Monday, December 31, 2007

Safely in NOLA

Exhausted. In a house attached to St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, that EDOLA uses for volunteers. Well taken care of, by a family of volunteers from Minneapolis who showed me around, made my bed, and found me some leftover Vietnamese for dinner. (Food, not people.) Feeling very loved by friends, both in blogland and at home. And, caught up on Jake.

Mimi, I'll call you when I get some sense of my schedule.

Noisy here; fireworks. Will get louder before it stops, I'm sure. Still, now I can sleep.

Goodnight. Happy New Year.

Traveling, and moderating comments for awhile

I'm leaving in a few hours, to spend the next month in New Orleans. I'll be doing a project with the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. Details to follow, as I get immersed in it.

As excited as I am about this, and as much as I've been wanting to do it since my first trip there last March, this is the first extended trip I've ever taken alone. I don't so much fear for my physical safety as, well, I'm just generally scared. I'll be fine once I get settled, and working; right now, I've only a vague idea of what I'm getting into.

What compels me to return to NOLA isn't the touristy fun stuff; it's the people. I'm going, so that I can listen to survivors' stories, and share them.

I have no idea what my internet access will be like while I'm gone. I've been very public at Jake's place, and while I haven't experienced any sort of trolling yet, I don't want to leave my own space vulnerable to idiots. So, I'll be moderating comments, at least for the next while.

Please pray for me, for the city of New Orleans, the people of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and for all who are marginalized, mistreated, or exiled. And please pray for those who wield their power in damaging ways, as well. Pray for all of us, and be good to one another. Thank you.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

How You Can Help Episcopalians in San Joaquin

This is an advocacy piece I wrote originally for my parish blog. I edited it for a larger audience.

When you've finished reading this, please click on the red Remain Episcopal button in the sidebar. Here you will learn about the struggle that the continuing Episcopalians in the Diocese of San Joaquin are facing. You will see who they are, and where they are, and what you can do to help.

My best friend lives in this diocese. She is a member of St. John’s, Lodi, and Contingency Representative to the Remain Episcopal board. Her charge for the past few years has been to help strategize in preparation of a diocesan vote to secede from the Episcopal Church. This vote, first passed in December 2006, was finalized at the San Joaquin convention this past December 8. Her own parish, relatively “liberal,” is safe—but she, and now I, have many friends and acquaintances who worship in exile. (Learn more about these communities here and here.)

For two and a half years, I was very peripherally involved in the struggle in San Joaquin. It was my friend’s work; I supported her, but never claimed it for my own. That changed this past December 23. Andee and I went to St. Nicholas, Atwater, to witness what happened there when the erstwhile, ex-Episcopal bishop of San Joaquin showed up for a visit on short notice. What I saw there crystallized my own calling to minister to the forgotten, the mistreated, the exiled. The vicar, Fred Risard, had only recently dared to speak out against the diocese’s move to split from the Episcopal Church and align with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. John-David Schofield proceeded to fire him, in front of the congregation, during the liturgy. Two days later, on Christmas, John-David locked Fred out of the building. His authority to take either of these actions is highly questionable, as he is no longer an Episcopal bishop.

St. Nicholas Episcopal Mission will be worshipping at the Atwater Community Center, Sunday mornings at 10. Fr. Fred's salary is being paid by contributions primarily from outside the diocese of San Joaquin.

I’m currently hoping to do my Field Education in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. My heart is with the exiles, and I very much want to be part of the re-birthing. Meanwhile, asking for your support is easy to do.

These things are most needed now:

Financial donations. Anything you can give is needed and appreciated. Money goes to further publicity, pay legal fees, and support people like Fr. Fred Risard.

Witnessing. Fr. Fred mentioned that other vicars, clergy who serve at the pleasure of the bishop, had spoken with him. He may represent the first of many confrontations. If you can, worship in the Central Valley. If you hear of a threatened community, go there. Be present to that community, and share what you saw, when you come home.

Worshipping in solidarity. The closest continuing Episcopal parishes to the Bay Area are St. John’s, Lodi and St. Anne’s, Stockton. Further south, there’s Holy Family, Fresno and Church of the Saviour, Hanford. In Atwater, St. Nicholas Mission welcomes everyone to join them in worship. Communities in exile exist in Bakersfield and Turlock, where the parishes voted with the diocese to secede. Faithful Episcopalians hold services elsewhere, most often without benefit of clergy. This means that they pray in community, but rarely receive Communion. (It isn't hyperbole to say that this schism is starving people.)

Worshipping courageously. If you have a chance to worship with a congregation whose leaders voted to leave the Episcopal Church, visit there, too. During announcements or coffee hour, let it be known that you are visiting in support of those who want to stay in the Episcopal Church. Be prepared for some possible unpleasantness--but realize that your visit may be life-saving to some who believe they are isolated and without hope.

Prayer. Hold San Joaquin before God, in your hearts. There are human beings on all sides of this struggle. We speak of it differently, but all seek God, and healing.

On Sundays I’m not at St. Aidan's, I’m usually in the Valley. If you are interested in worshipping in San Joaquin, and don’t particularly want to go alone, please contact me through my profile.

Father Jake has been following developments in San Joaquin for years, and has been collecting the witnesses of others (including, recently, me). He is the best place to start, if you want to educate yourself quickly.

The relevant postings on my personal blog are here.

Thank you.

UPDATE: One of the commenters at Jake's place mentioned that there were people from St. A's in attendance at St. Nicholas' first Sunday in exile. (Yay, thank you!) If that was you, would you be open to telling your story in this thread? If you'd be more comfortable, you can e-mail me and I'll do it. Public anonymity is OK. They/we are looking for windows on what it was like there--and I'm just plain proud of whomever it was, for going.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I know who you are. Thank you, so much.

And God bless them, every one!

Frednkids

Fr. Fred Risard and the kids of St. Nicholas

I would like to take a moment on the eve of our first worship in exile to thank all those who have sent in their messages of support. We have lost track of the count, but I have read each and every message. Additionally, the overwhelming support out there in Blogosphere is amazing. I want you all to know that it is truly a humbling experience. And we owe you all so much...
--Fr. Fred

The EPISCOPAL Church of St. Nicholas

continues its mission to the people

of Atwater, CA, in love, faith, courage, and joy.


Worship with them, if you can. And do check out their website!

And, as Paul says, please keep ALL the people of San Joaquin in your prayers. I count Fred as a friend, and am triumphant with and for him--but this is one of many struggles, and there are human beings on all sides. Many have been hurt. All seek God, and healing.

To God be the glory.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Brother Causticus is back!

And he's on a mission.

Sunday Worship for St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Exile, Atwater

Stolen wholesale and verbatim from Jake. I want to get the word out to as many people as possible.

Since John-David Schofield of the Southern Cone has illegally claimed the former facilities of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Atwater, California, and changed the locks, they will be worshipping in a new location this Sunday at 10:00 a.m.

Directions to St. Nicholas in Exile are here.

The address:
Castle Vista Rec Center
2300 Cascade Dr
Atwater, CA 95301

Enter the gated community at Sierra Madre. Pass code at gate: #1234

Those in the neighborhood are encouraged to join the people of St. Nicholas as a sign of support.

The Rev. Fred Risard can be contacted at:frisard (at) mac (dot) com.

Those wanting to express their support for all the faithful Episcopalians in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin are encouraged to visit the website of Remain Episcopal.

Friday Poetry Blogging: Feast of the Holy Innocents

Coventry Carol

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor Youngling for Whom we sing
By, by, lully, lullay?

Herod the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever morn and day
For Thy parting neither say nor sing,
By, by, lully, lullay.

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
By, by, lully, lullay.

I don't have it in me to do any better, today. MadPriest and Mimi did.

Between Atwater and San Francisco

This past week has changed me. I’ve had two vastly different experiences of what it means to be church, and to do community. Their proximity clarified my calling.

I know that my place is with the exiles.

I’ve already written about Atwater last Sunday, and how it felt to worship in a church which was, though we weren’t sure of it yet, being stolen. I wrote about the courage I witnessed from the vicar, Fred Risard, and how it felt to worship in solidarity with a community that had refused to follow San Joaquin's former bishop out of the Episcopal Church. There are some things I’ve kept to myself, mostly, and I’m still processing how witnessing spiritual abuse—and, even if only glancingly, experiencing it—woke me up and galvanized me.

The following afternoon, Christmas Eve, I served at my home parish in San Francisco. St. A's was wonderful. Creative, loving, chaotic; its usual, joyful self. I love them and part of me would be happy in that sort of environment forever, doing community and playing with liturgy in the midst of active, involved, committed people.

But doing church in established parishes and doing church in exile are two different things. I need to be with the exiles. That's what's real to me.

This calling comes in bits and pieces. I've known since NOLA last spring that I'm energized by mission. (Before that, I was, but saw what I was doing in places like the Catholic Worker house as, simply, good work.) I didn't see this piece until I pulled up in the Apostle in Exile’s driveway on Christmas Eve night. She had worshipped with St. Francis in exile, meeting at a Methodist church in Turlock, 45 minutes or so down the Valley from her home. I asked her how it was.

She answered, "Wonderful." I said, "I know."

The Revs. Mark Hall and Kathy Galicia concelebrated. That is a huge celebration of freedom in San Joaquin, where women have never been allowed to be ordained. (Vic Rivera moved out of a tightly-held position, to help consecrate his daughter. John-David… we don’t need to go there.)

Being in Atwater last Sunday was just like talking to people on the street in New Orleans. Strange and horrible that this is the parallel—it's totally wrong, but it's right. Both groups have been harmed by the power structures governing them, in which they were always taught to place their trust. There is a real need for advocacy. They need to tell their stories. (I’m going back to NOLA in four days, to spend a month listening.) And these are the people—the marginalized, forgotten, mistreated—whom I need to be with. I think I'd be happy doing mainstream parish ministry—and it'd be so easy, if I were called to that—but I need to at least begin this, on the edges. I can't even say right now, why, other than that's where I belong. My place is with the exiles. They are my people.

There is a possibility I could do field ed in San Joaquin; I need to talk with my bishop, and meet with the person who brought it up to me. I joke about getting hives driving down the east side of Altamont; now I'm chomping at the bit to be a part of the rebirthing here.

I e-mailed much of this to a friend, and later copied it to my prayer group at church. I know that I have the blessing of my parish to do whatever I’m called to do. Right now, they’re helping me figure out what that calling is. I know how the vestry would respond to these paragraphs: "God bless you. Go. But why do you need the sacraments?" The only answer I have right now is, I need the tools to nurture community. I have to be able to take food to hungry people.

I know it isn't enough. But it's all I know, and I know it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

St. Nicholas, Atwater under siege

The title isn't hype, friends. I described it more mildly when I first posted, precisely because I was furious and didn't want to overstate my case. But John-David has resorted to what can only be described as thuggery. The following was posted in the comments at Fr. Jake's place, here, Wednesday evening. It was written by the Rev. Mark Hall, rector of St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Stockton, CA.

This in an update on St. Nicholas, Atwater. The following e-mail was received on Christmas morning:

Dear Jo and Deacon Buck,
The attached document is the letter notifying Fr. Risard that his
deployment at St. Nicholas is now over. We wish you to know that the
Bishop and the Diocese are fully behind the continuation of your church in
Atwater and will do all that we are able to support you during this
transition.

There are many details to take care of, and many questions which you
probably have for the Bishop or me.
The most important Directions from the Bishop to accomplish immediately
include:

Change the exterior locks immediately, including the interior lock to the
priest's offices and any file cabinets.
Retrieve the bank statements of any accounts that Fr. Risard had signature
authority to: the discretionary account, and any other accounts.
Notify me of any minutes from past Bishop's Committee meetings for the
past three months and forward them to me. This is especially important if
there are commitments made to Mr. Michael Glass, an attorney referenced in
the letter of Fr. Risard to the Bishop.

We will assume that the Deacon will be able to lead worship for a short
period of time, especially this next Sunday. Reserved sacrament will be
provided by the Rural Dean, Fr. Ron Parry, or by me if necessary.

Our prayers are with you during this time of transition.

Yours faithfully,
The Rev. Canon Bill Gandenberger
559-907-7122

Fr. Fred has removed himself from the church building, but is reorganizing the mission to meet in another location. This will match what is happening in Turlock, Bakersfield, and other places. We who are loyal to the Episcopal Church will continue to support Fr. Fred and his congregation.
Mark Hall 12.27.07 - 1:36 am #

Blog Blessing

God+bless+rose


(Graphic lifted from Paul, for the same reason he changed it: the original was too small to read.)

I got tagged three days ago, and nearly missed it entirely. I've been so busy with the San Joaquin craziness, that I haven't been keeping up with my blog-friends who are blessedly not involved in this. Fran tagged me with a blessing.

The idea is to tag those who have particularly blessed you, so that they may know you hold them in thought and prayer. Fran adds, "And what better thought than that at Christmas time, right? You can read about the origin of this blog blessing here."

Well, it's only the second day of Christmas, so I'm not too terribly late. In the spirit of the Incarnation, who has shown me Jesus?

Many, many people. Paul and Mimi got tagged when I did, so I can't re-tag them. I've re-discovered this week that my heart is with the exiles, and with those who work in solidarity with them. I thank these people for modeling clear, strong faithfulness in struggle, rebellion and resistance:

Aghaveagh
PseudoPiskie
Liz

Thank you, to so many more who have held me in prayer, nurtured my strength, and celebrated as I found my voice.

What, you STILL haven't had enough sugar?

David Walker posts this recipe for Chocolate Sparkle Cookies. They sound really good.

Another report from St. Nicholas, Atwater

Written by the Rev. Dr. Michael A. Backlund, Ph.D., and posted here.

Michael and I spoke briefly during coffee hour that Sunday. He sent me his reflections before Jake published them. I can tell you that every word is true.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

My head is still shaking

But I promised Jake’s readers I would write something, and I’ve already gotten a crazy amount of hits. So, here are my impressions of former Episcopal bishop John-David Schofield's visit to St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, Atwater, CA.

The Apostle in Exile and I found our way to St. Nicholas, and got ourselves oriented. We were standing in a small circle in the parish hall, talking with Fr. Fred before the service. Bob Moore+ came in, and I bounced over and gave him a hug. I was only momentarily surprised to see him, but so happy. I thought, “Yes. They’re watching.”

Bob was appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine to coordinate pastoral care for those in San Joaquin who choose to stay in the Episcopal Church. I’ve only met him a few times, but enough to be pleased that he’s here. His wife is Nedi Rivera, Suffragan Bishop of Olympia. They’re both fantastic people. He’s a close, attentive listener, and a deeply calming presence. I was very reassured to see him.

The other Episcopal clergy present were Fred’s father, Martin Risard, a retired priest living in Sonora; and Michael Backlund from NoCal (living in SJ, he commutes to Sacramento to serve). Bill Gandenberger was also there, as canon to John-David.

John-David preached, and concelebrated with Fred. I couldn’t figure out why; what part of leaving by his own choice and attempting to take the diocese with him, had he not understood? Fred explained it later, as a gesture meant on his part to reconcile.

I’m stuck here, as anything I attempt to say about John-David’s participation in the liturgy is colored by my shock at his audacity. I nearly broke up laughing, when this schismatic “bishop” prayed for unity in the church. I’d been at one other Eucharist where he preached and presided. This sermon was actually short, for him, and evidence via his actions that he doesn’t listen to his own words. He prayed before celebrating, over the elements, and again while washing his hands—not sotto voce, this time, but full voice—and professing (to God, no less) his own humility. No. Really. If I could directly quote him, you might be as shocked as I. (I’d thought about bringing my voice recorder with me, but felt it was inappropriate, and left it at home.)

Fred had spoken, I believe at the Offertory—thanking all of us for being there, and mentioning that he’d gotten support from all over the world. He seemed like an unlikely hero; a priest in a small mission, just trying to do his job. He announced that they were going to take bags of groceries to hungry people afterward—which they did, and some of us helped. (It was so good to do the work of the Gospel, after that craziness!) The offering went to support that work in the community.

Fred said that they’ve been down to about 20 people on a Sunday, half of what they’d started with, because of all the trouble in the diocese. I’m no judge of numbers, but yesterday this small church was full. There were people there from St. John’s, Lodi; St. Francis (in exile), Turlock; Holy Family, Fresno; and I’m from St. Aidan’s, San Francisco. Possibly others that I don’t know; I got the sense that anyone who could go, went. A few were standing, in the back.

John-David consecrated the elements, and sat in the bishop’s chair. Fred and the deacon fed us. Fred knew my name from this blog, and he was beaming as he placed the host in my hands.

I had posted previously, asking for support for Fred. I told Paul, and posted links at Episcopal CafĂ© and Jake. I got a sub for myself on Sunday, and went to Atwater—not even from Berkeley, but my friend’s house in the Valley. She drove; it took barely over an hour. It seems like so little—and it meant so much. I felt very privileged to be able to be there.

After the closing prayer, before the hymn, John-David spoke again. He said something to the effect of, “You’ve heard rumors that I’m firing Fred and closing the mission. This is not true. Your attendance is dropping; you can’t afford a full-time priest. We’re keeping the doors open—and will send a supply priest on occasion. This is the sole reason for my visit.”

You know the expression, “gobsmacked?” We all knew we’d been manipulated and lied to. Come on. How he expected to come in there and say that, and have people be unified anywhere except against him, is beyond me.

Fred stood up, and let him have it. He was emotional, powerful, truthful, and strong. He said, (I’m paraphrasing), “you know, I didn’t want to go here. You had to stir things up one last time. You come in here with intent to divide people. We are about the work of reconciliation.” He said he’d been silent out of fear for his job; the bishop had just given him absolutely nothing to lose. Vicars risk a lot by speaking out; they serve only at the pleasure of the bishop. Fred said that other vicars had contacted him, supportively and wanting to know what they could do for themselves now as well. They’d felt—rather, been—pressured to go along with John-David; they didn’t truly want to.

Somebody has to go first; it may as well have been him. I love my own bishop. I can imagine that if I had a deep disagreement with +Marc, he’d honestly listen to me. He’d make a real attempt to work it out. There’d be none of the power-play and mind games that happen here. That’s why I’m still shaking my head. The way John-David relates to people—faking nice at them while twisting knives in their back—does not happen in my reality. I couldn’t even begin to process this, until this morning—and I’ve heard the stories for three years.

Fred said more, along the lines of thanking us for supporting him, again. Twice he turned to face John-David. All of this needed to be said, and it needed to be said to the one who had hurt him. There were a lot of people praying, as we listened.

Some at Jake’s have mentioned bodyguards. I didn’t see them. My eyes were pretty steadily front, the whole time, except when I caught my friend's eyes in disbelief and horror. I listened as well as I could; at the same time, my defenses were up. And I was riveted by what was unfolding in front of me. I saw incredible audacity and lies, be met with prayer, clear speech, and courage.

A friend distilled it thusly: “Truth was spoken to power, and “power” oozed out the door.” He nailed it. I didn’t see John-David or Bill Gandenberger at all after the service. They’d been invited to help serve the poor; they didn’t stay to speak to anyone.

Now what? Keep praying for Fred Risard, the community of St. Nicholas, and all other vicars and missions in the diocese of San Joaquin. If you live in the Merced-Atwater area, visit St. Nicholas. Simply showing up, is support. If you want to donate, you may do so here. Money received by Remain Episcopal goes toward publicizing these issues, supporting the rebuilding of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin, and toward supporting people like Fr. Fred. (Facebook members may donate to Remain Episcopal, here.)

UPDATE: Father Jake has compiled this and other eyewitness accounts, here. Others saw things I didn't, and saw things that I witnessed, differently. Check it out.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pagan? Me?

From Paul, via Eileen, yet again. Corrupters, both of them.

You Are A Cedar Tree

You are elegant yet unpretentious, modest yet vivacious.
Attractive and friendly, you are full of imagination but might lack passion.
You abhor vulgar people, and you don't like anything in excess.
You have little more ambition than to live a calm life and enjoy nature.
You create a content, peaceful atmosphere for others.


This one also is close to the truth. Unpretentious, vivacious, friendly, laid-back... that's me. Imaginative tree-hugger, that too.

Support the Vicar of Atwater

Fred Risard, the vicar of an Episcopal mission, has come under threat from his former bishop, the ex-bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin. Risard chose not to follow ex-bishop Schofield out of the Episcopal Church and into the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, at the vote taken in Fresno December 8. Schofield has made plans to visit Risard’s church this Sunday, December 23. Risard’s stand could cost him his job, and the church, its community; closing missions and firing vicars are actions that Schofield has taken in the past.

This is gutsiness, friends, in the face of abusive power. Fred Risard needs our prayers and support.

The full article from Episcopal News Service is here.

What can we do?

• Pray.
• Show up at St. Nicholas Episcopal Church in Atwater, CA, this Sunday. Worship with the community; lend your quiet, but present support; witness to whatever happens.
• Send a message of support to Fr. Fred.
• Donate to Remain Episcopal. Your gift supports publicity, in particular; help get the word out of what is happening in San Joaquin. (Facebook members may donate online, here.) All donations are tax-deductible.

UPDATE: As you're doing these things, go pray with Paul.

Thank you.

Friday Poetry Blogging: Light in, around, and for us

I am, absolutely, Christian. And I have some fairly strong pagan leanings. I believe in the Christ-child born in each of us. And I know that after the darkest day, the light returns. It has never fully left us, and it never will.

We are living in a dark time. But each of our lives is a reason for hope, whether or not you believe in the Incarnation. I have far too many friends who are up to their elbows in working for good, to ever doubt that. Some call it the kindom of God; some call it healing our Mother. Either way, the work gets done.

Neither of these offerings is exactly poetry. One is Scripture; the other is a chant that I used to sing every winter at Solstice gatherings and in my interfaith community. Let the truth in each, settle into your hearts. Take strength and energy from that which feeds you. And sing along with what you know.

Happy Solstice, everyone!
***

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. --John 1:1-5, NRSV


Light is returning,
Even though this is the darkest hour
No one can hold
Back the dawn

Let's keep it burning,
Let's keep the light of hope alive
Make safe our journey
Through the storm

One planet is turning,
Circle on her path around the sun
Earth mother is calling
Her children home.
--Charlie Murphy

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Becoming real

These thoughts were sparked by a conversation both elsewhere and offline; in the comments at Paul's place, he and Padre Mickey were discussing how they practice what is essentially holy mischief. One described it as, “loving people into wholeness.”

I seized on that. I’m still thinking about it, not necessarily in the Velveteen Rabbit sense of being loved into reality until your fur falls off, but truly being loved into deep and fearless authenticity—into the human being and child of God you were created to be.

Pause here for a minute. Hold yourself in your mind’s eye. What do you love about yourself, without even trying? What are you proud of? What are you happy about? What makes you smile, when you think about it?

Can you see it? Hold that joy, for awhile.

Now, look deeper. What wounds you? What keeps you from living up to your idea of perfect, or even good enough? What do you regret? Where have you disappointed yourself? What do you struggle with? What do you wonder if you’re ever going to get?

Our wounds make us human. They make us whole; they make us strong. They give us the ability to truly connect with other human beings, with creation, with our beloved, injured planet. They give us empathy, and compassion. They make us truly able to love.

Paul somewhere recently told a story about an airport experience he had. (I think it's in one of his Advent thoughts; not sure which, and don't have time to find it.) I don’t remember what inspired him to do it, but watching passengers pour into the gate, he looked at each and said quietly, “The Body of Christ.”

What if, when we looked into the eyes of human beings we’ve never spoken to, we saw, truly, who they are? What if we gave them the reverence we would show God?

In college and for about two years after, I volunteered at a domestic-violence shelter in Olympia. On the last night of training, we played the web game with a ball of yarn. Standing with us all in a circle, the leader asked,

“How do you want to love the world?”


I’ve never forgotten that question. We tossed the ball around, and each of us answered, catching a strand in our fingers until all were connected. I’ve no idea what I said; I was 21, as wet-behind-the-ears as they come, and interested in working with traumatized kids. But it’s not the kind of question, that you ever stop living.

What moves me now? The love of God, and the souls of humans. I was the shyest, most introverted, most terrified child on the planet; now I love being with people. I thrived on retreat ministry, last summer when I did it; I’m also passionate about mission. I don’t know what my ministry will end up looking like. But I know that I’m already doing it, now. Everyone gives who they are to the world. Skilled or not; intentional or not. We are all giving our lives, right now, to everyone around us—including those we’re unaware of.

What stirs your soul? What work do you most love? How do you play? What gift is your deepest challenge, deepest joy? What do you absolutely have to do, or you’ll go completely mad in the absence of it?

How do you want to love the world?

Hidden Talent

From Buddhapalian (he gets to be a boat-rocker, lucky), who is explicitly not blaming Eileen. Oddly enough, my results are very accurate.

Your Hidden Talent

Your natural talent is interpersonal relations and dealing with people.
You communicate well and are able to bring disparate groups together.
Your calming presence helps everything go more smoothly.
People crave your praise and compliments.


I've been called a peace-maker, often, in a good way. And I'm learning how to use the instincts I have. I'm staying at the Apostle's for a couple of weeks, until I go to NOLA. She asked me last night, "Do you think you're learning what you need?" I answered, "Yes, I think so." I had not thought of myself as the leader I'm becoming. Most of what I'm learning has not come from books; though some of it has. I've been doing very intense soul-work, this past fall in particular. Some integration has just sort of quietly happened, while I was paying attention elsewhere.

Tears last night, for reasons I don't particularly want to go into—mostly because I haven't been as together as a student, as I wanted to be and thought I could be. I haven't had one calm or normal semester, and the things that have come up have mostly been beyond my control. But, am I learning to be the kind of human being I need to be? Yes, absolutely—and these past weeks—and last night—are part of that.

I'm learning to recognize and forgive my own limits—as well as rejoice in the strengths that I find. How can I help others do that, if I can't? We all need that kind of love.

You take it as it comes. I know that what I'm doing belongs to God, and is of God's initiative, even as it's my life. I forget, often, to trust that I don't have to be perfect. Everybody has weaknesses. Everybody has strengths.

Fortunately, these are some of mine.

You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

Because I'm in an INCREDIBLY contrary mood today, and because it's seasonally appropriate.

(Yes, I love Christmas--and I love Advent--but today I just feel like snarling at everybody, and curling up in a cave. That has nothing to do with the season, and everything to do with other circumstances I've gotten myself into.)
***

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
You really are a heel.
You're as cuddly as a cactus,
You're as charming as an eel.
Mr. Grinch.

You're a bad banana
With a greasy black peel.

You're a monster, Mr. Grinch.
Your heart's an empty hole.
Your brain is full of spiders,
You've got garlic in your soul.
Mr. Grinch.

I wouldn't touch you, with a
thirty-nine-and-a-half foot pole.

You're a vile one, Mr. Grinch.
You have termites in your smile.
You have all the tender sweetness
Of a seasick crocodile.
Mr. Grinch.

Given the choice between the two of you
I'd take the seasick crockodile.

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.
You're a nasty, wasty skunk.
Your heart is full of unwashed socks
Your soul is full of gunk.
Mr. Grinch.

The three words that best describe you,
are, and I quote: "Stink. Stank. Stunk."

You're a rotter, Mr. Grinch.
You're the king of sinful sots.
Your heart's a dead tomato splot
With moldy purple spots,
Mr. Grinch.

Your soul is an apalling dump heap overflowing
with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable
rubbish imaginable,
Mangled up in tangled up knots.

You nauseate me, Mr. Grinch.
With a nauseaus super-naus.
You're a crooked jerky jockey
And you drive a crooked horse.
Mr. Grinch.

You're a three decker saurkraut and toadstool
sandwich
With arsenic sauce.

Copyright © 1957, Dr. Seuss. From Seuss.org.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I don't know what to pray, but I need to.

I was in a car accident on the freeway yesterday. I’m skittish about sharing the details online; suffice it to say that all parties are physically fine. What happened was the lesser of two potentially very bad things.

This could have been so much worse. It’s only by grace, that it wasn’t. That is precisely why I’m shaken.

(And even though I know that, it also gives me pause. What do you say, when an accident results in catastrophe?)

Thank you, Paul, for praying for me offline, and to the Apostle in Exile for caring for me. We are all, physically, fine—and that makes me want to collapse on my knees. The tension in my body will dissipate. The flashbacks as I’m going to sleep, will stop. I will feel solid again. My car door sounds different, but still does what it’s supposed to do. The other car has only a significant scratch. The other people were so damn nice about it, as was the CHP officer who was already there.

This could have been so much worse. I’ve known people, for whom it was worse. My college roommate was killed nineteen years ago yesterday, when the car she was a passenger in slipped on black ice, on a twisty highway near Forks, WA. I still carry her family in my heart; she was from Olympia, and for a long time I was very involved in the spiritual community she'd grown up in. I have another friend who survived a freeway accident, but was paralyzed. They didn’t deserve that, any more than I deserve this.

We are all fine. I don’t know what to pray, but “Thank you—and surround everybody with the grace you give me.”

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Friday Poetry Blogging: Participatory Edition

Why? Because it’s the last day of finals week, and I need all of it to get anywhere close to done. And I don’t want to lose track of this. And because collective anarchy can be really creative and fun.

This week, you get to come up with the poetry. Silly or serious; written by you, or found. Haiku, higgledy-piggledy, acrostic, whatever. Throw confetti, or give whatever gift that’s in you. All of us will receive it.

Post in the comments, and enjoy.

Buddhapalian made me do it

I've been elfinated.

Watch at your own risk. If you're drinking anything, set it down now.

And then, if you're up to it, go watch his.

"Kitschiferous horrors," indeed!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Prayers over finals week

O God of peace, who has taught us that in returning and
rest we shall be saved, in quietness and confidence shall be
our strength: By the might of your Spirit lift us, we pray you,
to your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


O God of strength, who loves us as your holy people and
empowers us to do your will: Give us the discipline to do
what we need to do, the clarity to do it well, the grace to forgive
ourselves, and the courage to rise stronger next time,
through Jesus Christ our Redeemer. Amen.

BCP 832, and me

Monday, December 10, 2007

I just got the coolest search hit ever

From someone in Korea:

"christ laughing"

Yay!

What You Can Do for Episcopalians in San Joaquin

From Remain Episcopal:

Those of us who remain Episcopal within the Diocese of San Joaquin extend our thanks and appreciation for the overwhelming expression of love and support that we have received from faithful Episcopalians and Anglicans throughout The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. We are committed to the very challenging tasks that we are now faced with, including but not limited to, supporting and protecting the clergy that have stood with us, maintaining and growing the parishes that retain their Episcopal affiliation, providing support and leadership to those who are in the minority in their current parishes, informing and gathering those who have left over the years in response to words and actions they found oppressive and marginalizing. To those within our diocese who have not felt represented by Remain Episcopal but have a desire to remain loyal to The Episcopal Church, please know that we do not exclude those who may feel their opinions and beliefs differ from ours. Contact us so we can better understand all perspectives and go forward representing all. ( reach us at contact@remainepiscopal.org )

Many of you have asked how you can help. Please continue to pray for the Diocese of San Joaquin. We are all mourning some level of loss regardless of our affiliation. We are in need of comfort, strength, discernment, and wisdom as we go forward in love and service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The tasks that face us will require considerable financial support. We need to get the word out that The Episcopal Church is still present in the Diocese of San Joaquin. Bulk mailings and print ads for media in 14 counties are costly. We would appreciate any donations. We are a 501(c)(3) organization so your donations are tax deductable. Please mail them to:

Remain Episcopal
2067 W. Alluvial
Fresno, CA 93711


Much more on their website. These people matter to me because my best friend is among them; they matter also because they've been persecuted for twenty years (by which I mean lied to, manipulated, and abused). While I hurt for the ones who followed their clergy out, my heart is rejoicing with my friends. There is joy, relief, and hope in the Valley. It's like watching a flower open, or a bird fly for the very first time.

Episcopalians in San Joaquin need our support, our prayers, our love. I'm keeping the link on top of my sidebar for the foreseeable future. If you can give money, please do; if you have prayers to spare, give those.

And, if you are an Episcopalian in the Diocese of San Joaquin and you need a community to worship with, please contact them. They will help you.

ALSO: Check out the brainstorming at Jake's. (Thanks, Buddhapalian.)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sermon: Advent II, Year A

I preached at St. Aidan's this morning.

Isaiah 11:1-10
Romans 15:4-13
Matthew 3:1-12


When Tommy asked me to preach during Advent,
he said to me,
“You’re good at the feminine perspective.”

Uh, yeah. This is not Mary week.
We’ll hear her story two weeks from now.
I’m not going to talk about the sweet, strong,
courageous girl
with God growing inside of her.
I get to tell you about the Baptist.
The wild man in the wilderness,
one of God’s bad kids,
preparing the way of the Kindom.

The word Advent is Latin;
it means “coming.”
The coming of the Christ child;
the coming of the Reign of God.

It is a time to examine ourselves,
our world
and the way we live in it.
It is a time to be still and quiet,
to ponder the meaning of Christ living with us,
to true ourselves
to the vision that God has for our world
and for us.
It is a time for deep and patient listening.

There are all kinds of ways to do that.
When I found myself needing an Advent practice,
far away from my computer,
I asked some friends for suggestions.
They told me everything from Ignatian exercises
to bubble baths.
Stillness is the key.
We need to be quiet to listen.

Sometimes the voice of God in this season
is as soft as that young girl’s whispered, “Yes.”
This morning, it’s a shout,
a throaty yell clothed in animal skin,
eating locusts and wild honey,
soaked through and dripping with the water of eternal life.

“Repent! For the kingdom of heaven has come near!”

Did I startle you?
I meant to.
The message startles me.

Repent?
Turn around?
Choose a different path?
Stop doing what I’m doing?

But I thought I was all right.
I pray,
I’m involved in my church,
I have a socially responsible job
(or I’m an interminable graduate student),
I have great relationships.
I recycle.
I live a good life.

“Yes,” John says,
But clean your house.
Clear your heart.
Be mindful. Be ready.
The Kindom is coming.

Just how near is this Kindom?
It’s as near as the man standing next to you,
who’s going to get baptized at the end of this chapter.
It’s as near as the hope in all of our hearts
for love, justice, wholeness, and redemption.

John continues.
“You brood of vipers!”

That’s what he’s calling the religious establishment.
Pharisees were the ancestors to the rabbis.
They observed the law, and interpreted it.
Sadducees advocated for the written, Mosaic law only.
Some of them were quite wealthy.
All of them were comfortable, enough, financially,
though they felt the pressures of living under occupation.
Both groups were religious lawyers.
They made their living from talking about faith.

That sounds like a lot of people I know, and respect, and love.
And it sounds like me.

Remember, these people had come to John for baptism.
They’re seeking the help he was offering.
They want to be cleansed from their sins.
John doesn’t care.
He’s not going to be polite about it.
He calls them right out.

He says to them, “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.”
Your words, your wealth, your clothing mean nothing to me.
I don’t care what you talk about all day.
Humble yourselves.
Be people of God.
Do justice.
Love mercy.
Live your faith.

To all of us,
Don’t feel safe because you’re not a Pharisee, or a Sadducee.

“Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.”

The Baptist’s words are for all of us.
It doesn’t matter where you come from,
or who your family is.
It doesn’t matter how you support yourself.
What language you speak,
what color is your skin.
It’s who you are, and how you live, that matters.
We are all children of God.

John calls us to prepare for the Kindom.
What is the Reign of God?
What is this wondrous, frightful vision?
John tells us to watch for it. Isaiah paints the picture.

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge
and the fear of the Lord.
The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea."

This is peace, my friends.
Righteousness is not piety,
and justice is not punishment.
This is life in the reign of God.
We are to live together, all of creation, in love.
The One who rules us is the Incarnation
of kindness, equity, fearlessness, and truth.

What can we do, in our community?
How can we respond to the Baptist’s call?

We can take one answer from Romans.

“Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

Be open. Be loving. Be inclusive of everyone.
Embrace one another’s joys, sorrows, thanksgivings, triumphs.
Worship together. Celebrate together.
Do what this community is already amazing at.
Do it mindfully. Do it more. Give extra energy to outreach.

How can we embrace both welcome, and justice?
Bishop Marc spoke to us a few weeks ago
about the Millennium Development Goals.
They are an initiative of the UN
that 189 nations signed onto seven years ago.
Signatories agree to give 0.7% of their GNP,
which sounds like absolutely nothing,
to end poverty in the world.
The number comes from the percentage
of the wealthy nations' Gross National Income
that development economists and world leaders agree
it will take to accomplish the MDGs by the target date of 2015.
The US has signed onto them in principle only;
this nation is not giving our share.

But the church is, and we all can help. The goals are these:

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger .
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Create a global partnership for development with targets for aid, trade and debt relief.

We started a working group here, last month;
X and I are the contact people.
We had a meeting a few weeks ago,
and we talked about using green energy
to heat and light our building,
partnering with other parishes,
to do cooperative work with them,
and how to educate one another on these issues.
If you want to be involved with this,
come talk to her or me.
We welcome everybody’s participation.
The initiative may be financial,
but human time and energy are crucial to the work of God in the world.

We are beloved by God, always,
wherever we are, whomever we are.
We are human.
We cannot fully keep to the perfection that this gospel demands.
We trip, we stumble.
We fall all the time.
God knows.
Still, we are called always into wholeness.
This gospel doesn’t cut us any slack.
It shouts at us to get our acts together.
It also reminds us who we are, and whose we are.
We are the people of a just and gracious God.

I’m going to close with a poem that I found the other day.
It was written by George Ella Lyon.
It strikes me as a modern, and feminine and feminist,
rendition of the Baptist’s call.
It’s harsh, in places, but it’s tender, too.
And it expresses the hope God has in us.

God signs to us
we cannot read
She shouts
we take cover
She shrugs
and trains leave
the tracks

Our schedules! we moan
Our loved ones

God is fed up
All the oceans she gave us
All the fields
All the acres of steep seedful forests
And we did what
Invented the Great Chain
of Being and
the chain saw
Invented sin

God sees us now
gorging ourselves &
starving our neighbors
starving ourselves &
storing our grain
& She says

I’ve had it
you cast your trash
upon the waters—
it’s rolling in

You stuck your fine fine finger
into the mystery of life
to find death

& you did
you learned how to end
the world
in nothing flat

Now you come crying
to your mommy
Send us a miracle
Prove that you exist

Look at your hand, I say
Listen to your sacred heart
Do you have to haul the tide in
sweeten the berries on the vine

I set you down
a miracle among miracles
You want more
It’s your turn
You show me

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Well, they did it

As I wrote privately to a friend (in a less censored fashion), I'm not sure how to respond to this, now it's happened. I expect things to be a muddled mess, for awhile.

Please keep praying for the people of San Joaquin: those who rejoice, and those who grieve.
***

Episcopal Life Online
December 8, 2007

San Joaquin votes to leave Episcopal Church, realign with Southern Cone

Some delegates vow to 'Remain Episcopal'; Presiding Bishop comments on action

By Pat McCaughan
[Episcopal News Service, Fresno, California]

Delegates attending the 48th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin on Saturday, December 8 overwhelmingly voted to leave the Episcopal Church and to align with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

San Joaquin Bishop John-David Schofield asked for a moment of silence in deference to those who opposed the change, reminding the gathering that he "knows what it feels like to be a minority" before the vote tallies were read. The results, by orders were: 70-12 clergy and 103-10 vote in the lay order to effectively remove all references to the Episcopal Church from its
constitution and describe the diocese as "a constituent member of the Anglican Communion and in full communion with the See of Canterbury."

"The Episcopal Church receives with sadness the news that some members of this church have made a decision to leave this church," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. "We deeply regret their unwillingness or inability to live within the historical Anglican understanding of comprehensiveness. We wish them to know of our prayers for them and their journey. The Episcopal Church will continue in the Diocese of San Joaquin, albeit with new leadership."

Full article here.

I know it isn't Friday

...but here is a poem, and an Advent offering.

I’m involved in a discussion over at Buddhapalian’s, stemming from today’s Daily Office readings. Specifically, this passage from Amos:

Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream. (Amos 5:23-24)

The call for justice and righteousness stirs me, deeply. The implication (fleshed out more, over there) that unless we walk our talk well, our worship is not acceptable, is troubling to me.

I’m sorting that out. Meanwhile, when I woke this morning, I remembered the last lines of this poem/prayer. All of it is worth sharing, in this Advent season. The lessons are all about the coming of the Kindom. We are preparing ourselves to receive anew the Christ, this tiny, helpless, squalling child who grew into full stature as human and as God. Born to Mary and as one of us, this infant was committed from before time, to the redemption of the world. The child came, to reconcile us to the One who created us. He came to teach us, to heal us, to laugh and play and work and grieve with us. To show us how to live, and to show us how to love. He stood up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves. He healed the most despised of the outcasts. He was able to be moved, when the Canaanite woman caught him in the wrong.

The Incarnation of God’s love and justice is, always and again, waiting to be born: to us, and with us, and in us.

You and I cannot become God. But we are called—commanded—to become fully human. It’s dawning on me, what an incredible grace, and responsibility, we are given.
***

God signs to us
we cannot read
She shouts
we take cover
She shrugs
and trains leave
the tracks

Our schedules! we moan
Our loved ones

God is fed up
All the oceans she gave us
All the fields
All the acres of steep seedful forests
And we did what
Invented the Great Chain
of Being and
the chain saw
Invented sin

God sees us now
gorging ourselves &
starving our neighbors
starving ourselves &
storing our grain
& She says

I’ve had it
you cast your trash
upon the waters—
it’s rolling in

You stuck your fine fine finger
into the mystery of life
to find death

& you did
you learned how to end
the world
in nothing flat

Now you come crying
to your mommy
Send us a miracle
Prove that you exist

Look at your hand, I say
Listen to your sacred heart
Do you have to haul the tide in
sweeten the berries on the vine

I set you down
a miracle among miracles
You want more
It’s your turn
You show me

--George Ella Lyon, included in Life Prayers. HarperSanFrancisco, 1996.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Praying for the Diocese of San Joaquin

My best friend (alias Apostle in Exile) is a delegate to the San Joaquin convention, meeting today and tomorrow in Fresno. We’d planned for me to go with her, but she has more confidential meetings than she thought, and I have one more week of the semester. I’m also preaching Sunday; it just was too much. (Just as well, really; I’ve been feeling queasy and nauseous since I woke up.)

She knows I and other friends support her; Remain Episcopal knows they have support from outside. We know how the vote’s going to go; the overwhelming majority is expected to finalize the decision made last year, to split from the national church (and to likely align with the Southern Cone). We don’t know how that will play out.

We’re talking about people’s faith, and what they’re taught about the God they seek and love. We’re talking about communities, webs of long-standing relationships of support and journeying together, being divided because some leaders can’t stomach the idea of receiving Communion at the same table with those with whom they disagree. We’re talking about homophobia and sexism, and what it means to let narrowness and prejudice define for you, who’s in and who’s out of the Realm of God. We’re talking about fear of the other, the unknown and misunderstood, disguised as love for what’s held up as righteous.

It’s clear which side I’m on. And while I know, like I know the sun is shining, that God loves all of us more than we can imagine, that God raises up whom God will, for leadership, and for that matter, that sexuality, expressed in a loving, consensual, committed adult relationship is holy—I also know that my anger, irritation, impatience, and possibly arrogance around this issue are not helping.

I’m well past praying for unity. The best I can pray for is a compassionate divorce. And I pray that everyone directly involved, and all of us on the outside watching, will listen, deeply, and can discern the true will of God. The vote is almost a given. The steps that people take afterward will make all the difference. I pray for openness, honesty, generosity, and love on all sides, even as we take leave of one another.

We are all, right now, every one of us, caught up in the forgiving, merciful, empowering, liberating, life-giving love of God. We all—John-David, you, and I—will be redeemed. We all will stumble into grace. Let us remember the One at the heart of our faith, who said, “Let anyone among you who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

Friday Poetry Blogging: Thich Nhat Hanh


I have arrived.
I am at home
in the here, in the now.
I am solid.
I am free.
In the ultimate I dwell.

***
I started Friday poetry blogging because I wanted a regular feature; I'm touched by lj's occasional pieces, and I have access to lots of share-worthy poetry. In doing this, even for the past three weeks, I've been surprised by grace. Truths are finding me at a depth I'm ready for, and at the right time. And the treasures that find me, find their way to others.

I didn't have to search for this week's offering; it showed up in my e-mail, in the context of a discussion about becoming solid, strong, and real. Thank you, to the friend who sent it to me; both for this and for being willing to have that conversation.

If you're unsteady on your feet, breathe this, pray it, drink it in, and let it wash through you. If you're already radiating trust, love, and joy, may you share your blessing.

May we all come home to the ultimate, to full awareness of how deeply we are loved. And may we all be warmth and light, for all who are searching.

(Photo: Labyrinth, El Rancho del Obispo, September 1, 2007. Taken by me.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What started out as a quick reminder

…in case you, like me, need these from time to time.

There is always enough love to go around.

I’m not speaking glibly of intimate relationships; I don’t have the authority, experience, or chutzpah to do that. I don’t want you to be hurt by what I say, if you’re troubled about your own situation. But this is what happened to me:

A friend, whose caring I trust, did something yesterday that was actually pretty wonderful. But it inspired this weird jealous twinge in me. I knew it was irrational as soon as I felt it, but alas, the feeling was there.

After I got done saying to myself, “What in hell was THAT?!”, I breathed. I had an impulse to focus on loving them more—and I followed it. It worked; the twinge went away, and I felt more open, more loving, more the person I want to be.

I know what it’s like to really not have enough love. I remember that pain, that frustration, that terror. If that is you, right now, thank you for having read this far—I probably wouldn’t have, when I was there. What I can share with you is faith, that you will find a friend you can trust enough to start letting love in, and you will start daring to love back, and over time you will be transformed. You will give, what you’ve been given. You will be able to love yourself, and love the world.

I can say that because it happened to me—and because I believe with all my being that we were created to be whole.

Our wounds are not separate from our wholeness. A Catholic friend said recently, “We are all wounded. And we all are part of the Resurrection.” It struck a deep chord with me. I wanted to escape the wounded parts of me for a long, long time. When I really started healing, I didn't anymore. You don’t grow out of pain, or out of hurt-child reactions. You grow through them. It is that growing, which transforms us. You will remember who you are, and who you were. That is where your love and your empathy will come from. That is the gift you can give.

There is always enough love to go around.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In search of Advent practices

Advent snuck up on me this year. I know it’s a time of preparation, but I’ve never felt the need for an individual practice, like I do now. My church is deliberately avoiding the Lenten connection; we’re consciously using blue instead of purple. I’m fine with that—but I feel more like I need a Lenten-ish practice now. I’ve normally done weekly community practices; either helped design them at my church, or with friends. This year, that isn’t happening. And I don’t feel particularly penitential, but I need to hold the waiting.

I linked to the EDOW Advent Calendar, and that is an option—but I’m too ‘net-addicted, as it is. I need something offline. I have an Advent devotional that I could use, but I don’t want to follow daily suggestions—just hold the space, in prayer. And I don’t have time to write daily meditations, like my friend Buddhapalian is (although I certainly go there, and read them).

When I look ahead of me, all I see is busy-ness until 12/14. Then I’ll go to the Apostle in Exile's house and crash for a couple of weeks. I need to hold the sacred space in my own heart, within all of this.

I’m sure I could come up with something, but my friends are my best resource. For five or ten minutes a day, what are you doing, to hallow the waiting?

Thank you.

God be in my sleep, and in my waking

I’m still half-asleep as I’m writing this; I’ll edit it later, if necessary, when I have time.

I’ve had a series of dreams, lately, that are not of my usual surreal variety. These dreams are direct, and clear, and I can’t miss the presence of God in them. I just had another, which I’m still waking from. Usually, the implications are deeply personal, and I wake up with some kind of epiphany that applies first to me. The last one or two times, I shared them with a friend (who reads this fairly regularly), then wrote the epiphany here. This time, it’s universal from the beginning, and I’m just going to tell it.

In my dream, I was writing the soteriology paper that in waking life I need to finish. I took a break from it, and rode my bike around the block to clear my head. (This would never happen, in reality.) It was very early morning, there wasn’t much traffic.

There were, however, two young men lying on the sidewalk, at a particular intersection. They were signaling something to the cars that passed by. I thought they were being idiots, and they were in my way. (It didn’t occur to me that I was crossing on the wrong side of the street.) One of their arms was flung over the (whatever you call the dip between the sidewalk and the street, that makes it easier for bikes and wheelchairs to cross). I waited one light-cycle. I think I told him to move; in either event, he didn’t. So when I got the green again, I ran over him.

I could have avoided him, easily, but I was being edgy. He said, “Ow,” but he didn’t get up, or do anything about it. I knew that what I had done was wrong, and I was totally surprised at myself. (In reality, I never would have done this.) What I said, in the dream, verbatim:

“Whoa. I just ran over some guy’s wrist. And God still loves me.”

Okay, I’m writing a soteriology paper. I’m thinking about salvation. But really, now. In my dream, I should have gone back and apologized to the man I ran over. I was so struck by the Presence, that I didn’t. (Yep, I’m thinking of the nine lepers, too.) In my real life, both waking and sleeping, I’ve been having experiences right and left that are this immediate. I can’t look at my own life right now and not see God. But I knew right away, this gift was not mine alone.

We can all be—excuse me—complete fuck-ups, and God still absolutely loves us. All the time.

I can say the words, and I can tell you how I know them—as surely as I know anything I can see or touch. I wish I could share the certainty. I think I was supposed to share this story; so perhaps something in it will find you, if you need to know that you are loved, where and how you are.

God is in, and with, and for us all.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Advent 2007



From the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, here is an interactive Advent calendar. Clicking on the photograph will take you there. Each day, you don't get chocolate--you get a carol, a meditation, that day's Daily Office readings, and a giving opportunity. (Yesterday's linked to the Heifer Project, which you can still contribute to.) The art displayed is from the creche at the Cathedral.

h/t Grandmere Mimi.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Blogger meet-up

I got to meet Mother Laura yesterday! She was in the South Bay on a whirlwind of retreats and other stuff, and drove up here to meet me. She got here just in time for chapel at school, then we walked to my favorite local Thai place for lunch. She’s even more fun in real life, than she is in print—and she’s in the middle of some huge convergences. It was really exciting to hang out with her. We just kept talking; her call and mine, academia, spiritual direction, how amazing God is. Then we raided the free books in the basement at Starr-King, snagged one of my friends to take pics, and she went home.

Pics forthcoming; I’ll steal hers when she posts them. We had a great time.

Update: Here is a picture:


and here is her post.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Poetry Blogging: Macrina Wiederkehr

O God
help me to believe
the truth about myself
no matter
how beautiful it is!

***
I first encountered this at an orphan-Thanksgiving potluck, in the woods in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, circa 1995. The host had a book of graces, which she passed around the table. I seized on this. (The book is A Grateful Heart: Blessings for the Evening Meal from Buddha to the Beatles. I own a copy, now.)

I needed that reminder; then, and many times since. Now, it needs to be shared. If this feeds your soul, where you are, it is my gift to you.

We are all children of the Holy One.

God with us, and in us, and around us


Emmanuel Award
"God With Us"
In a consumer society it is a blessing to read blogs where the writer's main focus is God. Where they express their love for their faith so visibly and joyfully. In a cynical world it is refreshing to see so many blogs which are generous, giving, who care about others and demonstrate what being a Christian is about, loving God and loving our neighbor.
Through their faith, lives and spirituality, they bring God to us, they in essence make God visible, "God with us."
This Award goes to all the faith filled blogs who make evident 'Emmanuel'- God with us, with Joy in their hearts.
Please share this Award with Christian blogs that focus on the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of our Savior.
Peace, JOY & Merry Christmas

Episcopollyanna nominated me for this award, along with Eileen, who does a lot more to foster community than I do. I went to her place to thank her, but I've been still thinking about passing it on. Part of me wants to play the game; nominate two others and keep it going. I certainly could pick two, if I chose. They'd probably feel just as flattered, and undeserving, as I.

I'm happy to have been included in this; glad that a small gesture of mine (truly, it was just a couple of comments) went to her heart. But I also know how it feels to not be in the in-group.

Truly, God comes to me through so many. I'm happy to have embodied that love, at least virtually, for those for whom I do that. But because I don't want to bruise the feelings of any who know they've gone out of their way for me, and because so many of my internet friends show me Jesus, I will just hold this, and smile, and say THANK YOU to everyone who shares the presence of God with me. May we all love the world, so well.

Grace

The wildest thing just happened.

I prayed for healing for the people who hurt me, before I went to sleep. I felt like I ought to, and I honestly could; it wasn’t any kind of a self-sacrificial thing. I did it at the same time as I give thanks for all the blessings of this life. I didn’t pray for me, but for them.

I had a dream last night, in which they showed up. When I woke up, I was able to love them, without feeling tangled.

Am I still angry? Still hurt, still grieving? Yes. But it's gentler, now. Love embraces everything else—and it's not any kind of spiritual/emotional martyrdom; it's real. It's not even that I'm forgiving them; I'd be short-circuiting too much, if I tried to do that now. I love them, because they're held by the same God as me.

I'm used to pure surreality in my dreams. They're not that way, anymore.

If you make a conscious decision to open yourself to God, know this: You will be different.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Slightly silly civics lesson



I put this up just for fun. But if you want to learn something beyond what your inner third-grader can sing along with, while keeping your hope and commitment intact, go check out Buddhapalian's Thursday Constitution Blogging.

Good stuff.

Epiphany

…or the latest in a series that shows no sign of stopping, for which I am both grateful and breathless.

I volunteered yesterday morning at my church; our administrator’s on a rare vacation, and we needed phone-answerers. It was a beautiful, crisp, sunny day in the city, and the drive back and forth across the bridge wasn’t bad at all, with a new favorite CD in my knockoff iPod. I got a preview of our Advent set-up, and I love it. Chatted with my rector a little, and did a bit of the MDG work I’m so jazzed about. Did some of the homework I’d brought with me.

Caught a quick lunch at Brewed Awakening (a wrap and carrot-orange juice), and raced up the hill to a counseling appointment. She asked me how I was.

I answered, “Back to feeling capable.”

Yeah. Back. to. feeling. capable. You’d have to have known me longer than this fall, to know how huge that is. I was a poster child for self-doubt, my whole life until recently. I could imagine capability, but never felt I had it. Being at the Ranch healed me of the anger and burnout I’d gone up there with, and helped me find some peace that is deeper than all of my brokenness. I came back here with the energy to do soul-work, and I’ve done it; focusing on courage, rather than competence, but knowing I was showing both. I was really knocked off my feet, at the beginning of this month; enraged and hurt, but I couldn’t even cry for two weeks. Then I spent most of Thanksgiving week at my best friend’s house, crying a little, laughing a lot, and regrouping. (She is family, in every sense that counts. If you, like me, have reason to look, you will find it.)

I had something to “regroup” back into. And I did it. I was a complete slug for about a week; couldn’t focus on my work, couldn’t create anything. Now, I can, again. I have my head back, and my heart. I feel strong, and I’m joyful.

I’m not done with the anger or grieving—but it’s work I can wrap my hands around. It doesn’t overwhelm me anymore, and I don’t resent its presence as work I have to do. There are layers under layers, and it takes time—but I know there will be an end to it. Through this whole ordeal, I never doubted my own intrinsic, whole self. Dear God, that’s tremendous. I’m rejoicing, not only in the sense of capability but in the return to it—and in the already taking for granted that it’s there.

Thank you, all of you who pray for and with me. Rejoice with me.

Alleuia, amen.

Monday, November 26, 2007

In My Name

I’ve been singing this all day.

In my name you say you kill
In my name you turn with rage
In my name, impose your will
In my name these wars you wage
But I say to you, this is all you shall do
In my name
You shall love

This is all that is real
You shall love
You shall touch, you shall heal
Through the darkness of fear
This song is all you’ll hear
Through the labyrinth of anger
Through the screaming, empty hunger
Through the hatred for the shame
You shall love, you shall love
In my name...

Like it? Go here.

5 Things I'm Not Afraid Of Anymore

A twist on the meme below. If I’m going to talk about fear, I’m also going to celebrate the absence of it.

1) Anger

2) Loss

3) Grief

4) The idea that I’m not intrinsically “good enough”

5) Public speaking

None of these cause panic any more. I'm looking levelly at each of them. Of all of these, only (4) no longer exists—and that was a mountain in itself. Getting past the fear of each represents work, grace, love, and faith. I’ve learned so much about myself; I can do so much more than survive.

And I actually really enjoy preaching now. That process has always been transformative. I've learned to speak, to tell a story, to let the process transform me. I get to do it again at church in two weeks, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Alleluia, amen.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

5 Things I'm Afraid Of

Inspired by comments elsewhere

Rules: There aren’t any. Play if you like. Tag whom you wish.

My answers:

1) Spiders. Any and all, inside. I’m okay with spiders outside where they belong, as long as they’re not in their webs when I accidentally walk through them.

2) Heights. I can’t climb a ladder more than three steps. I’m perfectly fine on a ski lift, though. (Not that I’ve been, in recent years.)

3) Republicans. For many reasons: foreign policy and (lack of) health care being two of them. I really don’t understand the choices people make, in electing those who adamantly will not provide for their needs, and who will make so absolutely sure that the rest of the world thinks we’re dangerous idiots.

4) Confrontation, in general. I’ve gotten better, but I still hate it.

5) My faculty, if I don’t get my work done. Back to it.

Alternative Holiday Shopping

Jane Redmont, formerly of the GTU and now teaching at a Quaker college in North Carolina, has a wonderful blog called Acts of Hope. She posted a list of resources for alternative, environmental and social-justice friendly gift buying. Other ideas are listed in the comments. Go check it out!

If you're in the Olympia area, please visit Traditions. It's a fair-trade import store, meaning that artisans actually get paid decently for their work. It's also a performance space, and a community treasure. (And give Dick and Jody my best. They're wonderful people. She was my doppelganger when I lived up there, and I never minded being mistaken for her.)

Please add your own resources, either in the comments here or at Jane's. Thank you!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Leftovers

Okay, I did something just like this two days ago. But Max tagged me for this meme, and I love Max and am thrilled she’s back in blogland, so I’m playing along.

Here are the rules, from John at SmuloSpace (the same guy who brought you 5 Things I Dig About Jesus):

• Write down five things that you're thankful for.
• Tag five friends who you'd like to see participate in this meme.
• (Optional) Include a link to the original at SmuloSpace in your post, and then visit the post yourself and place a link to your completed meme in the comments section so John can keep track of the thankfulness running around the blogosphere.

My answers:

1. Friends, both internet and face-to-face. Family, mentors, teachers, companions. For supporting me; sharing the journey with me, telling the truth in hilarity and love. For hugs, dim sum, high-fives, and prayers. For loving me absolutely, no matter what I do—and for helping me to come to love myself. For being with me in struggle, and in celebration.

2. The Bishop’s Ranch. The place and the people are magical, holy, healing. I am so thankful that I got to work there last summer—and that I get to go help out whenever I want to.

3. Music. Played on a guitar or a flute or a boombox, sung gently as a lullaby or shouted in the car. For playfulness, catharsis, and joy—and even for the most annoying ear-worms. For moments that make me sing, and for people to sing with.

4. The welcoming, loving, creative community that makes up my parish. I’m crazy about them.

5. God. For deeply calling me, tickling my thirst and never completely quenching it. For love beyond all imagining; coincidence that isn’t; all healing and all grace. For everything given, that I never would have known to ask for. For the will, born of love, to serve creation. For life.

Tagging:

Byzigenous Buddhapalian
Eileen
Grandmere Mimi
Russian Orthodox Mimi
Fuego

Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday Poetry Blogging: Rumi

Come, come, whoever you are
Wanderer, worshiper, lover of leaving,
Ours is not a caravan of despair.

Come, come, whoever you are,
Even though you've broken your vows
a thousand times
Come, yet again,
Come.

I learned this poem at least a decade ago, in the interfaith community I belonged to. We used to chant it, dancing in circles; I always heard it as a generous, gracious welcome to a ragtag religious gathering. It's much more than that. It says to me now, "You are not an alien. You are not unworthy. We all bear our wounds, our scars, our imperfections, our shame. Nothing can scare us. Come, we are with you."

I gave thanks, below, for "people of refuge," those friends who calm me and help me reconnect with my own essential wholeness and goodness, and with God. The only redemptive value that I have found in my own recent rough patch, is the will to become a safe resting place for others. I believe we are all called to that work; there is so much brokenness, and the only way to heal it is with openness, gentleness, acceptance, and love.

Let me caution you, though, please. Welcoming others starts with welcoming yourself. You cannot give, what you haven't learned to receive. If you offer love, in good faith, and can't give it, you risk re-traumatizing the people you've conditioned to be close to you. (I know this, painfully well.) Ground yourself, in God and the earth and your loving circles. Work from that generosity, not your own. Let trust build, with time.

All blessings.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Giving Thanks for Activists



Got a minute? Go here. Lots of pictures, stories, and resources for action. (If you're in a rush, scroll down; the article closes with a list of links.)

h/t Buddhapalian.

For these things...

Community, in strange and likely places
Sunlight blinking through autumn leaves
Places, and people, of refuge
Birdsongs
Water, rocks, and wind
Music
Friends’ voices
The ability to be peaceful, alone
All the things that challenge me
Shelter, food, and the means to care for myself
Education
Self-confidence and strength; the more because I’ve fought for it
All those who love me, and all whom I love
Being part of creation, swirling around the heart of God
Grace everywhere it is found (which is, everywhere)

…I am thankful.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blatant Work Avoidance

...as seen at PseudoPiskie's.

You Are A Lily

You are a nurturer and all around natural therapist.
People see you as their rock. And they are able to depend on you.
You are a soothing influence. You can make people feel better with a few words.
Your caring has more of an impact than even you realize.

Nurturer? Most definitely. Other people's rock? I don't know about now, but I can see that becoming true. I know who mine are, and I know how they have strengthened me. I know what "pay it forward" means.

I think the last sentence is true of everyone. We never know exactly what it is that we're giving. Lots of times, a simple smile at the right time is redemptive.

Now, as long as something hideous like a Venus flytrap isn't one of the options, La Madrina will be all right. :-)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

All That You Have Is Your Soul

Pain is just pain. Grief bites (!), but you don't need to fear it. It cannot injure you any more. You will find people who can sit with you in it, who can hold you while you shake and cry and rage. And I really am sorry, but the only way out is through.

The only way into humanity, is fearlessly and open-hearted. This is true and honorable strength: knowing well your own demons, to wrap your arms around another while she learns to wrestle hers.

Love is a damned courageous thing to do. Keep at it.

If you are one of those who helped me learn these truths, thank you and God bless you. I will live them.

***
If you know this, sing it with me. For all whose literal story this tells, and for all who know that there is nothing else worth owning.

Thank you, Tracy Chapman. "All That You Have Is Your Soul," Crossroads, 1990.

Oh my mama told me
'Cause she say she learned the hard way
She say she wanna spare the children
She say don't give or sell your soul away
'Cause all that you have is your soul

Well I was a pretty young girl once
I had dreams I had high hopes
I married a man he stole my heart away
He gave his love but what a high price I paid
All that you have is your soul

So don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of a bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a word of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul

Why was I such a young fool?
Thought I'd make history
Making babies was the best I could do
Thought I'd made something that could be mine forever
Found out the hard way one can't possess another
And all that you have is your soul

So don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of a bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a word of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul

I thought, thought that I could find a way
To beat the system
Make a deal and have no debts to pay
I'd take it all, I’d take it all, I'd run away
Me for myself, first class and first rate
But all that you have is your soul

So don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of a bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a word of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul

Here I am, I'm waiting for a better day
A second chance
A little luck to come my way
I hope to dream, I hope that I can sleep again
And wake in the world with a clear conscience and clean hands
'Cause all that you have is your soul

So don't be tempted by the shiny apple
Don't you eat of a bitter fruit
Hunger only for a taste of justice
Hunger only for a word of truth
'Cause all that you have is your soul

Oh my mama told me
'Cause she say she learned the hard way
She say she wanna spare the children
She say don't give or sell your soul away
'Cause all that you have is your soul

All that you have
All that you have
All that you have
Is your soul