Friday, June 30, 2006


I have several books going on my bedside table:

Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, for my daily psalms

John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul

Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Jesus and Interior Castles

Plainsong Psalter for when I feel like singing the psalms

My journal

My NRSV leather bound bible which I bought myself after my UU baptism

A whole bunch of Merton books, from The New Seeds of Contemplation to Reading the Bible to Praying the Psalms.

The Cloud of Unknowing.

Ramon Lull, The book of the Lover and the Beloved

And various other books: Way of a Pilgrim, a few C.S. Lewis, History of Christianity from the Reformation on.

Many of these books are very dense... slow going for me. I have hardly any retention when I read them. I just read a paragraph, or perhaps a whole chapter, and get lost in the midst of it. Teresa of Avila, in particular, brings me to a completely different place. In Teresa of Jesus, she talks about cultivation of the soul using the metaphore of a garden. And God waters it in different ways. Sometimes directly, sometimes with rain, sometimes by diverting a nearby stream. All of these different ways of praying serve to nourish and enrich the soul in her quest to become one with God.

I have been reading this book for over a year. I read a few sentences.... a paragraph, and then I feel like I just can't read on at that moment. It is too dense. Too rich. Contains too much.

When I read Teresa, I wonder if you can be a mystic and housewife. I find myself wondering if I could spend 20 years at prayer, as she did, only to discover that for that whole 20 years, she was missing the point. She says, herself, that for those 20 years, she was doing it 'wrong'. I don't really know about that... maybe it takes 20 years to till the soil. 20 years to prepare for the seeds. In real life, we would all starve to death, if that were so! But some land is so dry and empty it needs years of amending before it can be fertile. God worked on me for YEARS before I was finally ready to accept the seeds. And even now, they struggle. I find rocks and clumps of hard earth. I need to prune and sweep clear the path between the rows. And oh, those weeds. If I turn away for even a moment, I find them choking out the little seedlings so quickly.

I read Teresa and am blown away by her abilility to describe what the process of connecting to God is like. Above all, the ability to talk about it coherently impresses me. I can barely talk about it at all, never mind making it comprehensible, even to myself. Maybe that is part of what takes 20 years... the ability to navigate the seeming chaos and see the patterns in it.

Mostly, when I read Teresa, it is like hearing from an old friend. She speaks to me across time and space and comments on my day to day stuff. She nudges and cajoles me. She reassures me and points things out that need pointing out. If Episcopalians took saints as patrons, I would choose her.

I leave you, today, with a quote from her friend, John of the Cross. This little tidbit comes from a regular dose of his writings, emailed to me from a yahoo group I joined.


Neither is the sublime communication nor the sensible awareness of His nearness a sure testimony of His gracious presence, nor is dryness and the lack of these a reflection of His absence. As a result, the prophet Job exclaims: If He comes to me I shall not see Him, and if He goes away I shall not understand. [Jb. 9:11]

John of the Cross
"The Spiritual Canticle"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

There are 7 of 'em....

Deadly sins, that is:


And the worst one:


As I prepare for my Sacrament of Reconciliation, I have been thinking about how my sins fall into these catagories. Resentment? Probably fits pretty well into the wrath catagory. Or, depending on who I am resenting, might be envy, too.

Gluttony is an easy one. So is sloth. Both of which will get a lot of air time next week.

Lust is probably the most embarrassing one, but I am trying to be fearless about his whole process, so yes, it gets it's fair share.

A former catholic friend was quite taken aback when I told her I was going to make a confession next week. First, she didn't know that Episcopalians could do such a thing. Second, the idea of a life confession seemed overwhelming to her, since she remembers the level of detail in the ones she made as a second grader. She joked that my priest better bring a pillow!

But her big question was the reason for doing it. Why?

She has done a lot of work with personal growth, so I explained that this was sort of the religious equivalent of doing a personal inventory. It is an opportunity to take responsibility for my own part in the painful situations in my life.

But with confession, there is more. It is more than just a sympathetic and unjudging ear. It is an ordained priest granting absolution on behalf of God. Could God forgive me directly? Of course, and has. But this is an exercise wherein I am speaking my sins, out loud, to another person. It is a kind of spiritual transparency that peels away the layers under which I have hidden and exposes, once and for all, the truth. The truth that I have known all along: I am a sinner. And God simply adores me anyway. What a miracle.

In some ways, this would have been easier if I went to a stranger to confess. There would have been less fear around it, I think. I probably could have arranged that if I had chosen to. But confessing to someone I am going to see again is taking this to a whole other level of trust and commitment. It is requiring that I trust him, the process and the structure that the church has refined over hundreds of years. In weighing whether to do it this way, I thought of cloistered nuns, who knew their confessors for years, sometimes. They couldn't pretend that the man behind the curtain was a stranger. They just had to swallow their pride and fear and open their hearts. That is sort of where I am with this.

So, I make a list. Ask God to bring stuff to the surface that needs to be swept clear and pray that my sin of pride doesn't get in the way of scrupulous honesty.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Coming up for air

It has been a pretty tough week.

No. Nothing dramatic. Just one of those weeks where I begin to question everything and wonder where the joy goes.

Things for my husband have been challenging at his work. And though I hate to point fingers and play victim, I do have to say that it is just plain hard being in the house with a stress ball. I begin to feel very sorry for myself, which is a dangerous game, indeed.

And yes, the children are home. Last year I went insane by the end of the summer. Both of my kids have vehemently refused to do camp. And it is very scary ponying up the money for two camps, not knowing if it is going to be a miserable battle to get them to go. So I relent and go crazy instead. I am insisting, however, that they go to Vacation Bible School in the neighborhood this year. It is free and I am simply not backing down. Christian formation and a week off. What could be bad?

I have been trying to learn little coping mechanisms. This year, I have a baby sitter 2 times a week. I am going to go to Bible Study on Tuesday mornings. I am scaling back on my Pampered Chef stuff. I instituted family night on Sundays, so we can play board games or go bowling as a family. My mom has offered to come over once im awhile for an afternoon.

I built an emergency beach kit last summer, with a big tote bag and spare, grungy towels, and sunscreen. I left it in the van all summer long so when we felt like going we just jumped in the car and picked a destination. That was great.

And I am trying, really trying, to do my daily prayers. Touching base with God becomes so critical to keep the 'insanity quotient' to a dull roar.

Next week, I meet with Fr. P at the big church on campus to make my first private confession. Like the baptism last month and Holy week before that, I am feeling singularly unprepared for such an event. I think I should be prayerfully fasting or something, inviting God to bring events and situations to the surface so I can cleanse them from my soul's warehouse. But then the kids break a dish or need help in the bathroom or want to swim in the pool and I get distracted. God, please visit me in the midst of my distractions!

Oh. And it has been raining non-stop.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Where was I?

Oh, yes,

Still thinking about the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

To be honest, I don't know how I feel. I know that some are ecstatic, because she is a woman. And others are appalled, because she is a woman. So far no one seems to know much about her as an individual or a leader. I can only hope that she is the right person for the job of building bridges.

Part of me feels that if the Episcopal Church got kicked out of the Anglican communion, I would leave it. I made a concious decision not to join a small, US centered denomination. I wanted the global influence, for better or for worse.

But then, part of me feels that all of this is in God's hands and I have to trust the process, and even trust the people in charge of all of this, even if they seem hopelessly fractured right now.

Hand wringers are saying that the church is on the brink of schism. I pray that God will lead us in the direction that helps bring about the Kingdom. I pray that we will remember, in the days, weeks, years ahead, that that must be our focus.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

How many priests does it take....

Grace has an abundance of priests. We have a rector, two retired volunteer associate priests who are a married couple and a new, paid, associate priest who came over from the Church of the Messiah.

During bible study, our fearless leader (the rector) asked what a priest is. (We were reading Acts and the question seemed relevant at the time. Now I can't think why!)

Various answers around the room.

Mine: A priest is someone who can turn wine and crackers into God.

(This kind of goes with the 'real presence' post last week...)

Fr. P gave me a copy of the Sign of Jonas to read a while back. It is the autobiography of Thomas Merton during his first few years in the monastery. I remember when he gets ordained as a priest, he is kind of blown away by it. Before that, the distinction between monk and priest seemed vague to me. But he made a BIG deal about it in the book. Clearly the ability to consecrate the host and wine is HUGE. Huge. So, for me, that is probably what sets a priest apart from the average minister. They kind of stand in for Jesus. (They grant absolution, too, which will be the subject of another post, as I am getting ready to make my first private confession...)

Anyway, we've got a bunch of priests at Grace, including the married couple. Today, Mrs. priest and I were talking before the service and agreeing that there is something amazing about children being baptised when they are old enough to know what it means. We talked about how wonderful it is that they are taking communion now. And she happened to be the one that was giving communion this morning. Both of my kids were first in line before me, and as they took the host into their mouths,with such earnestness and expectation, Mrs. priest and I caught each others eye and started to weep, right there at the rail.

God is so very good.

He is so very good.

Last week, Noah said that the host was delicious.

Today he said it tastes like a potato chip with no salt.

All I know is that nothing in the world is sweeter and more tantalizing.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Unlocking the key...


Yup, our resident evil bunny finally managed to sneak into the sun porch, where we keep our computer. He chewed through the modem cord, the phone cord and bit the keyboard cord into three pieces. We are actually relieved that that is all he did!

So I am now trying to break in my new keyboard. At first, Nguyen brought home the cheesiest $19 version from some unknown company. It was positively horrible. I brought it back and exchanged it for a logitech. We have had great luck with their mice, so we figured it was a good keyboard. And the layout is, indeed, much better. (why would you put a delete key to the right of the insert key, I wonder? Were the designers on crack?)

But, even with the delete in the correct spot, the Logitech takes a lot of getting used to. It has a completely different feel from the Dell.

My all time favorite keyboard is the old IBM. It weighed a ton, had a very heavy keytouch and actually clicked when you typed. I loved it. I actually bought a reconditioned one at one point and held onto it for years before it finally got so filled with crud I had to get rid of it.

Since then, I have had to make due with the silent, soft touch feel of the cheap piece of crap keyboards that are now standard issue. I must be old if I am waxing poetic about first generation keyboards.

And why do we still call it typing when no one knows what a typewriter is anymore? Shouldn't we call it 'keying'?

This is possibly the most boring post in the history of blogging.

Back to your lives, people.

Monday, June 12, 2006

I confess....

I like confession during the mass. I like that I lay it out to God that I have screwed some stuff up and I like it even better when the priest reminds us that we are absolved. Since my early Christian formation (lo those many months ago!) was in an Anglo-Catholic church, I just took it for granted that confession was part of communion.

I remember when I went to the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship Revival a couple of years ago. We had a communion service during the weekend. I was moved to be sharing communion with fellow UUs, but when it became clear that there would be no confession as part of the service, I felt very awkward. Not panicky, exactly, but ill at ease. Finally, I decided to go ahead and get on my knees and make a silent confession before getting up to take communion. Not an easy feat in a colonial Unitarian church, I can tell you. The early architects clearly did NOT believe in getting on your knees. It was a tight squeeze.

Now that I am at a regular Episcopal church, I have discovered that we do not always include confession. We didn't do it at all during the Easter season. I was very pleased that it was back on the roster for Trinity Sunday.

Why? Because one of the biggest miracles of being a Christian, one of the greatest revelations, is that God loves me in spite of my faults. In fact, in some ways, my weaknesses are the very things that draw me closer to God. There is no attempt at hiding my mistakes. No need for perfection. That is God's job, to sanctify me. My job is to do the best I can and admit it when I screw up. It is amazing, I tell you.

What a miracle, Beloved, that you love us, even in our frailty.

What a miracle is your love.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Speaking of real....

I am a "Real Presence" kind of girl.

Soon after my baptism (v1.0 beta) a couple of years ago, I took communion for the first time, and I knew that somehow, the presence of Christ was in that little wafer and wine. I just had a sense of something going on that was bigger than flour and water. Bigger than my imagination or 'symbolism'. Bigger than anything I had experienced before. It was then that I realized that I had to find a church in which the Eucharist was the central part of worship. Once a month wasn't going to cut it.

For me, it is Christ in that tabernacle on the altar. When I bow before sitting in my pew, I am bowing to Him. When I sit in silence before the service, I am sitting in His presence. When I take the wafer on my tongue, it is God, infusing me with his love.

This morning, though, something happened. I don't know if it is because of the baptism (v 2.0) last weekend, but as the priest was consecrating the large host, and holding it above the chalice, I glanced up and saw the brilliant white host and my breath caught in my throat and I felt faint. I felt like I was going to faint. I felt as if I was looking at Jesus, in the flesh. It was only for an instant... but for that instant I felt the Real Presence of God, of Jesus, of the Holy Spirit.

After communion today, my son Noah said to me "mom, I love that cracker. It is delicious."

Yes, it is.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A real, live, RevGal!

I suppose it was bound to happen. I was at a kitchen tools gig tonight and started chatting with a guest and suddenly we realized that we both hang out with the RevGals. (Waving at Amy!) It was SO cool!

And, we seem to have other stuff in common, too. Namely that we have invited God to boss us around and he is taking us up on the offer. In spades.

Maybe I'll get her a "Does this pulpit make my butt look big?" T-shirt for when she goes to seminary in the fall.

I am telling you, I had no idea that God would be a regular at my shows. But he just keeps showing up. You think he has a thing for artichoke pizzas and molten skillet brownies? LOL!


Today's Friday Five asks five questions about rain, all intended to help us look on the bright side of life. Let a smile be your umbrella!!

1. Favorite way to spend a rainy day- Curled up on the sofa with all the windows open, reading a good book. I still remember when I lived in Kansas City, reading Paul Theroux's "My Secret History" in the pouring rain. We had a whole wall of french doors, all of which were wide open.

2. Favorite song about rain- Here Comes the Rain Again- Eurythmics.

3. Favorite movie featuring rain- Throne of Blood

4. Favorite piece of raingear, past or present- I want a pair of frog wellingtons! I currently don't own a single piece of raingear.

5. Favorite word for rain-

One night, when Nguyen and I were still a new couple, we were squished together in my single bed at my parent's house. The bed was jammed up against a window, which was open. Nguyen, being the gentleman that he is, offered to sleep on the inside. In the middle of the night, it began, ever so gently, to rain. Since his face was right by the window, he was getting rained on. I woke to him saying "mua" in his sleep. (The Vietnamese word for rain".) It is my favorite word for it now.

John of the Cross

I have been reading 'Dark Night of the Soul'.

Plus, I subscribed to a Yahoo group that sends me a John of the Cross quote a few times a week.

Here is today's:

This living spring which I long for,
I see in this bread of life,
Although it is night.

~John of the Cross
from "Song of the Soul that Rejoices in Knowing God Through Faith"

Rock on, John.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Look, it is simple...

When faced with a decision, ask yourself, 'does this bring me closer to God?"

Or does it distract you from him? If it is going to distract you, chances are, it is sin.

That is my simple litmus test. And I have to say, I have yet to encounter a situation that wasn't clear. It is not a matter or morals or concience, or even scripture. Just- how does this affect my relationship with God? Does it enhance it or detract from it?

When I am faced with any kind of temptation, small or large, seemingly sinful or not, I ask that question and it clears the matter up for me.

Try it.

It works.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

None of it worked


self help books
tarot cards
walks in the woods
bubble baths
colored crystals
dinner with friends
channeled wisdom
a great job
wisdom circles
a nice home
a dog
coffee with cream and sugar
especially food
dream analysis
chocolate ice cream
red wine

and the countless other things.

None of these things, no matter how wonderful some of them are, none of them filled the void.

In college, my heart was restless, ill at ease. On one desperate day, I asked a friend from China, begged him, really, to tell me that things were better where he was from. Are people happy there? Is happiness even possible? I asked. I remember there were tears in my eyes.

He looked forlorn. He didn't understand the question.

He was an atheist, of course.

Maybe if he had been a Christian he would have recognized the yawning hole in my soul and said

"yes, it is possible to be happy"

It IS possible.

Monday, June 05, 2006

post mortem

It hasn't yet become the soul-too-huge-for-my-body kind of experience yet. I haven't felt like I was going to bust out of my skin. But there were moments, today, when I felt clear that something had changed.

I was driving home from a meeting tonight. Driving West, just after sunset. The sky was dark, with a broad mantle of purple arched across the horizon. Royal purple. I felt as if the whole world were His robe, draped on his frame, hanging loose here, pulling tighter there.

At points today, in the midst of my busyness, I would stop, take a breath, breathe Him in. He is the air, the spirit, the flesh, the One.


I can't imagine how this can just keep getting better. How is it possible? How is it possible? I feel such joy.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Pentecost, 2006

In which our heroine finds herself baptised with her children, confirmed as a member of the Episcopal church, nearly drops her drawers and comes face to face with His Majesty: Christ, the King.

The kids and I got baptised in the midst of the coming together of two parishes. The service started at Church of the Messiah, with the readings and the homily and the deconsecration. Then, the whole service moved to Grace, with their entire congregation coming over. They processed, with the Bishop of Rhode Island and the priests of both churches down the center aisle: 4 crosses, dove kites on long sticks, the choir singing, and the children of Grace waving their own dove kites. It was spectacular.

At the last minute, Bob, my rector, came over and asked me if I would like to be confirmed along with the conditional baptism. Apparently he had discussed it with the Bishop and they agreed it was appropriate. I was a bit taken aback, to be honest, but God works in such ways, so I readily agreed, especially when I found out it meant that the Bishop would lay hands on me. (I am a sucker for that. It's the whole apostolic succession thing...) So, this morning, I became a confirmed member of the Episcopal Church. (I guess I have to change my profile! LOL) I had my wonderful sponsors with me: Fr. P and Adrienne and Anne. It felt like a spiritual union of sorts. I was humbled to have them stand up for me and welcome me into the Body of Christ.

Bob also asked us to carry the wine and the host forward during the service, so Noah, Emmett and I brought them up front and gave them to the acolyte. For some bizarre reason, I had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction. I was wearing a pair of underpants that were too loose and they threatened to fall off completely as I was walking down the aisle. Luckily I was wearing a long skirt and could kind of hike them up. Does stuff like that happen to anyone else? For the first time in my life, I was grateful I didn't have skinny legs!

The baptism was wonderful and I was deeply moved when it was my kids' turn. They answered their questions and had water poured on their heads. Bishop Wolfe made the sign of the cross on their foreheads in oil. In the car on the way home, Noah said "Wow, I really do feel brand new!"

And yeah, the Big Guy showed up. As I was praying after taking communion, I had a picture in my mind of Jesus standing before me. I imagined myself falling to the ground to worship at his feet. Then he bent over and grabbed me by the shoulder.

"Get up, woman" he said. "We have work to do..."

He didn't seem thrown by the underpants issue at all.

And so it is.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Saturday, June 03, 2006

The timing is so weird.

Is this some kind of cosmic joke, God?

Tomorrow I am standing in front of God and the entire congregation of Grace Episcopal Church to be conditionally baptised in the language of the Trinity. I am going to get washed at the font and receive an annointing by the Bishop. I am officially joining the Body of Christ.

Today I got a plain brown envelope with a copy of the book that contains my essay about being a Unitarian Universalist Christian. On the eve of the day when I officially renounce unitarianism and become, once and for all time, a Trinitarian.

I read the essay again, and it was ok. I was surprised it was the first one in the book. I was dissapointed there were a couple of mistakes in editing. I was embarrassed to read the little author's blurb because it is already so outdated. (Everything in it has changed: I am not a childbirth teacher. I am not a tarot reader. I am not active in my UU church.)

But one thing I hope is true: It might just be helpful to a UU who is seeking a deeper relationship with God. I can only pray that the person who needs to read it will find a dusty copy on some shelf in their minister's collection and be curious and pull it out and take it home. I can only pray that when the next Christ-seeker walks into my former minister's office and asks if Unitarians can be Christians, he can hand her the book and say "yes".

What is so strange about this artifact of my journey is that I feel like I have changed so much in such a short time. This little time capsule of my faith reinforces the true scope of the changes. I wrote most of the essay within a couple of months of my conversion, at a time when I could hardly imagine the changes that were being wrought. I think if I had known, I might have been afraid. But now, looking back at it, I can only be awed and humbled by God's work in my life. I can only be grateful for his gentle hand. I can only be amazed at the results.

Tomorrow God finishes what I started in the pond two and a half years ago. Tomorrow, my baptism will be complete.


Good one....

Friday, June 02, 2006

friday five: summer blockbuster edition

This week's questions are inspired by the various summer films currently in the theaters or soon to be released. Here's your large popcorn and blue raspberry Icee--would you like Raisinets or Goobers with that? Silence those cell phones please, the show's about to start:

1. If you were a mutant, what ability would you like to have? (think superpower)


2. Tell us about a memorable road trip you've experienced.

Driving from Rhode Island to Georgian Bay in Canada with my husband, my brother and his two dogs. In our Volkswagen Vanagon. While pregnant. The highlight was the 3 am breakfast at Lloyd's of Lowville.

3. Do you enjoy solving riddles and working on puzzles? If so, what kinds?

I had a brief romance with Sudoku puzzles last summer. Otherwise, nah.

4. Take two of your phobias and combine them to make a campy horror/disaster flick. What would it be called?

ArachniClaustrophobiacs from Mars.

5. Just how batsh*t crazy is Tom Cruise, anyway?

I will just say this: I am grateful he ain't an Anglican.
He certainly isn't doing any good as a front man for Scientology.

Bonus: Name each of the five movies that inspired these questions.

Movies? What are movies? I haven't seen one in years! LOL