Friday, April 28, 2006

This weekend

I am...

  • Writing one paper and making a good dent in the research for another

  • Taking care of a faculty member's cat overnight

  • Going to the once-a-month women's group at church, tomorrow morning

  • Going to the DioCal convention volunteer training, tomorrow afternoon (I'll bring my homework and study in the city between times)

  • Serving as MC (Lay Assistant) at church on Sunday

  • Doing piles of catch-up reading

  • Why do I do this to myself?

    A-Z Meme

    Because, of course, I have too much to do.

    Accent: Pacific Northwest, accelerated (thanks be to Ritalin for slowing me down)

    Book: The Secret Life of Bees

    Chore I Hate: Cleaning the bathroom

    Dog or Cat: I have neither. I like cats and large dogs.

    Essential Electronics: Laptop, CD player in the car, cell phone

    Flower: Nasturtium (I'm growing some for a friend who likes to eat them), lilac.

    Gold or Silver: Silver, but I only wear a necklace

    Hometown: Olympia, WA

    Irritant: Asthmatic response to incense

    Job Title: Seminarian

    Kids: None, but I love them and want them someday.

    Living arrangements: Grad student dorm

    Most admirable trait: In myself: enthusiasm. In other people: compassion

    Number of projects to do in the next month: Don't ask.

    Overnight hospital stays: Four as a child, none since age 5.

    Phobias: Heights and large spiders

    Quote: "There are no outcasts. There are no second-class citizens. That is Gospel truth." --Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, Bishop of Olympia, ECUSA, 10/31/03

    Religion: Episcopalian, with a strong affinity for interfaith connection.

    Siblings: None

    Time I wake up: Between 6 and 7, though I rarely get out of bed then.

    Unusual talent or skill: I can walk on my knees in the lotus position.

    Vegetable I refuse to eat: Brussels sprouts

    Worst habit: Procrastinating

    X-rays: Teeth, chest, back, right foot.

    Yummy foods I make: Tofu chocolate pie

    Zodiac sign: Virgo

    Tuesday, April 25, 2006

    Liturgical Subversion

    My friend, the "Apostle in Exile" in San Joaquin, conspired with my mentor (through whom I landed at St. Aidan's) to send me the most creatively, lovingly, wonderfully horrible package I have ever had the pleasure of receiving. Inside were all things necessary to create the Twelve Stations of Easter Kitsch, complete with written instructions. I knew it was coming; we'd talked about the "conspiracy" for weeks, and I knew how much she was relishing putting it together for me. (I was compelled to open it publicly, hence the enlisting of an on-campus friend.) I even suspected that Molly would spring it on me yesterday at lunchtime--which is why I had my camera in my pocket. (We'd just come from chapel, where we'd prayed in the Anglican Cycle of Prayer for the Royal Religious Peculiars. Not even knowing what they were, we couldn't look at each other.)

    God help me if I ever tried this at school, but you may try it at home.

    The apostle in question is in Florida for the week, and anyway she has a day job, so couldn't be here for the unveiling. You may adapt the instructions; I'm leaving most of those to your imagination. For her benefit and yours, here are pictures of this dubious resurrection. Molly took them, with my camera. Enjoy!

    Station 1: The Easter Basket. "Behold, Kitsch is risen from the grave! Like the basket of a hot air balloon, he is lifted up."

    We visited Target and a couple of dollar stores in the same evening, over Spring Break. I begged her not to get me this. But I knew she would. She had to. I had no idea what it would become, though.

    The Note to the Celebrant is absolutely priceless: "...In ecumenical settings, it is advisable to have Easter baskets... show at least three faces of the Lord: the Masked Master of Hidden Strengths (aka Spiderman), the Intrepid Traveler (aka Dora the Explorer) and the Maker of All (aka Bob the Builder)."

    Station 2: Pink Peeps, inspired by an overdose of hideosity that evening in Target. "Here begins the story of our salivation toward the Lord. We remember the sound made by the women on discovering the empty tomb: ...Eep!! Eep!! Eep!!"

    Station 3: Bunny Ears. "Open your ears, O hard-headed people. ...The spiritual truth comes only through the eyes on TOP of our heads."

    Station 4: Lop-eared Ceramic Bunny Woman. "For this is also a cautionary tale... If you do not preserve even the uttermost tip of your bunny ears, you too will be condemned to stand as a bunny woman statue forever!"

    So that's how Lot's wife gets into this...

    Station 5: Chocolate Cross. "Taste and see that the Lord tastes good!"

    I'm utterly fascinated with the whole idea of eating a chocolate torture instrument. I mean, I wear a silver Celtic one. But eating them, in celebration? In the words of the online education guru, a mutual friend of the apostle's and mine, "It's like eating a chocolate electric chair." This one has the wood grain and everything. Eep!

    Station 6: Chocolate Easter Bunnies. "Behold the demons that leer and glitter at the glory of our Lord! ...Devour your enemies. Quickly, lest someone else should gain their heads!"

    I have no compunction against eating chocolate bunnies. But I can't, until at least Sunday. My rector needs to see this liturgy. He'll enjoy it almost as much as I have.

    Station 7: Stretchable Bunnies. "How can we contort ourselves into such an unlikely faith?"

    I actually would (and will) play with these. You shall see the evidence. But not yet...

    Station 8: Bunny Jacks. "Fearfully, the people scattered. Patiently, she gathered them. Reenact this holy ritual with these most sacred bunny jacks and ball."

    Someone had to make this stuff up! And people buy them for their kids, like regular toys. Really!

    Station 9: The Chickie Basket, the bright pink scary thing at the far right of this picture. "Bow your head in reverence as the scattered jack people come to rest in its bosom."

    Bow my head in helplessly unstifled giggles, she means...

    Station 10: Easter Jump Rope. "Come, all you peoples. Come and jump for joy!"

    If I did this at school, it's just enough rope to hang myself with. Even I don't dare do that!

    Station 11: Carmen Miranda Celebriduck. "On this most holy day, we also welcome others into our fellowship--through the rite of baptism."

    My favorite of all of these, the drag-queen duck. My friends and I jokingly call her "Magdalen."

    Station 12: The Light of Kitsch. "It is time for us to be sent forth into the world..."

    Giggle in peace to love and serve the Lord!

    (And please, if you're ever on my COM, this is only for fun. We're poking at popular culture. Easter itself is sacred to all of us--which is why these things leave us shaking our heads.)

    Sunday, April 16, 2006


    I slept very little last night. Went to church again this morning, and then to a potluck. I'll admit to exhaustion. But everything I wrote previously is, if anything, more deeply true. I am not feeling any endorphin high. I have been touched, changed, more profoundly than I know how to articulate. I know what I am called to do, on a cellular level, in my throat and in my heart, deeper than doubt can reach. I'd thought that I was grounded, before. The ground is different now. But it is life-giving, and strong.

    I know that I will need to live into this reality, and to find these words. This calling came to me gradually, tentatively, over many years, as I was able to listen and as I wasn't. Now it is clear and strong. I don't question my sanity. I want to know how to grow into what God is asking me to be. The first thing to do is to take all the skills I'm learning more seriously than I have. I had a watershed experience yesterday. I am called to relationship with God, as we all are. I believe I'm called to be a priest. I want to do this, and I want to do it well. I care much more about my pastoral skills than about, say, the Council of Chalcedon. I couldn't care less where anyone falls on an internet heresy quiz--I want all to know that God simply loves them. How to do this? Go after the academics like a dog with a bone. Practice everything. Listen. Listen. Listen. Attend to other people and attend to God. Know that I am learning to be a vessel--not the healer herself, but one through whose hands and words and actions, God heals. And then, get out of my own way and be that conduit.

    Learn to listen. Learn to speak. Learn to stand up, and to sit still. Let the fire burn; burn with it. Tell my rector exactly what is different--not "I'm thinking, maybe," but "This is where I know I'm called to be." Tag along to vestry and stewardship committee meetings, as well as the liturgical/pastoral activities that draw me. Learn everything I can. Try everything I can. Own everything. Grow without fear. Let myself love what I love, and follow what I follow, awake and with abandon. Listen to the Yeses, listen to the Nos and Laters; dig deeper all the time.

    Always, keep walking. Keep praying. Keep alive to the world and to God.

    Christ is Risen!

    Christ is risen from the dead,
    Trampling down death by death,
    And upon those in the tombs bestowing life!

    Sing along.

    Wow. I've never been to an Easter Vigil like this one. We told all the stories--none were read the usual way. Genesis was read, against a background of Native American instrumentation. (We got what creation might have sounded like.) Ezekiel and the Dry Bones was performed wordlessly, as interpretive dance. One man encircled another, breathed on him, and both danced together. They drew a few of us into the circle with them; I was one. Noah's Ark was read as a poem. The Moses story was told by Aaron and Miriam, two years in the desert and tired of everything. We had three baptisms. And I got to serve at the altar.

    Always before now, I talked about "being called to something." I hardly dared say what--at most, "maybe priesthood, maybe Mercy Corps." I didn't commit--I couldn't, as my process will take forever and I have no control over what people see in me, and decide about my calling.

    Until tonight. I was six inches from the baptisms, holding the book, and I wanted to be performing them. Not maybe. Wanted to be. Felt the Spirit flowing into me, "This is where I want you." It was like being in a waterfall of God. I thought about what it means to be there and to be initiating other people, and I don't want to be anywhere else.

    Called a friend when I got home, because I knew she'd understand. She did. (She's a woman in San Joaquin, with a calling of her own.) She said the alleluias for me and with me, and told me what I knew--that I was glowing, and that my soul was "going splat!" against the ceiling. "There is," she said, "no going back now." I know that. And all I can do is rejoice. All I can do is love God back, and dedicate myself again to being the person God affirms I am now, and is calling me ever more deeply to be.

    Now. I need to live into this calling until other people see it, and forever, let myself live it always more. The service was beautiful, creative, wonderful, powerful--and frustrating, because while I felt internally, invisibly anointed, I was also reminded how long my road will be. I'm not formally in process. I've got many people to prove myself to. I keep hearing messages from friends about how the process toward ordination beats people up--and messages from God not to doubt who I am or what I give.

    God is, inexorably, no matter how I block it out or doubt my own worthiness, calling me.

    The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.

    (We sang the Troparion I linked to, though less well than the choir from St. Gregory's. You can find their music here.)

    (Pictures added May 2, 2006, from the St. Aidan's Tuesday FLASH.)

    Saturday, April 08, 2006

    Worth getting up on a Saturday...

    Since I came back from Spring Break (a week ago Monday), I've been feeling like each of my limbs is caught in its own separate riptide. I'm having real trouble focusing. I have a million things to figure out and do, and it feels like very little time to do them in. Sometimes I just can't move. Sometimes my head's above water--and I'm choking. Sometimes I can do the things I need to do.

    I'm housesitting in Walnut Creek this weekend, and drove in to school this morning for the ally training that four of my friends put together. I wasn't sure what I'd learn; I'm capable of and willing to stand up for and with other people. I'm very, very glad I went.

    Early in the workshop, we heard the story of the paralytic who was lowered through a roof to be healed by Jesus (Mark 2:1-5). We split into two groups: an inner and an outer circle. Partners faced each other and each answered a question. Then the outside circle shifted three people over, and we had new partnerships. Three times we answered questions: who in the story did we identify with and why, when did we not have an ally and need one, and when did we have an ally when we needed one? We didn't dialogue; we just listened, and told our own stories. Then we got back into the big circle and called out the feelings we had heard and experienced. We noticed how the mood of our group changed when we shifted from discussing feelings of abandonment to feelings of relief, validation, and freedom. I noticed in myself how, when I am listened to and supported, I am reconnected with the truest parts of myself, with other people, and with life.

    Later, we discussed two models of interaction from a tiny little $100 book, Overcoming Organizational Defenses: Facilitating Organizational Learning, by Chris Argyris. Model I can be described as "making nice" in order to persuade. Here, you shy away from confrontations to appear non-threatening, but when you're challenged, you win by not backing down. It's kind of an intentional passive-aggression, except that you can feel good while you're doing it, because you want to make other people feel good. Model II encompasses much more self-reflective behavior, as well as honesty with the other. Your currency here is valid information and varied perspectives. You speak from your own position, and listen when others do the same. You're not chasing social victory, but mutually acknowledged truth. You operate not from a place of fear, but from respect for yourself and those you're conversing with.

    I thought about this for the rest of the morning, through a role-play we did and our closing discussion. I thought about who I am as an ally and as someone who needs allies of her own. I finally realized something: I am not very practiced at remembering my own power. I forget that my words--anyone's words--carry weight simply because I speak them. Thinking of it now, it feels like inner tai chi: finding my balance, testing my limits, using my voice. I can stand up as I am, and I can thoughtfully speak in truth. I don't have to be emotionally reactive. I can know that I am a valid and immeasurably worthy creation of God, and I can live from that place of sureness and strength.

    This is our birthright. You can do it too. Speak from your center, in confidence that you will be heard.