Thursday, March 30, 2006


I went to lunch with my former minister on Wednesday. It was really wonderful to see him. We have barely spoken since I left my old church and I have missed our conversations. Was it coincidence that when I pulled up to the church, I noticed that his sermon this Sunday is going to be on Jesus' healings? I think not! LOL.

The Jesus Seminar, that strange body of uber-deconstructionist Jesus scholars, insists that the healings are mythology. Any mention of miracles was assumed to be fiction in their voting process. But there are so many of them mentioned... in ALL the gospels, I simply cannot believe that SOMETHING didn't happen.

I have just finished John, and there are some interesting healing stories in it. One, in particular, struck me. Jesus heals a blind man by spitting into his hand and rubbing some dirt with it to create mud. This he then applies to the man's eyes and the man can see. Now, in many healing stories, Jesus simply says something... like "your faith has healed you" or "get up and walk". So why, in this case, the mud poultice? Why did he use his saliva and earth? I wonder what the significance of that is.

Here's another thought... in most of the healing stories, Jesus proclaims that the person is forgiven for their sins. He is, in effect, baptizing them. The drama of the physical healing is the most evident aspect in the narrative... but having experienced baptism, I can attest to the fact that the baptism itself is just the beginning of the true healing process. It is the starting gate... and from there, the experience builds and picks up momentum. The gospels don't describe that much. Jesus' ministry was too short, perhaps... or the writers were going for the most dramatic elements. But in the book of Acts and the Pauline letters you do get to see the transformation take place... in Paul and in others. The healing that goes so far beyond the initial, dramatic, moment. You see it with Peter, who goes from a kind of bumbling but well intentioned disciple, to an amazing minister and martyr. (A profoundly moving death...)

One of the phrases I love the most from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer is "Say the word only and my soul shall be healed".

What is astonishing is that He has already said the word.

Thank you, Beloved.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Lent is...

flying by this year! Even with the fasting and daily reading and various other lenten disciplines, I find that for some reason, it seems to be speeding along. Careening towards Holy Week.

Part of it is that I am very busy with my new business. I feel like I am picking up momentum and I am putting a lot of energy into it, which is great, but I find it hard to settle down and find quiet moments.

Part of it might be that I am in a Christian church now. I feel like I am part of the rhythm of the season... going to church every week and listening to the lectionary readings with millions of others. It feels very right.

I must say, I am not feeling terribly penitential. I am almost giddy most of the time. I feel like the veil lifts during Lent. I feel like Jesus is very close.

And now I am in the midst of reading John and am so pleased that I am going to finish the 'Bible in 90 days' project smack dab in the middle of Holy Week. That seems very right too. My journey with the bible will come to a close on April 11th.

Flying through the bible and flying through Lent. Hmmm.

Sunday, March 26, 2006


I am feeling more and more drawn to observing sabbath. Last week, I managed to not cook or clean. I had dinner prepared ahead of time and kept myself from working. I read scripture and meditated. I dedicated the day to God. It felt powerful and renewing.

I know that for me, a big part of observing sabbath is church. I have become a regular church-goer, getting up too early on a Sunday so I can make it to the bible study at 9:00. I have gone sick, injured, hung over. I have dragged my kids against their will. I sing the psalm and take the body and blood of my savior into my body... I give him a home, a sacred space within this human, frail, complex heart.

This week, I don't have dinner made. I will likely cook. And relatives are coming by for the afternoon, so I probably won't get to read my bible until tonight. No lazy nap. No resting in the presence of God. But still, the sacred food will be within me for many hours, a lifetime, eternity.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Testing one, two, three...

this is an audio post - click to play

Here is a little snippet of my Handel piece. Recorded through the phone, so it sounds like a 78 rpm record. Imagine a lead needle and a wind up victrola and it works just great!

Piano Man

I am grateful for a tuned piano.

My friend Bill came over yesterday and spent a couple of hours tweaking my piano back into it's glorious, 1960's era, vinyl-clad self.

Pianos are funny things. They are more sensitive to the weather than a southern belle. They loathe humidy, heat, cold. Mine is squeezed onto our sleeping porch, a tiny room with 3 walls of windows and a set of french doors leading back into the living room. In the 20's, when the house was built, sleeping porches were all the rage for providing a comfortable night's sleep on a hot summer night. My piano, however, doesn't appreciate it at all. It gets all huffy when the weather changes. It acts remarkably like a prima donna, requiring at least twice yearly tuning... when most other pianos manage to get by on once a year. Pretty funny considering it's a Wurlitzer Spinet and not some fancy Chickering or Steinway.

And it ain't like I am some kind of sensitive virtuoso myself. My piano needs to be completely boinged out of tune before I even notice.

So yesterday, Bill tuned it. He also tightened all the keys, which involved, remarkably, removing the entire action of the piano and laying it out on my living room floor. It was amazing to see it's guts freed from the case. Each little piece of wood connected to another and another, in this crazily complex system. Who came up with it, I wonder?

At my piano lesson last night I played Handel's Pastoral Symphony on my beautifully tuned instrument. And my teacher and I agreed that I was finally ready to move on to another piece.


Handel and I thank you!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

News from Afghanistan

The Government of Afghanistan is now claiming that the Christian Convert they are bringing to trial is insane, and thus, can't be responsible for his actions.

Clearly, they are trying to figure out a way to get out of this international debacle. They will clean up their mess and make it somehow palatable for their citizens... but it won't address the real issue... which is that a country that forbids religious freedom is, well, terrifying.

I am outraged on so many levels. First, how did it happen that the United States is supporting a regime that continues to operate this way? What happened to our desire to support democracy? Is Shariah law better under a guy we put in power than under the Taliban?

I am outraged at the fact that this story was on the LAST page of the newspaper this morning.

I am outraged that the President of our country was so wishy washy in his response. Why isn't he OUTRAGED? And if he is outraged, why isn't he saying so. Because he is a coward.

I am outraged that we haven't heard every single Christian church in the world call us to prayer. Heck, every RELIGION ought to be outraged by this.

But mostly, I am crushed, that in this day of instant information, we stand idly by while watching a potential martyr being led to his exocution.


We have learned nothing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

My friend told me about this test and I googled it to take it. Doesn't that add a little to my Geekness?

Pure Nerd
56 % Nerd, 26% Geek, 17% Dork
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.

A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.

A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


Thanks Again! -- THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 42% on nerdiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 34% on geekosity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 18% on dork points
Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test


A synchronistic series of events over the last couple of days led me to go to the bookstore and buy a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Mostly it was because a friend emailed me offline with the paragraph on divination. And when I read it, the thing that struck me most forcefully, after getting past it's remarkable similarity to the conclusion I had come up with on my own, was it's love. It was so clearly about love.

Which kind of stunned me.

Now why, you ask, would I be surprised to find love in the Catechism? Because mostly what I have heard about it I have heard from angry ex-catholics. Even my devoted Catholic friends rarely talk about it. If they mention it at all, it seems clear that they don't read it on any kind of regular basis. Maybe they read it as part of the confirmation process a gazillion years ago. But if they own a copy, it is tucked into a bottom shelf of a bookcase gathering dust. The only other exposure I have had is when the media uses it to demonize the Catholic Church.

So I was suprised to find it so soulful.. loving... compassionate.

I have only gotten through the first chapter, which basically deals with Man's relationship with God. The premise is that unless we are in relationship with God, we have no chance at happiness. I agree with that assertion completely, at least at it applies to me and my own life. The first chapter ends with a quote from St. Augustine:

"...our heart is restless until it rests in you."


It is a huge book. I am not sure that I will be plowing through it with quite the same enthusiasm as the Bible, but I am definately going to read it, a little at a time. I mean, even if I never end up a Catholic, how could there NOT be value in learning about what 2000 years of Catholic theology have come up with?

Here is a link to it online.

Monday, March 20, 2006

68 Days

Today I finished the Hebrew Scriptures. It is day 68 of a 'Bible in 90 days' reading program and I couldn't be more excited about it. It is true that much of it sped by so fast it was sort of a blur. I remember that Judges was a time without a king in Israel. I remember that Judah and Israel split into two nations... and that they eventually reunited. I remember certain images or stories... but probably couldn't tell you what book those stories happened in. (Where WAS the talking donkey, anyway?!)

But something of it sunk in as I read. If not the details, the essence of it seemed to reveal itself to me. I learned something about being in relationship with God. I appreciated the struggles, the constant backsliding, the outright rebellion. I could personally relate to some of that stuff. What comes across, even more powerfully than God's impatience... is his patience. He is a faithful God.

I am excited I finished the Hebrew Scriptures. I will go back, at some point, and read them with more attention to detail... more eye towards understanding their context and subtexts, but for now, it is done.

On to the New Testament. YES!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Moving on....

It seems that Lent is a time of giving up more than just sweets or between meal snacks. This is my third Lent and I have found that each year I feel drawn to (permanently?) let go of something in my life. It is a time when the little pieces of my life which are no longer beneficial get flushed out of hiding, exposed to the light of Love.

So, yesterday, I think I did my last professional tarot reading.

Here's the thing. It's not that I think the cards are inherently sinful or dangerous. (They are just cardboard, after all...) But there is the potential for sin when people are substituting a reading with me for a closer relationship with God. I realized at some point that the cards could so easily become an idol for someone. It was that very fact that prompted me, last Easter, to quit reading at the bookstore I used to work at. So often people would come in with all kinds of issues and would be looking to me and the cards for the answers. And most of the time I wanted to tell them that they needed to either get therapy or go to church. Or both.

In the OT, God gets mighty angry with people when they practice divination. I think this is because it suggests that they are NOT trusting in God. It means that they have tried to take matters into their own hands and are refusing to align themselves with God's will. They weren't willing to be patient and wait for God to take action. As humans, it is our nature to try and do everything for ourselves. We try and live our lives as if we are in control of them. Or, we surrender control to something outside ourselves. If that something is God, then no problem. But so often, that outside something is not God, and that is when we get into trouble.

I stopped reading cards for myself when I became a Christian because they no longer had much to say that I wasn't already getting from a direct relationship with God. And I realized that they were an instrument of my impatience to know what God had in mind about something. If I truly trusted in God, the cards were, in effect, redundant.

So yesterday I had a talk with the woman who owns the wellness center where I was scheduled to read. Here's the funny thing: I had a hard time being honest with her. I started to tell her all kinds of BS about being too busy and not having the time and on and on... Until I finally just looked at her in the eye and told her that I didn't feel comfortable doing it anymore. That I felt I was potentially doing more harm than good. That it conflicted with my sense of how God wants me to serve him.

Which isn't to say that this is true for everyone.

But for me, reading Tarot cards for money is just one more thing I am giving up at Lent.

OK. Complete non sequitor:

I found out at church this morning that one of the parishes I visited last fall might be merging with us. They have been shrinking in numbers and are apparently having a tough time staying afloat. I have very mixed feelings about the news. On one hand I am excited that they might be coming over. I really like the people I met there, and would have gone back for another visit if they had had childcare. I also really like the Rector and seem to have crossed paths with him several times over the last few months. But I am also deeply saddened for them. This is a 100+ year old parish coming to an end, and I know they must be going through deep grief and pain over this. The Rector probably feels terrible. The parishoners must be crushed. It must be very hard to trust that this loss is somehow part of the Big Plan.

I ask you all to keep the Church of the Messiah in your prayers.


We don't know your plans.

We have no idea where you are taking us on this journey. Give us the grace to be patient. To wait for you to reveal your truths in your own time. Give us the grace to be fearless in the face of loss and to be willing to hear your messages in our hearts, even when you ask us to give up what we have loved. What we have cherished.

Give the people of Messiah strength, Beloved.

Give the people of Grace the strength to be welcoming hosts.

Friday, March 17, 2006


As he poured,
The wine
(The blood)
Struggled to escape the prison of it's silver chalice
Splashing up the side and making a break for it
Over the side
Of the cup

I watched as the priest wiped it clean
Every last drop
Back into the bowl
Just in time for us to ferry it
On our tongues


Today was one of those days when I felt like the chasm between me and God got small. I took my tuna sandwich and parked my car at the boathouse down the road and watched the gulls and the sparrows and the wind in the phragmites. I read my bible and drank a diet coke. And listened to the Christmas half of the Messiah and found myself on the verge of tears.

Later, I had an hour of solitude, so I took my bible and went to bed. I just got through Daniel as I drifted off to sleep. In my dreams, I had a conversation with God. I came to with these words in my head:

" I have such a longing for that girl that I was before. I long for her to know you. "

St. Patrick's Breastplate

My friend John sent this prayer to me this morning. Thank you, John.

I bind myself today to a strong virtue,
an invocation of the Trinity.
I believe in a Threeness,
with confession of an Oneness in the Creator of the Universe.

I bind myself today
to the virtue of Christ’s birth with his baptism,
to the virtue of his crucifixion with his burial,
to the virtue of his resurrection with his ascension,
to the virtue of his coming to the Judgment of Doom.

I bind myself today to the virtue of ranks of Cherubim,
in obedience of Angels,
[in service of Archangels]
in hope of resurrection for reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs,
in preaching of Apostles,
in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins,
in deeds of righteous men.

I bind myself today to the virtue of Heaven,
In light of Sun,
In brightness of Snow
In splendour of Fire,
In speed of Lightning,
In swiftness of Wind,
In depht of Sea,
In stability of Earth,
In compactness of Rock.

I bind myself today to God’s Virtue to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s Word to speak to me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to secure me,
Against snares of demons,
Against seductions of vices,
Against lusts of nature,
Against every one who wishes ill to me,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.

So have I invoked all these virtues between me, [and these]
against every cruel, merciless power which may come against my body an my soul
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics,
against craft of idolatry,
against spells of women and smiths and druids,
against every knowledge that defiles men’s souls.

Christ to protect me today,
Against poison,
against burning,
against drowning,
against death-wound,
Until a multitude of rewards come to me!

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me!
Christ below me,
Christ above me.
Christ at my right,
Christ at my left!
Christ in breadth,
Christ in lenght,
Christ in height!

Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me!

I bind myself today to a strong virtue,
an invocation of the Trinity.
I believe in a Threeness with confession of a Oneness,
in the Creator of [the Universe.]

Salvation is the Lord’s,
salvation is the Lord’s,
salvation is Christ’s
May Thy salvation, O Lord,
be always with us.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Prayer in Secret

My Spiritual Director emailed me that Abbot Thomas Keating was giving a lecture at Brown University last night and I was excited to be able to go. I got there very early... sat right down in the second row, a few feet from the podium. Before the lecture started, my former UU minister came over to chat. It was great to see him again. He had just come back from a retreat, so we talked about that. Lent. My kids and husband. It was too short a conversation.

Keating's talk was interesting. He spent most of the time defining the problem that Centering prayer attempts to address. He started with a story about a journalist who was covering a platoon in WWII who came away with the conclusion that the truth of war is that men like to kill.

From there, Keating went on to describe why we, as humans, are struggling so much with violence and hatred in the world. No, it is not an artifact of our ancestral parent's mistake in Eden. Rather, as Keating describes it, it is a function of our primitive brains struggling to catch up to our higher ones. (Clearly Keating accepts evolution. He talked a lot about our reptilian and mammalian brain functions. He even made a comment about when we were still in trees a few thousand years ago.)

He spent some time discussing why our attempts at happiness fail if they are focused on exterior things. He talked a lot about Jungian theories on childhood development. His take on our state of affairs seems to be a combination of biology, psychology, and finally, theology. The latter, last night, got short shrift until he finally began talking about Centering Prayer and it's role in healing the world.

The basic premise is that we all contain within us the essence of God... but we don't begin to recognize it until we set the intention to connect with God on a regular basis. And once we begin to do that, we will eventually not only recognize God within us, but also begin to recognize it in each other... which will lead to healing.

When I went to Brown, last night, I really had no idea what to expect. I have read several of Keating's books and they have all been helpful in my prayer practice. But really, I wish I had been available to attend his afternoon retreat rather than the lecture. The lecture was very intellectual. It was a lot of explaining. And while it was interesting, he discussed the problem for so long he ended up running out of time before he could really explore the solution.

The solution, of course, being God.

It is true that he talked about Jesus' ministry, especially as it relates to prayer. That was my favorite part of the lecture. He explained some of the tricky bits of gospel in terms of what it means spiritually and even psychologically. For example, 'If you try to save your life you will lose it..." He explained that it is the ego driven part of us, that Jesus is talking about. The part of us that needs control and power. That part of us must die in order to be able to see the Kingdom. Personally, I believe that we can never decide take up the cross because our ego will always be a factor. Rather, we slowly diminish the power of our ego by opening our selves up to something bigger and more powerful: God's love.

Clearly, the Abbot is used to talking to a diverse audience. He sounded almost Unitarian Universalist at some points! LOL. He spoke in a way that was accessible to non-christians in the audience, using terms like "Higher Power" and "Divine".

I loved seeing him in person. It was very cool to be in the presence of a Cistercian. His habit reminded me of Merton, of course. His shoes were worn and clunky. He wore a heavy brown leather belt. I marveled at the fact that this man has devoted the last 57 years to the service of God. 57 years in the monastery. And even though the lecture was long and complicated and somewhat intense, there were points when I realized that much of it was the fruit of his contemplation. We were getting an inside look at the result of hours, days, years, a lifetime, of thinking about the relationship between God and humanity.

There was one point, at the end of a nearly 2 hour lecture, when he just stopped talking. He just stood there, in silence.

It was my favorite part.

I told my husband that for a contemplative, Keating is pretty talkative!

So, here's the PS: I decided last night to add a new dimension to my centering prayer. I spoke, out loud, the intention to be silent... my intention to close the door on my thoughts and to pray in secret. And sure enough, it was a deeper meditation than I have experienced in months. In fact, it was so intense I was unable to sleep for hours afterwards.

For more information on Centering Prayer, visit Contemplative Outreach.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


I finally got through Jeremiah and Lamentations and entered the strange realm of Ezekiel the prophet. It opens:

1 In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month on the fifth day, while I was among the exiles by the Kebar River, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.

I remember the first time I ever read those words, the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I have read parts of Ezekiel before, mostly connected to my interest in the tarot. The image on the World card is most often depicted as a woman in a mandorla with the creatures from Ezekiel's vision in the corners. Those same creatures turn up in the book of Revelations... and the church has somehow morphed them into representing the four evangelists. I noticed, for the first time this morning, that the base of the pulpit at Grace Church has a cross with the same images- an angel, an eagle, a bull and a lion.

I haven't gotten very far in Ezekiel, but as I came to the end of chapter 3, these words stood out:

12 Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me a loud rumbling sound—May the glory of the LORD be praised in his dwelling place!- 13 the sound of the wings of the living creatures brushing against each other and the sound of the wheels beside them, a loud rumbling sound. 14 The Spirit then lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness and in the anger of my spirit, with the strong hand of the LORD upon me. 15 I came to the exiles who lived at Tel Abib near the Kebar River. And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days-overwhelmed.


My river experience wasn't anything like Ezekiel's. I did not see visions of weird creatures or eat scrolls. I did not see God. No doves, even. (That came later...) But this passage strikes me as containing such deep truth. Any encounter with God leaves one feeling overwhelmed. I remember, like Ezekiel, being unable to function after my baptism. Unable to think or do anything. I felt so completely overwhelmed by it I wondered at points if I would ever be the same again. (I wouldn't.) I wondered if I was going insane. (I don't think so.) I wondered if the feeling of my soul bursting free of my body would ever subside. (It did.) For days I was on the verge of tears and hysteria.


In Ezekiel's day, it was believed that if you saw God, you would die. You would be so completely overwhelmed by his enormity that you simply couldn't continue to live.

Jewish mystics believe that God was so overwhelming, he had to manifest in the world in stages, lest he blow it to smithereens with his power. He created vessels to contain himself, but was so huge the vessels shattered into billions of pieces. They broke apart, carrying with them some of the essence of God's light.

Ezekiel, then, probably felt lucky to walk away from that afternoon on the river.

I suspect, he broke, too. He was broken in the same way that a deep encounter with God shatters us. We are vessels, and the pieces of what we were go flying into a million directions.

And as with Tikkun Olam, we go about gathering the pieces back together. But the vessel we are recreating isn't quite the same, is it? Now, it isn't just us in here. Now, the vessel we create has room for God.

And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days-overwhelmed.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

sniffle, snort, snot

Why am I so indignant when I get sick? I am a walking sneeze factory.

Colds are curious things. There are a couple of days of serious discomfort: body aches, sore throat, that weird burning feeling at the back of your nose. If I catch it in time I start to load on the Zicam and the Airborne. I drink OJ. I will myself to cut it off at the pass.

But now and then I encounter a virus that is stronger than my willpower and kicks my butt. Luckily, within a day or so, it isn't so much painful as just annoying. And I can live with annoying.

Did Jesus ever get colds? Did he ever have days when he wanted to hang out in his jammies and drink hot tea?

Colds join mosquitos and shit on my list of things to ask God about when I finally meet him in person.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cross Purposes

Here is a meme from St. Casserole. (Someone please explain to me what a meme is! LOL)

Do you wear a cross? yes

Is there a particular time or place that you consider wearing a cross? I always have one on. I have another, larger one that I sometimes where outside of my clothes.

Where do you were it? Depends on the neckline of my shirt. My cross is on a short chain, so I can only wear it outside my clothes if it is a v-neck or a crew neck. I also have a beautiful cross ring that I wear all the time. It is silver with a simple cross-shaped cut out.

What does the cross look like? The neclace is a small silver celtic cross with some swirl patterns. I also wear a gorgeous one that is a simple crossed line with an image of a sun with 12 rays radiating out from behind it. It is hard to explain, but it always catches people by surprise because they don't notice the cross part of it at first.

Who gave the cross to you or did you choose it? I bought my celtic cross for myself after my baptism. I searched the internet for it. The sun one was a gift from a dear friend on my 40th birthday. I have a friend who used to wear the cross ring and I was so crazy about it I searched around until I found one. I joked that we should form a secret society.

Is this your favorite cross, if so, why? The sun one is my favorite, but it is big and a little spikey, so I can only wear it over clothing. The little celtic cross is sweet, but my absolute favorite is my cross ring.

What does wearing a cross mean to you? It was hard for me to wear a cross at first, because I had pretty mixed feelings about being a Jesus Freak. But I felt such gratitude for being rescued that I wanted to do something to remind myself of that. This might sound immodest, but I also wanted to remind people that Christians could be fun, funny, friendly people... not just dour matrons like the Church Lady. It was my own, tiny, PR campaign. (Like God needs that, LOL!)

Full of Grace

I love Lent.

Have I said that already?

Well, I'll say it again.

For Lent this year, I chose to give up sweets. This was a tall order for me, and I will admit that I had some fear around it. As a Kitchen Tools chick, I am making ooey gooey desserts at parties all the time. I was sure it would be an issue.

I gave up meat on Fridays, which is easy.

But at some point, I also decided I would also give up snacks between meals. This was even scarier than the sweets!

So, my food for Lent is three meals a day with no snacks and no sweets.

And here's the Grace part: I am barely missing them. After that first day, I have been completely relieved of the desire to eat between meals or to eat sweets.

It can only be the Grace of God that this has been effortless. I sit in awe and thanksgiving. The most amazing thing of all is that I have barely felt any hunger.

You go, God!

More Grace-notes:

Since Thanksgiving, I have been working on learning a simplified version of Handel's Pastoral Symphony on the piano. (I am a rank beginner, for those of you coming late to The Big Dunk. It took me 6 months to learn my first Mozart piece!)

Well, here it is, months later, and I am beginning to get the feel of the piece. I remember going to a performance of Messiah at Christmas and waiting so eagerly for the Pastoral Symphony. It is one of my favorite pieces of music. And the organist wrecked it. He banged through it with a tempo like a Souza March. It was terrible.

I am still missing notes and stumbling here or there, but at last I can really begin to feel the piece, it's disonance, it's complexity, it's theology. Although it is about the birth of Christ, Handel created a bass line that is clearly about Easter. Even as the melody line lilts along, there is this deep bass line that underscores, foreshadows, the death and resurrection. It is remarkable. And I can play it.


Finally, the other day a friend started asking me about my baptism. She wanted to know if there was a single moment when I knew I was a Christian. (There was...) She wanted to know what, if anything, had changed. I shared that although I have only been a Christian for a couple of years, I almost can't remember what life was like before. Except that I was never, truly, content. Never truly peaceful or joyful. There was always a vague sense of dissatisfaction. She said to me "You are one of the happiest people I know..."

I was floored.

Because she is right. I AM happy. By the Grace of God.
And I feel joy for her, because she is beginning to recognize her own sense of vague discontent... which might very well be the first step towards finding True Joy.

Grace abounds, Beloved. You are carrying me so gently on this journey into the desert. We walk together in Love and I am so very very grateful.

In my prayers this week are L.A., L.G., B.A. , V. A. , P.D.

Keep them close, Beloved. Make your face shine upon them.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Lenten moment #3

Emmett (5) was at the barber shop with Nguyen yesterday getting a haircut. After he was finished, Nguyen said to Emmett "Since you're done, you can go to the counter and get a lollipop."

Emmett replied

"No, Dad, I gave up candy for Lent".

The barber just about fell over.

Friday, March 03, 2006

The Friday... four?

Over at RevGalBlogPals the Friday Five is actually a four. What intentional practices have you done?

Here are mine:

1. Centering Prayer. This is the big one! I began this practice on my first Easter as a Christian. Up to that point I had been struggling with prayer. I was already setting aside time for meditation using the Upper Room daily guide. (Great resource!) But Centering prayer appealed to me, so I read a couple books by Fr. Thomas Keating and Fr. William Menninger and decided to give it a whirl. I did it twice a day for 20 minutes each time and continued for over 2 years, until this past Advent when I felt called to try something else. For Lent, I have chosen to begin again... and will keep it up even after Easter. It is a very helpful practice.

2. Reading the Bible daily. This is a new one that I just started in January. I am reading the 'Bible in 90 Days' by Zondervan. At first it was tough, but now I am glad I am setting aside the time to do it. It takes a bit over a half hour. (About the length of one stupid sit-com....LOL) I hope that when I finish this, I will continue to incorporate scripture into my daily routine.

3. Saying Grace at dinner. God seems ok with the fact that we use the exact same words and are often rushing to get through it. I once invited an Evangelical friend to say grace for us and was moved by how heartfelt it was. Ours is totally by rote. But my 5 year old can and does say it and that makes me smile. So maybe it makes God smile too.

God, Thank you for the food you have laid before us. We ask that it nourish us, body, mind and spirit, so that we may better do your will. Amen.

4. Attending Church. This isn't a daily practice, but it is a new practice for us. Up until 4 or 5 years ago, we never went to church. Then we became regular churchgoers. We go every week unless there is something major preventing us. I go during the week sometimes too, to take communion.

Oh, ok, 1 more: Journaling. I started with a leather journal when I was baptized... and still write in it regularly. But this online blog is more of my daily (or at least weekly) practice. It's funny because I know that I must bore the crap out of you guys. It might even be dreadfully self indulgent. But it has been a very helpful practice for me... to put the Glory of God's work in my life out in the world and publicly thank him for it.

Have these practices changed me? Oh, yes. Especially the Centering Prayer. When I first read Keating, I laughed when he said to try it for 3 months and see if it made a difference in your daily life or relationship with God. I didn't think I could do it for 3 DAYS never mind 3 months. But sure enough, I would miss a session and really feel the difference. It became a very important part of my day. I felt a heightened awareness of God's presence throughout the day and would miss that feeling when I skipped the prayer time. I am excited to be back at it.

What would I like to try: Lectio Divina.

In all of these practices, Beloved, I seek to draw closer to you. I practice them all imperfectly. I neglect them, rush them, ignore them. But even so, you are faithful. I am ever amazed at the miracle of your love.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


I covered my crosses with bits of purple fabric that was supposed to be made into a pair of pants. It was the only purple I had, and I simply couldn't stand the idea of going to a fabric store on Ash Wednesday.

They look beautiful, haunting.

I have only two crosses in my house. One is a green ceramic one that I bought at the dollar store and hung in my kitchen because it matched my other stuff.

The other one was a gift from friends who brought it back from Arizona. It is fashioned from a couple of pieces of rusted barbed wire and has a big turquoise in the middle. It is very beautiful. Spare. And for me, pretty deep. It is funny that neither of them are Christians. I was really moved by it when they gave it to me.

In my neighborhood there is a Catholic church that puts out a huge wooden cross during Lent. For most of Lent, it is draped with a big purple scarf. I remember the first time I noticed it during my first Lent. I drove by it everyday and was surprised that I hadn't picked up on it before. When, on Good Friday, I drove past and it was draped in black, I got really choked up.

I know a lot of Protestant denominations eschew these kinds of things, but I have to say that the symbolism of the church is very powerful and deeply evocative for me. I am grateful for the rhythms of the church year... for it's ebbs and flows, it's empty places and building intensity. I like feeling like I am experiencing those rhythms with others. All of us, together, standing before God, members of this amazing body of Christ. Each on an individual walk with our Lord, but none of us, ever, alone.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down...

Lent and Advent are both penitential seasons. They are both times of waiting. They are both precursors to great redemptive moments that involve fasting and self examination. Yet, for me, they are completely different in nature.

Advent feels dark and solitary. There is an emptyness to it that has at times frightened me. God can feel so distant during Advent. It is one of the few times in the Christian year that I can imagine being separated from God. I come away shaken and grateful when Epiphany starts. Relieved when I, once again, get glimmers of God.

Lent is totally the opposite for me. Instead of the quiet darkness, there is the blaring light of the desert. It reveals all. It leaves no convenient shadows in which to hide. But strangely, there is no other time of the year when I feel closer to Jesus. In Lent, we do not walk the desert alone, but WITH him. We suffer with him. We fast with him. We examin ourselves and face our sins, with him. He is there, encouraging us, leading us, guiding us. He is a gentle, but insistent presence in the process that looks, on the surface, to be sacrifice... but is, in reality, an incredible gift.

I remember for my first Lent, I gave up diet soda. At the time I was seriously addicted to it. I started Lent with the intention of giving it up as my sacrifice to God. I struggled, though. I wanted to pray to God to help me, but felt it would be somehow inappropriate to ask him to help me with something that is supposed to be a gift to him. At some point, though, it dawned on me that the gift might very well be the sharing of my weakness. That going to God with my need was exactly what was supposed to happen. So I began asking God to help me get through the day without the soda... and made all the way through Lent, and beyond, thanks to God's faithful help.

God is faithful.

What a gift that first Lent was, to realize that God loves me in my weakness. In my sin.

Today I went to Grace church for the imposition of ashes. Before the service began, a man went up to the rail and whispered to the woman lighting the candles. She went back into the vestry and a few moments later the priest, Bob, came out. He walked to the alter and picked up the little silver bowl of ashes and approached the rail where the man was waiting. They exchanged a few whispers, and then Bob administered the ashes on him. He stood up and walked down the center aisle. I caught his glance and noticed that he was crying. I smiled. I prayed for him. I thanked God that Bob absolved him of his sin, even without him having to stay for the service.

Today was the first time I went to a noon mass for Ash Wednesday... so all day afterwards I was wearing the cross on my head.

I was wearing the mark of my belief, my faith, in the world.

It was a deeply humbling thing.

When I walked out of the church, the sun blazed in the sky. Not a shadow at noon....

Beloved, there is no part of us you do not see. Nothing about us you don't know. You know our joys and sorrows. Our fears, our pettiness, our weakness, our sins. You know us, every fiber of our beings. In our unloveliness, you love us. It is not our strength that draws us closer to you, but our frailty. The things that I am most ashamed of are the things that encourage me to seek you all the more diligently. Beloved, how can it be that you love us so faithfully? I am in awe.