Sunday, December 04, 2011

Advent 2

"A voice of one crying out
in the wilderness…"

How can anyone make
a pathway for God?

only with God's help.
and irony in every step

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent 1

A people who live in darkness…
cannot comprehend the light.
give me eyes to see
ears to hear
hands to help…

lead me out of the darkness O Lord.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Oregon Associates Retreat 2011 #4

There is a story about a monk who came to Joshu (The Chinese Zen Master) at breakfast time and said, "I have just entered this monastery to learn about God. Please teach me."

"Have you eaten your porridge yet?" asked Joshu.
"Yes, I have," replied the monk.
"Then you had better wash your bowl," said Joshu.

Bowl washing… not the inspiring advice he was expecting. We live in a self-help show-and-tell culture. We want our lives to be meaningful, to make a difference… our faith to make a difference.

We have all the appropriate descriptions for what we want, we know the jargon: we want to practice mindful-living. We want to be fully present. We want intentionality, to be alive in our own skins. We want to live in the NOW. Well NOW for that monk was time to wash his bowl. But because that act had no special significance, wasn’t meaningful, it wasn’t even on his radar.

Of course there are always going to be times when we’re tired or unfocused, times when we’re too caught up and ignore the details.

But in our culture it’s more insidious than that. We quite literally don’t see or notice, or don’t pay attention… to the life that is right in front of us. We’re looking ahead to after the bowl is washed— that’s when we’ll get the payoff. As if there were a payoff.

We don't want to "just" wash the bowl — or whatever small, insignificant, trivial task we may be engaged in. We want to comprehend it. Or turn it into some sort of competition. I washed twenty-five bowls today. How many did you wash?

I am so guilty of this. For me it’s taking out the garbage. We keep our garbage cans in one of the closets. It’s a temporary situation because we haven’t finished landscaping the outside of the building. We need to buy a couple of those garbage can “houses” that you lock up so nobody can steal your garbage, go through the bags and make a big mess all over the sidewalk. (This is New York, even the garbage is under lock and key.)

So for now, the cans are inside the house, in a closet. Garbage days are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and Saturday is also recycle day. That means in addition to the big black plastic garbage bags there are also clear bags with bottles and cans and paper.

I seem to be the only one who can remember when it’s garbage day. We once had a maintenance man to do this work but now we don’t. It’s not a hard job: you pull the bag out of the can, tie it up and put it out by the curb. It just has to be done before 7:00 am. If you do it the night before, the bags get ripped open and the contents strewn on the sidewalk. So sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 am the garbage goes out.

If we forget the closet starts to smell. If Tuesday’s garbage waits til Thursday, some of the contents have been four days in the tomb and they stinketh. The bag is also heavier now; it won’t come out of the can as easily.

I used to do it every garbage day. But there was a worry that if that continued I’d go through garbage burn-out and get resentful. We’ve had some history with that in our convent… one sister will want to play the hero and take on more work than she can handle. The other sisters let it happen. She gets tired, bummed out that no one else is stepping up to the plate to help, then the resentment starts to simmer… it’s not pretty.

So we agreed that since one sister is breakfast cook on Tuesday and another on Thursday, that they would take over those days and I would do Saturday. Saturday. Saturday is our “sleep in” day. Saturday is recycle day… more bags to put out. See how that sense of competition creeps in? It’s insidious.

Each year I come out here and stand up in front of you and talk about something. Some of you say: “Oh, what you said— I needed to hear that.” Or “I’ve been struggling with such and such and your comments put it in a different perspective.” When that synchronicity happens it’s the Holy Spirit. It’s Grace.

Because the truth of the matter is this: with you, I’m preaching to the choir. You are already holy, faithful members of Christ’s amazing Body. I’m really preaching to myself.

I need to hear the words "let go of the old story" so God’s new story can emerge. I need to hear "It’s difficult to be a Christian. Embrace the difficulty." I need to hear going deeper in faith changes everything. So I won’t be dumfounded when everything changes. I need to hear that I am a fig tree with a measly harvest waiting for God and the day of reckoning to arrive. I need to say “yes” to my watershed moments.

Greg Levoy said this:
Wherever our most primal fears reside, our fears of the dark, of death, of being devoured, of meaninglessness, of lovelessness, or of loss changes— wherever those fears reside is good, because beneath them lie gems of wisdom— and maybe a vision or a calling. Wherever you stumble: on a tree root, on a rock, on fear, on shame, on vulnerability, on someone else’s words, on the truth— dig there.
Dig there and be ready to be surprised.

Friday I spoke about Jesus being busy, but never in a hurry. In the middle of his busy schedule (teaching, healing, caring) lots of people clamoring for his attention, the whole town gathered at the door— what did he do? He withdrew to a solitary place to pray.

His disciples couldn’t understand it. They were put out, hunted him down… Jesus! What are you doing here?!? Nothing!?! Don’t you want to be a good Messiah? Get back down there. People are counting on you. What will people think? Jesus, you need a time-management seminar—you could accomplish more.

Okay, so that’s a pretty loose interpretation of Mark’s Gospel. But even the literal translation sounds spot on: “Jesus, everyone is looking for you.”

It’s just another variation on “You have some nerve saying no.” We’ve all been subjected to that kind of thinking. We’ve also more than likely projected it onto others who said no to us. But there are problems inherent with this way of thinking.
  • There’s an assumption that worth comes from what we do or produce. If we believe that then we’re motivated to be indispensible.
  • We assume that withdrawal (whether it’s Sabbath time or R&R) is wasteful. And we should be guilty about it. The inner voice chirping in our ear — shouldn’t you be doing something worthwhile with your time?

What did Jesus say when the disciples said “everyone is looking for you”?
He said: “Then let us go somewhere else.”

Today we would say Jesus needed a “spin doctor.” But the bottom line is this: For Jesus, withdrawing is not optional. It is intentional and essential.

We may enjoy the adrenaline rush of being needed, but when we give in to the should of being all things to all people— when we give up the need to withdraw or rest or renew— we lose the rhythm of life that feeds our souls.

Jesus is saying to his disciples: Do you see that clump of people? Do you have any idea why I have any power in that clump? It’s because I regularly say NO. I regularly withdraw to a place where I listen to a different voice, my Father’s voice— about my identity.

What happens is… if we don’t say no when we need to, the no will come by default. And then we will end up saying no to the ones we love the most.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Oregon Associates Retreat 2011 #3

I was talking this morning about Faith — how it is always about choices, but more importantly, about how those choices are specific.

For Jesus, for the first disciples and for all the brave souls throughout the ages, faith is and was a courageous choice for God. Today that’s us. We are the brave souls of our own age. Faith changes our lives, and our changed lives make all the difference.

I would be lying to myself and to you if I didn't say up front, transformation hurts. Some choices will limit our movement and require dying to self. As much as we may fight this notion: Faith was never intended to be easy or casual.

Our retreat this year comes on the heels of Easter. Something truly “magical and revolutionary” happened that first day. It transformed maybe what? At the most, say 100 lives. Then those believers told others, and pretty soon… a movement began. That movement sent evangelists to the far reaches and that produced a wonderful array of gospels, letters and stories.

Now it also produced a steady and tragic stream of power struggles, scheming bishops, beheadings and burnings, The Inquisition, heresy trials, European history marked by warfare and torture, and now, today in our own time, church wars for our right to declare other people wrong. For many denominations, even ours I’m afraid, Religious Content is what we fight about. God didn't call us to be consumers of religious content. And even though Mt. Angel has a lovely gift shop full of wonderful things, Christianity isn't about consuming religious products. And Christianity is especially not about consuming content that someone else created.

Christianity is about transformation of our lives. It’s about sitting with a blank screen of your own life and creating something, as best you can, and offering that something to God. It is about dreaming and imagining, working and worrying, serving and loving – making a difference with life.

Faith isn't something we can download to watch or to play. Faith is something we have the audacity to embrace, knowing it will compel us to become a “new creation.”

So as we come to the end of the Easter Octave we must remember: Easter Christianity is about people submitting their lives to the love and will of God. It is about receiving and giving mercy. It is about putting down weapons, or tethers, winning each day some small victory over greed, learning fresh each day to love our enemies, (and if we have no enemies at hand, to love those who annoy us.) It’s about showing up each day to join God's never-ending push for justice and peace.

Easter Christianity takes courage.

Courage, like love, is a decision, an act of the will. It’s not the absence of fear… no, Courage sees all the reasons to be afraid — from bad numbers in our checkbook and our parish enrollments, to bad leaders to bad enemies to bad luck. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it — courage decides to "walk through the storm with our head held high."

John’s Gospel says: The Word was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. (John 1.10-11)

We can choose to be like that… not to accept him. But rather than reject Jesus’ radical call, I think we want to go deeper. We want to know the Word that has come into our world. We want to accept him. We want to know why Jesus came for us and what it is, if anything, we should be doing about it.

We want to submit to God — first by discovering what those words mean.
I like to think of myself as an open-minded, change-affirming believer, and yet I sense that the Word is way more radical and disturbing than I allow for, not to mention more enlivening and focusing.

In Luke it talks about John the Baptist’s willingness to submit his own agenda to God’s:

John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. " (Luke 3.16)

Life is filled with sadness. We don’t admit that to each other very often. Beginnings require endings. Within the joy and zest of life is always the salt of tears. The stories about John the Baptist speak of a fundamental truth:
Much had to pass away for Jesus to emerge. His coming brought watershed moments to a battered yet proud nation, to a religious establishment that probably was a lot like ours today, to people in one village after another, to a group of followers and family, and to himself.

For Jesus to emerge, much had to end, and those endings were difficult. John's situation epitomizes the trauma: think of it: he had the brass ring almost, people from all walks of life responded eagerly to his hard work, some even hoped he was the messiah… and now he must step aside for another.

Can any of us really know who or what died in us yesterday in order for today to arrive? Or the joy that we haven't yet fully accepted, for fear of the watershed it signals?

We think of faith as a supplement to life, something new and wonderful that we add to what has gone before.

But in fact, faith is a watershed.
(Watershed: an important point of division or transition between two phases, conditions)

It is an ending. It is a time of things passing away. It is roads diverging and our having to decide. While that choice might bring great joy, it also brings much sadness. Our willingness to accept that sadness says something very real about our faith.
It’s difficult to be a Christian.

John said Yes in his watershed moment. Many say No. (Not only no, but hell no.) No more watersheds, no more change, no more pain of loss, no more sadness.

Still, the watersheds keep appearing. For there is no other way onward. Life always requires death.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Oregon Associates Retreat 2011 #2

It's difficult to be a Christian. Looking up, down, out, in, looking at those we love and especially at those we don’t, looking at things ending and things beginning.

Nothing will get better for us until we embrace that difficulty and do the hard work of following Jesus through the specifics. To look for God in daily life, is to open the door, to step into the flood, to see what God sees, and then to decide whether to care. That decision to care or not is a defining moment of faith.

Take Morality For example: It’s sad: we live in immoral times. Not one of the Ten Commandments is widely in force. Graven images are common, especially in church. The Sabbath, no matter if yours is Saturday or Sunday… the Sabbath is the prime shopping day. Murder is carefully defined so we can allow for all kinds of ways to kill each other and still get away with it. And Coveting—well, that’s the heartbeat of advertising. Stealing and dishonoring are common. Bearing false witness is an Internet art form.

It would be funny except immorality hurts real people. At the level of an actual marriage among regular people, adultery can be devastating. Most marriages won't survive it.

And then there's money. We live some no-man’s land between grace and greed. No wonder Jesus told us to “love one another.” We can do it. I know Jesus' commandment – “love one another” – is within our power. We just aren’t very consistent.

Our Creed may encourage generalization, but the way Jesus taught suggests that "I believe in God" isn't enough. It needs to be, "I believe in God enough to submit my will to God today and to make this next decision with God in mind." Or, "I believe in Jesus and will follow his teachings and his model as I greet my family this morning, as I take my part in the workplace today and as I walk home tonight." I keep saying it. Faith is about specifics. It isn't enough to declare a general intention to be faithful. Faith manifests in specific decisions: Decisions about allocating time, managing money, responding to people, dealing with needs, monitoring our own personal morality.

Shallow religion is easy. Go to church, enjoy what you can, make a token commitment, keep your motor running. See God as a friend, Jesus as a kindly shepherd. Buy a cross, put a Bible on your desk.

Going deep in faith… changes everything.

Not only is it uncomfortable because A: we don’t like change, but B: because it takes way more effort and time. As God's fullness comes into view, the old ways of doing religion don’t work. Going deep in faith means that all those rich, deep and troubling nuances of Jesus become pretty disturbing. The real Jesus challenges us, holds us accountable, sets an impossibly high standard for ethical behavior. He demands openness and giving up of control. I don’t know about you, but that strikes terror in my heart.

Deep is dangerous. Shallow may be dull and lifeless, but it’s a whole lot safer. It takes trust to go deeper in faith.

Deep water happens everywhere, and our ability to swim in it comes and goes. We can be capable one minute and incapable the next. We make wise decisions, then dumb decisions. Not even the most perfect, seamless resume can hide the painful reality that we are flawed creatures. We hurt the ones we love, we squander opportunities, we fail.

Jesus told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none.” (Luke 13.6)

This is our relationship with God. Few of us, not even nuns, spend our days in fervent prayer. Even the most diligent Christians have jobs, families, duties as citizens. Most of us also treasure “down-time.” God knows we are distracted.

God waits in patience for us to remember who we are as children of God or, to use Luke's metaphor, as fig trees called to bear fruit. At some point, push comes to shove. We either live into our true identity or we slip into delusion and spiritual amnesia. We give or we take. We love or ignore. We serve others or serve ourselves. We bear the fruit that God created us to bear, or we take up space and yield nothing that is worthy.

At this point, to follow Jesus' parable, God makes one more attempt to get our attention. If that fails, God moves on. God doesn’t smite us, but God may lose hope in us. We have tried God's patience, and now God will turn to others. It would be a bleak moment when we realize God has finally stopped looking for us to bear fruit.

Jesus said, “So the owner said to the gardener, 'See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?'” (Luke 13.7)

Christian leaders were reshaping the reality of Jesus within years of his death, adapting his teachings to their own agenda, concocting words for him to have said, portraying God as whatever they wanted God to be. In their hands, Jesus went from anti-establishment prophet to ultra-establishment figurehead, from peacemaker to warrior, from subtle teacher of disconcerting parables to a partisan judge vowing death to the Church's enemies. The Jesus who loved everyone became filled with hatred, and his open circle became a closed hierarchy.

What, then, are we to make of a parable that portrays God as indignant and determined to hold creation accountable and Jesus as an advocate for patience – not infinite patience, but “one more year”?
If you visit ten different churches, you’ll hear ten different takes on this parable, each one tailored to its congregation. They will range from God's determination to hold us accountable to gentle images of an ever-patient friend.

On the one hand, Jesus' parables deliberately leave room for many different understandings.On the other, we need to hear what Jesus actually said. The distracted shouldn't listen for a God who waits patiently for them to pay attention. The prosperous shouldn't seek a God who rewards the elect. The oppressed need more than a God who is on their side.

At the center is the Jesus who actually was. When we find his authentic words, they sound like “tough love” in Luke's parable. God expects us to bear fruit. Jesus bargains for us, but only for another chance, not for a permanent exemption from accountability.

There is life in that reality. Only you can know where you stand in that cycle of patience and testing. But Jesus' parable assures us all that the moment of reckoning does happen. God comes “looking for fruit,” and either finds it or doesn't find it.

These may be harsh words this morning, but I think we need to be pushed and stretched. (Take exercise. I hate to exercise. I quit at the first sensation of "the burn," and as a result I just get flabbier.) If we consider the pain of growth wrong and blame and punish those who caused it, we make no difference.

If our faith makes no difference, what's the point?

Oregon Associates Retreat 2011 #1

The theme for our time together this weekend comes from a sermon I heard earlier this year. The jist was this: Through God’s abundance we’ve been given so much… and two hands to hold it.

We have received and can continue to receive every day, but only if our hands are empty. If our hands are still holding on for dear life to those blessings, there’s nowhere to put the new ones.

The message of Jesus never much emphasized the receiving part… but he always spoke to the giving part. So we must learn to let go, to give what we’ve been given away. Thus the theme: hands to receive and hands to bless. Simultaneous receiving and blessing… that’s become my personal goal.

When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” (John 2.3-4)

Jesus made an assumption. In that moment when he replied to his mother, before he acted, he was relying on his preconceived notion of his time and what it would look like. He was tethered to a sense of timing. I can relate to that, can’t you?

We're all tethered to something. I don’t notice it in the always-on Internet world of New York, but I have become totally tethered to the Web. Free wifi in airports and hotels is important to me. Others who are not now, and will probably never be, internet users, are tethered to something else: yesterday's ideas or yesterday's systems.

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s wi-fi, or cars, or traditions, or world-views, roles, privileges – If you take them away, we feel lost. So this story of the wedding is a perfect story for us, to help us let go of our own tethers.

Our tethers don't define us. They might help us function and make us feel useful. But in God's economy, dislocation is often essential for stepping forward. Losing our grip on yesterday's assumptions and assurances is critical for doing what God wants today.

“Dying to self,” as Jesus commanded, isn't just about letting go of bad habits and self-centered ways; it's also about leaving behind those good things we thought we knew, things we worked hard to attain. It means putting aside old stories in order to claim God's new story.

Some theologians believe Jesus knew it all, had a perfect plan for his short three-year ministry, but this passage from John suggests he discovered his purpose and identity along the road. To do that, he had to let go of his own yesterday.

The miracle at Cana was more than magic with water. It was the miracle of Jesus cutting his tether and moving on. He lived his own eventual counsel: let God name the hour.

I think we want faith to be important, but too often it ends up being the ultimate add-on to life. We get an education, get the job, get the family, get the toys, and then we want to get faith. We get everything we want in life, and then we get right with God. Seems like a pretty good deal.

Then we discover the truth. The path to God goes by way of loss and bondage, not by accomplishment… by letting go, by keeping our hands empty.

We enter a wilderness, not a comfortable place. We hunger and then are fed. We fail to see and then are shown more. We feel lost and then are found.

We stand naked before life, not the heroes we wanted to be, not the flawless stars, and then God asks us to come closer to a tomb that is empty. Empty of everything except God's mystery. Our plans for the day are shot. Our dreams for life prove hollow.

Have you ever noticed that when we read the Gospels, Jesus is often busy (as in occupied, needed, pulled, demanded, pushed). But Jesus is never in a hurry. Is it possible that we can change the way we live, not by addition, but by subtraction?

Maybe this weekend we can practice being empty. Take some time to think about the things that clutter your hearts and minds: write them in your journal.

  • Do you need to be in a hurry?
  • Do you need to impress those around you?
  • Are you dissatisied with ordinary days and gifts of grace?
  • Are you preoccupied with all that's left undone?

When our identities are defined by what we do or have, or earn, or strive for, or require in order to impress, we have everything to lose. Maybe this weekend we can work on losing it.

Paul Tillich tells us, "You are accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not seek for anything. Do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted." If that happens to us, we experience grace.

His words are a reminder that we can live and choose and commit "from acceptance" and not "for acceptance." I'm not doing any of this (Sabbath, prayer, rest, reflection, renewal) to impress anyone or earn stars in my crown in heaven. Life is full. This life. This moment. This relationship. This conversation. This encounter. The sacred present begins here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

a new commandment

Radical, wonderful, and even more difficult than the original ten that Moses received from the hand of God... because in truth, we don't love ourselves well enough to love one another.

But Jesus did not say love one another as you love yourself... he said love them as I have loved you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Holy Week feels long, maybe the longest week in the year.
When I think of my own sense of foreboding, the helpless waiting... I can't help but wonder how much more painful it would have been for Jesus those last days before his time finally came.

What, it's only Wednesday? Tomorrow the downhill slide begins... with a feast. We've been in silence, keeping a vegetarian diet this week, but tomorrow evening we'll have meat again, and talk at supper... in honor of the last supper Jesus ate. Then we will all attend the Maundy Thursday ritual at one of the nearby parish churches.
And Friday we will fast. Feasting and fasting... living and dying... joy and sorrow. It's almost too much to bear.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Explain the glory, God.

Every year it's like this. I get closer to Good Friday and my doubt overwhelms my faith.

I am not big on pain... mine or anyone else's. I am especially not big on unnecessary pain, and this whole Jesus died for my sins thing puts the blame on me. Me... and you... and every other sorry member of the human species. Yes, I understand how amazingly mind-blowing it is to worship a God who stooped to endure human form... to live and die as a human being. But some human beings die peacefully in their sleep. (At least that's what we tell ourselves.) Or they die quickly. Most of us do not linger for hours in agony, with other people watching our every sigh and groan, waiting for us to die so they can be "right".

I really do hate this week.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Two Gospels tell the story of the anointing of Jesus.

In Mark's Gospel It is two days before Passover, the host is Simon the leper, the woman is not named and the oil is poured on Jesus' head. In John's Gospel, it is six days before Passover, the host is Lazarus (recently raised from the dead,) and it is Mary who produces the expensive perfume and pours it on his feet.

This is the kind of inconsistency that drives Bible scholars crazy... conflicting versions of what is apparently the same story. The truth will always lie somewhere in between. The point of the story, of course, has nothing to do with head or feet or when or where... or maybe even who.

And the point can change for us with each new reading, depending on what we need to hear.

This is the difference between the living Word of God and words on a page that are chiseled in stone, with one point, one interpretation.

Living with elderly sisters gives me a new spin on this story. Jesus said "You will always have the poor." He might just as well have said "You will always have emails to answer or dust bunnies to sweep." For NOW, be kind in the moment. Honor the interactions that express love, patience, service. You will not always have these opportunities.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

palms and thorns

Palm Sunday again...
and again we take the roller coaster ride of Jesus' last days on earth.

The older I get the more it means, maybe because I have loved more and lost more, loved more and won more, been beaten up and betrayed, and yes, on occasion resurrected. I have heard the call of a God who makes no sense by earthly standards and yet in every natural way... from the creation of the cosmos to the fresh shoots in spring to the dying of the stalks in autumn... makes perfect sense.

We are here to live and die, to be joyful and to suffer, to win and to lose. I have come to believe that those things are not two sides of a flat coin but integral parts of the multi-dimensional whole. Join me in the wild ride.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

vocation vacation

I've been on vacation. In Lent no less.

So, can a person truly take a vacation from who they are? (or in my case... who I have become?) Yes... No... I don't know. Maybe.

Yes, because when I'm away from the convent I only think about the building and the people I left behind occasionally. I was in a Publix supermarket, marveling at all the new products I'd never seen before... and stood in front of the yogurt case thinking "Sr. Leslie would love all these choices." But there are too many ounces in even the smallest container to get through airport security with a carry-on bag. Shoot.

Yes... because I have a tendency to use more four letter words (as in the four letter version of shoot) when I am in conversation with old friends who knew me when. Yes... because I don't always follow the Rule of Life specifics about the morning and evening prayer requirements. Yes... because when my friend says "Do you want to get a pedicure?" I say "Oh my! Absolutely! Thank you!"

Are there any nos to counter all those yesses? I have to think about that.
Okay, here's one: Church is necessary. Communion is necessary. I attended my grandson's confirmation on Saturday night, but since I am an Episcopalian, I could not receive the sacrament from his Roman church. I was so happy to attend my old parish on Sunday... to hear the glorious music, listen to a decent sermon, receive the Body and Blood of my Lord. There was a time in my life I would not call Jesus my Lord. I believed in a Jesus who was God's son, but that didn't necessarily make him my Lord. My big brother, maybe, my friend... what a friend we have in Jesus. But LORD? Puleeze.

That's definitely changed.

And His call to service apparently still sticks. I washed a lot of dishes and cooked a bunch of food while I was away. I made my bed every day except one. I worked on three and a half Lincoln Center programs that came across my email. Some work goes on. Prayer is constant, even when I don't do the prescribed ritual, and reconciliation comes naturally (most of the time.) I guess I am a nun after all. Who knew?

Monday, March 28, 2011


Ethnic food was unknown to me when I was growing up. My mother cooked meat/potato/vegetable meals... occasionally spaghetti, but rarely was a salad served. I ate my first Mexican food at Taco Bell when I was twenty-four, Chinese food... Indian food... Japanese... Thai... all came later. Finally I learned that Taco Bell is so NOT Mexican. I don't care. It was my first love and will always have a place in my heart. (and stomach.)

Now that I am a grownup, ethnic foods are my favorites. When I taste something delicious at a restaurant, I want to try it at home. Three of us rotate as supper cook on Sunday nights; yesterday was my turn, and I had a distinct hankering for Indian food. Specifically Saag.

Saag is chopped up spinach in some kind of mild spicy sauce, often paired with chicken or potatoes. Last night was guest night so the chicken was out... we do primarily vegetarian on guest nights, usually with meat on the side. So... the menu included chicken curry salad, vegetable vindaloo, coconut rice... and saag. I don't much care for aloo saag (the potato one) so I used chickpeas (saag chole).

I searched online and found exactly the recipe I wanted, but I was missing the correct spices. Would you believe you cannot find Garam Masala anywhere near here?!? I went to six grocery stores... no Garam Masala. So I made my own. (Not exactly authentic Garam Masala, but it was close... and worked.)

Then I got over confident and made Naan too. A disaster. It didn't puff up. It tasted okay but was really flat, tough and chewy. The apricot chutney was a hit, the vegetable vindaloo pretty decent... curried chicken salad... well chicken salad is chicken salad.

But the saag... was to die for. Okay so humility is not my strong suit. (It was to die for.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Someone said it will snow here again tomorrow. (Groan) I am ready for Spring.

And yet... Winter is necessary in the cycle of life. I know that.
Nature's seasons of growth require periods of shutting down... resting for the next season of renewal. I know that personally I should learn from this. I don't have to do it all, I can rest... in between my spurts of growth.

But I have been conditioned to judge myself harshly for the fallow time. "When are you going to draw some more cartoons?" a friend asks. "I don't know," I say, "Maybe the cartoonist in me is dead." And I don't know. It's not for lack of inspiration or imagination. I have dozens of ideas gurgling... notes to myself on scraps of paper, snippets of dialog ready to put with drawings... all waiting... resting or dead, I don't know.

Nature has no judgements to make—she is one with what is. Life is life and death is simply death, each taking its place in the life chain of the planet. What dies renews the living. Death is not a waste in nature... it is an integral part of of the pattern.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


This morning our celebrant chose to focus on the Old Testament story of Abraham.

She gave a deeper insight into the radical faith that he showed in picking up stakes and moving his entire household to totally unknown territory... based on a simple promise from a Deity he had never heard of before. Today travel and relocation are more commonplace. I've picked up stakes a number of times in my life... for the promise of a job, a mate, on the recommendation of a friend, for the hell of it. I think I was born restless, and moving is a great way to scratch that particular itch. But today we have mapquest and google and all kinds of ways to find out about where we're going. Not so in Abraham's day.

When she spoke to us of our own "unknown territories" she was speaking more of the spiritual journey than the geographical. We listen for the voice of a Deity we have never seen, attempt to hear the will of a God we know only by faith. There's a lot of desert wandering to do before the promise ever shows itself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Nature doesn't plant, then tend... nature just reseeds. And usually the plant puts out far more seeds than can ever possibly survive, showers them wherever they fall... with apparently no attachment to the outcome.

I don't know that, of course, it's how I project my understanding of the way nature works. But I can still learn from the projection.

Detachment is the lesson... seemingly always my lesson, letting go of my need to control the outcome.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I've heard there are three phases of faith:
  • finding life
  • losing life
  • finding life again.
The Greeks understood this to mean not just physical life but also the conscious self... personality, soul.
Some truths just have to be experienced in order to be understood. I think loss is one of them.

Losing helps you find your way again. Some days we have to lose the certainty of who God is and what God wants. We need to lose the certainty of what it means to be a Christian. I do anyway.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

It's all context

I once took a class that explored Bible interpretation through the lens of context. What is it we're really reading? A legal document? Poetry? What was the cultural context for the time certain passages were written? Was the country at war? Was the writer in pain? Were they actual letters? Were they cobbled together from a variety of sources: softened or blended to fit the listeners ears at that time?

How do we read those same passages today?

Our instructor emphasized that we read through the lens of our traditions, giving the following example:

woman without her man is nothing

Who's insulted by that? It depends on your context. It also depends on your punctuation:
  • Woman, without her man, is nothing.
  • Woman, without her, man is nothing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

prayer for the human race

In the back of the Book of Common Prayer there is a special section called Prayers and Thanksgivings. That section contains an assortment of prayers for all kinds of things: for the world, for peace, for the church, families, little children, people in prison, those who are sick... There is actually a prayer for the Future of the Human Race. No kidding.

Some believe the Earth is doing her best to heave the Human Race off her back. Or that these natural disasters are her death throes, part of the climate change. Others are sure we are coming to the End Times foretold by a number of religions, not just ours. The Psalmist says: "the earth reeled and rocked, and the roots of the mountains shook... and the breakers of death rolled over us..."

Not a bad idea to have a prayer for humankind, no matter who or what we think is to blame for the devastation.

O God our heavenly Father, you have blessed us and given us dominion over all the earth: Increase our reverence before the mystery of life; and give us new insight into your purposes for the human race, and new wisdom and determination in making provision for its future in accordance with your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Today's collect speaks of a God of Mercy. And the lesson from Jonah describes that mercy regarding the people of Nineveh. Jonah warned of destruction and the people took him seriously. They repented. God relented. Jonah was ticked off.

That's the rub. In the Psalms there is much talk of the God of Justice. And I take that a little more seriously than the merciful part. While I want mercy, in my heart I know I don't deserve it. And if I don't deserve it, then those other people certainly don't deserve it. That's how Jonah felt. His righteous indignation said: punish them all!

I'm glad God doesn't always listen to his prophets.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Wishing you a Holy Lent

Lent already?

Actually Lent comes late this year; we had the full complement of Epiphany, not something you get often. Still, I'm never quite ready for Lent. I plan for it, think up all kinds of "resolutions" for it... what will I give up—what will I take on... or in this blog's case... what will I resume?

Sometimes even a week into it I'm rethinking my ideas about what will make my Lent a Holy time. What constitutes Holy anyway?

Balance seems to be my most pressing issue for 2011, so I will no doubt experiment with balance this Lenten season. If I give up too many things I face resentment at some point. If I take on too many, I will be too weary to enjoy them.

Everyone's path to and journey with God is different. Mine differs depending on the day of the week. This is just the first day of the forty. And forty is a long time.