truth of what this message really requires comes home.

Anything that gets in the way of our relationship with God becomes like those material possessions we discarded long ago... and when there are no possessions to divert, possessiveness still finds its own perverse forms.

Maybe there will be an open need to control our physical space, or a need to be needed (another form of control), or perhaps there will be the sense of righteousness and responsibility for another who seems to us immature or half-hearted in their faith and therefore needs to be "guided" carefully and told repeatedly that they don't measure up. Whatever it is we hold onto will get in the way.

Hebrews 11: 13-16
They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland... they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one...

One message of this morning's sermon was that primarily we are all seekers. We experience an uneasy sense of alienation in this world and are constantly on the prowl for something that assures us we belong. One of the problems with this longing is that our culture has a number of bogus ways to fill the void... our economy pins its profit margins on convincing us that it can be filled... with a newer car, a classier wardrobe, a bigger home. To be "in" means we know the right places to dine, the right clubs to join, the right vacations to book.

But anyone who has had some of these things and subsequently still feels empty, knows deep inside that the illusion of fulfillment doesn't last. And... Jesus' answer is so radical, that even when some of us go the first mile to follow his instructions, we still hit walls of resistance on the deeper levels.

Perhaps part of the problem is we might be meant to feel this way... transient and in transition... always. Can that be? Faith that God knows exactly what is going on, has everything in control, is something I profess with my lips, yet continually try to help along. Like Sarah, in today's lesson about the faith of Abraham: Abraham was old, She was barren. Yet the promise of God was that he would be the father of nations. (Time's a wasting... better help it along with my maidservant.)

Waiting for God to act is no easy feat. The good news is God is still willing to listen, even if not to act (on our timetable). "Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord..." —Isaiah 1: 18

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Harder than I thought...

My Dear Sisters Nope, sounds too much like My fellow Americans As if I'm some president giving some bogus state of my soul address. But they are my sisters, and they are dear.

Dear Sisters, I'm writing this letter as my formal request to be admitted as a life professed member of the Community of the Holy Spirit.

That's it. That's as far as I've gotten in a week. At this rate I'll be on Medicare before I finish the letter. My mentor said the letter should be "several pages." It should explain my discernment process, how I came to this decision, why I think I'm called to go forward with life profession...

I have writer's block. Or a mental block. Or a stumbling block. Anyway you cut it I'm a blockhead at the moment... can't think, can't write, can't sleep at night. All the correct words are swirling around in my brain, but they are in some kind of weird orbiting pattern and won't land. Is this what cold feet is all about? Am I afraid I'll burn up in the atmosphere if I try to come down to earth?

The truth is I won't know what this funk is about until it's over. I never get what I'm going through while I'm going through it. Only afterwards. Then I can dissect the emotional roller coaster and say
"Well, that was the final stage of denial before final acceptance."

It doesn't feel like denial. (Duh... that's what denial is, dum dum.) Oh. Okay.

Monday, August 06, 2007

cleanse and defend?

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your church; and because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness...

The collect for this week begins with a request, one that seems to be one (if not the) bone of contention in our church right now. Cleanse and defend your church Cleanse... of what? Defend... from what?

There are those that believe deep in their hearts, would bet their immortal inheritance on it even, that this cleansing refers to people who practice abomination. More specifically: sexual abomination, as in gay relationships, or adulterous relationships or marriage relationships not sanctioned by Holy Mother Church. The great rift in the Anglican Communion seems poised upon this head of the sexual pin.

But the prayer asks that mercy do whatever cleansing needs to be done, Does amputation qualify? I don't think so.

I wasn't always celibate. I had hormones and was prone to the same temptations of the flesh as everyone else. I'm hardly qualified to pass judgment on anybody else's response to those temptations, probably not even my own. There were times I feared hell for some of the things I did, but that's not why I became a nun.

There are those who believe Aids is a gay disease. They condemn the use of condoms to prevent Aids, yet allow husbands to visit prostitutes, and then infect their wives and subsequently their children. Where's the mercy in that standard? There are homosexual couples who have remained faithful to each other for years longer than the average heterosexual couple, yet their faithfulness is not rewarded, even recognized, in most states. There seems to be no justice nor mercy in that standard.

An anonymous commenter thought I might be able to draw a cartoon based on some sign on a church: "God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts." Cute, maybe. But it depends on the motivation behind those words whether it's cute or simply another way to judge each other's conduct. Who presumes to know what God wants? Even if we look to the Bible for inspiration, it's so full of inconsistencies you still have to pick and choose which side you'll stand for.

Maybe God is perfectly happy with both fruits and nuts. One thing about the collect for the week that seems pretty clear, the church cannot continue in safety without God's help.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Stage 5: Acceptance

Acceptance begins with little realizations and gains entry into the psyche from there. Not everyone gets struck with a lightning bolt on their own path to Damascus. (Most of us just get an unexpected stone in our sandal and stop to remove it.) Hmmm... now that's an interesting stone. Where did that come from? Beware the Holy Spirit.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Stage 4: Depression

Depression can be as mild as losing interest... or as serious as not being able to get up in the morning.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Stage 3: Bargaining

On the heels of denial and anger comes (for me) the most useless and yet funniest of the stages: Bargaining. Just look it up in scripture... not many ever got away with bargaining with God, not even Jesus. Of course He wasn't exactly bargaining in the garden of Gethsemane... but read between the lines, you can almost hear it in his voice.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


Anyone who's ever experienced the "five stages" knows that, yes... while there are five, and yes... they do somewhat follow each other in progression, there's no guarantee that once you've passed into anger you don't jump back into denial... or fast forward to acceptance. Life is not a neat and tidy process.

I remember an old Peter, Paul and Mary song, "Best of Friends": Two steps backward and three along... It's like that. But you knew that.