Thursday, December 25, 2008
Tonight, we went to the Nguyen family shindig, which is dozens of people hanging together, laughing and chatting. Always there is too much food... and the combinations are amazing: Vietnamese soup, egg rolls, curry chicken wings, and tonight, our Jewish friend from Austria brought home made baklava. We had a new guest tonight... a mathematician from mainland China. We introduced him to rice noodle soup and s'mores, lol. I don't think he quite knew what to make of it.
Every year I think how nice it would be to just stay home and be quiet rather than join the madness at the in-laws. And then we go and I find myself sitting in a room stuffed with children and sisters and brothers in law dozing off on the sofa and grandparents and cousins and relatives of in laws whose names I do not know and I am always grateful that God saw fit to invite me into this family, nearly 20 years ago.
But now, oh Lord, I am tired. Tomorrow, in my family tradition, it is boxing day. A day of rest and renewal and quiet. We will take the kids and the dog for a walk somewhere, and drink cocoa in the afternoon... and nap. Paradise.
Merry Christmas, all.
God has come into the world. Oh Holy Night.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
We are training our new dog, Ziggy, with hot dogs.
In the old days, of course, training involved a rolled up newspaper and a choke collar, complimented with the occasional milk bone. But the hot dog method involves identifying the behavior you DO want and heavily reinforcing it with tiny bits of cut up hot dogs.
For example, we want the dog to stay out of the kitchen when we are in there cooking. I have taught him to sit quietly at the threshold. As long as he is there, I toss the occasional hot dog bit over his shoulder. He is learning that when he is in the kitchen=no hot dog. When he waits at the door=hot dogs rain down on him like manna from heaven.
God's consolations are like spiritual hot dogs. When we are vaguely on the right path, he showers us with delicious spiritual tidbits. When we get more spiritually mature, perhaps he weans us off the hot dogs, gently, gradually, so we learn to have faith in him even without the spiritual hot dogs.
Mother Teresa is said to have been in a spiritual desert for 50 years. For her entire ministry in Calcutta, not one hot dog. Can you imagine that? She must have been a spiritual giant to be able to devote herself to that ministry without the constant reinforcement of consolations from God. When I heard about that, I was moved to tears. She really must have been a saint to be able to do that.
Today I give thanks to all the spiritual hot dogs God has thrown my way. I am the eager puppy, wiggling with joy at the feet of him whom I adore.
Sit. Stay. Good Girl.
Merry Christmas, my beloved friends.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Today, I had a chance, sort of.
Before church, I overheard the Sunday School teachers lamenting that it was their day to get up and give a short talk about their program. Neither seemed that keen on doing it. They tried to rope an innocent 12 year old bystander into doing it, but she demurred.
I raised my hand like a third grader and cried "Oooo, oooo, let me, let me." At which point they both looked at me like the insane woman that I am and kind of shrugged and said sure.
I didn't prepare. I sat in the pew, knowing that in a short time I'd get up in front of dozens of people and give my little spiel. And suddenly it was time and I said a prayer to the Holy Spirit to please give me the words to say.
And say them I did. Only the priests could see my shaking hands clasped tightly behind me. Everyone else just saw me give my heartfelt witness to why I thought the Sunday School program was one of the most important things we do as a church.
And like a true witness, I can barely remember what I said, except that it had something to do with giving children the precious gift of the bible to help them when they face difficulties and challenges in their lives. With a relationship with God, they will be able to handle anything.
Afterwards, people came up to thank me for my little speech. But really, I can't take credit for it. I just say what pops into my head and hope that at least some of it is at God's nudging.
Friday, December 19, 2008
So, I got to sleep in (til 8!) and drink coffee in my jammies. I began, finally, to clean the house in preparation for Christmas. It comforts me to remember that traditionally one isn't supposed to decorate or sing carols until Christmas Eve. This year, we might just follow that tradition.
I made Kale soup with chourico and chicken thighs and white beans. I cleared the mantel, cleaned the kitchen and played with the dog in the yard. The kids had a friend over and had a ball in the snow.
Even Nguyen stuck around the house, putsing around in the garage and tidying the yard.
I felt blessed today, in so many ways. I realized, for example, that all our stress about finances was the reason I went out and found part time jobs. And now I am so very blessed by the relationship I am developing with my client and her husband. It is a gift from God, without a doubt.
My neighbor was over last night helping us out clean up the roofing shingles from our garage and after, when we were chatting, he and I prayed for my client. Such a beautiful thing, standing in the street in front of the garage, holding hands and lifting up prayers to God. Thank you God for bringing us to this place.
Tomorrow my dear friend and drumming teacher is heading out of town. I won't see him again until I get to Mali in January. Because of the storm we couldn't get together, but we spoke on the phone for a long time, talking about our plans for the trip in January and what we are going to do in Africa. It was lovely.
There is about 10 inches of snow outside. It is quiet and white and beautiful.
Thank you, Lord, for this day.
Monday, December 15, 2008
My job is basically to help out around the house. I buy groceries and cook meals. I clean. I do laundry occasionally, scrub the tub, run errands.
The list of my activities can, in no way, even scratch the surface of what this new job has been for me.
It is a sacred thing to prepare a meal for someone. It is holy to be invited into a home, tend to someone's needs, sit by a bed, hold a hand, whisper a prayer.
For a long time I was afraid to ask if I could pray for her. Weeks went by when I would leave and sit in my car to pray because I was afraid of how it would be received. Then one day, finally, God broke open my fear and gave me the courage to ask.
I have been praying every day since. And God has been showering me with consolations when I am with her. I feel his presence so powerfully I can't help but weep.
A couple of months ago, this woman and her husband were strangers. Now we are deeply, intimately connected. It is a great honor and priviledge to be invited into someone's life. I thank God for it every day. I pray, too, for relief for her suffering.
Pray for us all, my dear friends.
Pray for strength and courage and perserverance and love. And for her, please pray for healing.
In Christ's name.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
If it occurs to you to give something away, say something kind, or love someone who needs love, don't edit or censor or think it through. Just do it.
If you feel like praying the rosary, or saying a psalm out loud, or sneaking into a dark church and laying on the floor to pray, do it.
Be fearless in your love. Love hugely.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
I was pulling into an intersection when someone cut me off. Then the light changed to red. Since my nose was in the intersection, I decided to back up a little and wait for the green light.
I checked my side mirror and there was no car, so I began to back up.
There was a car behind me after all. I pulled forward a bit, put the car in park and jumped out to assess the damage.
The guy rolled down his window.
"I am so sorry" I said. "I didn't notice you behind me."
"No problem" He replied.
I reassured him there was no damage and he didn't even bother to check it himself. He just kept repeating that it was no problem.
Thanks, dude. That was some good car mojo there. I hope God blesses you for your kindness. And I hope I get my head out of the clouds and onto the road.
This year, Jesus has seen fit to make his presence known during the dark days of Advent. I have felt his mercy pouring forth. My heart has been ablaze with his love.
Today on the way to bible study at church, I realized that one of the great gifts the Lord has given me is the ability to love without fear. I was awestruck by the miracle of that. By the time I got to church, I was in tears. I think the parking lot attendant was concerned! But I was fine. I was crying for joy.
Last Saturday I went to a funeral for a friend from Grace. He died unexpectedly. The church was filled. People got up and talked about him and how much they loved him and how much they felt loved by him. It occurred to me that it is a great gift to love others. And to be able to love fearlessly is one of Christ's tender mercies.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Now, once a month I lay hands on people and pray at a healing service at Grace Church.
For a long time, I was shy to incorporate prayer into my Reiki practice. I felt that since that wasn't what I was advertising, I didn't really have the right to do it. So I would pray to myself as I worked on people. In my mind, I would invite Jesus to join me and lay his hands on them too. We would work together, Jesus and I, comforting and soothing my clients, body and soul. But I was too shy to say anything.
I can't pretend that I am doing just Reiki anymore. What I am doing is prayer. It is Christian healing. I lay my hands in the traditional reiki positions, but I know that what is taking place is much more than the simple shifting of energy.
So, last night, at my Reiki appointment, I asked my client if I could pray for her. She said yes. At the end of the session I laid my hands on her and knelt beside her and said a prayer of thanksgiving and petition.
And you know what? To me, at least, it didn't feel weird or awkward at all. In fact, now it feels weird NOT to pray... because I know damn well that the energy, the power, that my clients feel isn't mine at all. By claiming it as God's, I am able to put the emphasis exactly where it belongs.
Praise to YOU, Lord Christ.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
There are losses, too.
Today, at bible study, I found out that a fellow parishioner at Grace, Roger Ferland, died yesterday. It was a sudden, unexpected loss. He was in his fifties... an OB/Gyn here in Providence.
I met Roger when he and his wife, Kim, first started coming to Grace. We made a meal together for the soup kitchen one Saturday. Then, last month, he preached a sermon in honor of St. Luke. It struck a particular chord for me because the work I have been doing lately is of a kind that I have to rely, every day, on the Grace of God. That was what Roger preached on... God's grace in seemingly hopeless situations. After the service I approached him and thanked him for speaking. I told him about my work at the crisis pregnancy center and asked about his practice. We both allowed as to how the process of birth is especially ripe for God's grace.
I have been struck, lately, by what a blessing it is to be in community with other people. Joy, sorrow, grace and despair are different when they are experienced together with other people of faith. There is such sorrow in loss... but such grace in being able to experience that sorrow with other members of the body of Christ. I cried my way through the bible study this morning, comforted by the presence of God and my friends. Afterward, I sat in the darkened church for awhile, praying.
This weekend I'll go to the funeral at Grace Church. There will be doctors and patients, friends and relatives. And there will be some of us who knelt at the communion rail with Roger and broke bread and were connected to each other through the flesh and blood of him who brings grace to us all.
Rest in peace, Roger.
Friday, November 21, 2008
What it is not:
It is not a safari. It is not about zebras and elephants. It is not a tourist thing. I won't be on a guided tour with a bunch of other Americans or Europeans, oohing and ahhing over the mud mosque of Dogon or Timbuktu. I might even leave the big camera at home.
What it is:
Experiencing West Africa from the inside. Today, we learned about the personal hygiene. We will eat, sleep, drink, play drums. We will spend time with friends, new and old. We will go to weddings, funerals, circumcision rituals and baptisms. We will be taught how to eat with Muslims and what is considered polite and what is rude. We will dance.
I feel a great sense of privilege and adventure. I feel grateful beyond words at this opportunity. Oh, joy.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
This morning, I got an email from an old friend I found on facebook. He told me that his younger brother had died by suicide a few years ago. I have been crying about it all day. Nguyen and I were really close to his family when we were in college and first married. In fact, Michael, the older brother, introduced Nguyen and I. We swapped out our volkswagen engine in their garage when they lived in RI. In 1991 we spent New Year's eve in Germany with them. It all came rushing back as I read the email this morning. Even though we haven't been in touch for awhile, you never really stop feeling like you know someone, do you? You never really stop feeling like a member of the family. So to hear about Ben, who was so sweet and gentle, is completely breaking my heart. I am heartbroken for him. I am grief stricken for his parents and his brothers.
God only knows what drives people to this. God only knows.
Lord, it is a broken world. There is so much pain. I pray that you sooth the hearts of those who grieve. Blessed are they that mourn, Lord.
Today Jon and Ben and their families are in my prayers.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
We love our new dog! He is a mutt from Newfoundland... and I swear the Newfoundland mutts are the best in the world. Something about that cold, damp climate makes for great temperaments.
When Ziggy got here last Saturday, he was completely untrained. He didn't come when he was called. He wouldn't sit unless you were actually holding a piece of food. He didn't know how to walk on a leash without pulling your arm off. He was, in other words, a complete blank slate.
Luckily, because he was very well loved (if completely undisciplined) by his previous owner, he isn't filled with bizarre little traumas and anxieties. He is just a sweet, lovable goofball.
With our last dog, we used a traditional training method that used negative correction combined with reward to get the behavior you wanted. It was a combination of snapping a choke chain with offering treats. Frankly, it had it's limitations. Sadie, our old dog, was dog aggressive and no amount of leash popping seemed to help her get over that.
So, with Ziggy, we have been trying something new: positive reinforcement only. No corrections with the collar, just using a clicker to identify success and then offering a treat. I have been working with him all week, and in just this short amount of time, he now can walk on a loose leash, he sits on command and is learning to lie down and come when called. It is awesome!
What is so wonderful about this is that it starts to develop a real relationship between the human and the dog. It becomes an issue of communication, rather than punishment. I forces me to think about what behavior I do want, rather than what I don't. For example, he jumps up on people to greet them. I want him to sit.... so when he sits, I reward him with lots of praise and petting. Now, he drops almost immediately because he knows that that is how he gets greeted.
It is interesting to approach a relationship from the positive rather than negative. I bet it works with humans, too!
Sunday, October 26, 2008
And then, there is the matter of the dog.
My parents brought us a dog from Newfoundland. He is a sweet, sweet, guy. A year old mixed breed with a very gentle nature. But today, when we introduced him to the rabbit for the first time, it was clear that this is going to be a LONG process. Theo has been moved to Emmett's room and is being separated from the dog (Ziggy) by a series of baby gates. Honestly, I couldn't tell if Ziggy was ready to eat him, or just wanted to play with him, but either way it was not to Theo's liking. At. All.
Which means that we live in a house divided at the moment. Theo was so upset after the encounter with Ziggy this afternoon, he actually bit Emmett this evening, which has never happened before. Emmett was utterly devastated and I feel very sad indeed.
What do a trip to Africa and a new dog have in common? Patience, I think. And courage. And trust. God, grant me peace in all these areas so I can just turn them over to you and know that you are in the midst of it all, no matter how it turns out.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
I think Malians are very good at hanging out. Even with a major language barrier (my French is beyond atrocious and their English is non-existent) we had a great time watching home videos and eating fine African food and drinking tea and teaching each other the words for grapes, water, what is your name?
At one point, Makan started playing the djembe and Ladje began to dance. They faced off in Sidy's tiny living room. Makan would play a rhythm and Ladje would listen for a moment, then begin a complex series of movements to match the sound. They told a story, together, really. Sidy videotaped the whole thing while my friend Lisa and I just watched with idiotic grins on our faces. The whole thing went on for nearly 20 minutes... it was absolutely extraordinary.
We had vague plans to bring the visitors to see the beach, which they have never seen before. But cooking and chatting and tea and dancing went on so long that in the end, we never got around to it. Maybe next time!
Hangin' with the Africans. Yup.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
I have been spending the last few days struggling over an issue that finally came to resolution today. Do you know how that feels? To go around in circles in your head over and over until finally, in a moment of clarity, you say, wait a minute... What would God have me do? What is God asking me to do? Am I struggling because what God is asking is difficult and I don't want to do it? In this case, I think the answer was a definite yes.
A friend helped me clarify things. And the moment of clarity was so focused and forceful I felt filled with gratitude. Yes. Yes, Lord. I want to do your will. Yes.
After the service, I was alone in the church. Alone with God. I walked up to the chancel and lay down on the floor, face down, in front of the altar. I felt the cool tiles against my face. It took a moment for my breathing to relax and calm. My eyes were closed and I just lay there for a few minutes, thanking God. Asking him to always help me have the courage to do his will, even when I know it will be difficult. Even when I know that people will not understand. But Lord, I begged, give me the courage to do your will. I only want to do your will. Thank you, Lord, for your blessings.
I got up. Set the alarm. Let myself out the back door.
A half moon.
A clear night.
Happy are they all who fear the LORD, *
and who follow in his ways!
You shall eat the fruit of your labor; *
happiness and prosperity shall be yours.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house, *
your children like olive shoots round about your table.
The man who fears the LORD *
shall thus indeed be blessed.
The LORD bless you from Zion, *
and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.
May you live to see your children's children; *
may peace be upon Israel.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Sunday, October 05, 2008
Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
I am having a great time surfing youtube for the latest Palin/Tina Fey tag team videos. CNN actually has one that shows them each responding to the bailout question using the exact same words. It is so funny.
I watched the VP debate the other night, half expecting her to crash and burn after all the gaffs over the last week, but nope... she was articulate and pulled together, even if she didn't actually answer any of the questions put to her.
People far smarter than me are doing much more incisive analysis, but as for me, I am finding the clips on youtube to be a great diversion from the real issues going on out there.
I wish I could like her, God bless her. She's so down-homey and Christian and pro-life and all. And really, she did great at the convention. But gosh darn it, I just can't see her as potential president material.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Today, more miracles.
I decided to go pray outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Providence. It was my first time doing such a thing. I was afraid, but prayed to God to give me courage. I said the rosary with the other people there and blessed those who cursed us and at some point ceased feeling fear and felt only love.
This from evening prayer tonight:
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.
Tonight, for the first time in his adult life, my husband confessed being a Christian.
Lord, I am humbled to be receiving such gifts and blessings. Truly I know that I have done nothing to earn them. You give them freely, and I thank you. Tonight I pray for my husband, I pray for my friend Carl, I pray for my dear P+ and I send special prayers for the woman who changed her mind at the Broad St. clinic today. Bless her abundantly Lord. She heard you...
Thursday, September 25, 2008
And now, here I am and can't remember, for the life of me, what deep thoughts I was thinking on the drive home from our confirmation class at Grace.
I am tired.
But it is kind of a good tired. I worked today at my new job today. I am a personal assistant for a woman with a chronic illness. I cook and clean and run errands. Basically it is the same job I do at my own home except I get paid. And like my own home, this is a ministry of sorts. I know that a big pot of bean and squash soup may not sound like ministry, but it is. There is love in that soup.
Oh, now I remember:
I was thinking that sometimes people mistake me for a kind and generous person. And I think that maybe the kindness and generosity is really the light of God blazing away in my heart. All the dark stuff that I sometimes squelch the light with... my fears and resentments, sins and self-centeredness, are all still there. But Church and the Sacraments and scripture and prayer help shift the darkness out of the way so that the light can sometimes shine through.
This week has been all about serving others. And I am tired. But what has been sort of remarkable is that the tiredness isn't accompanied by resentment. Not at all. That is really unlike me, I am sorry to admit. All I can attribute that to is prayer.
Today I started reading the diary of St. Faustina. Can I just tell you? I love the mystics. I love them. I think it is because that is how I relate to God. Not in any kind of cerebral way, but in a completely enraptured, my heart is so full of love it feels like I am going to explode, sort of way. Like how I cry every stinking week in Lectio Divina. I love the mystics because they are so wide open to the Holy Spirit... and that is exactly how I experience God, too, sometimes.
Today I ran into an old friend I knew from a weight loss program years ago. As I was standing there chatting, I realized that I am much heavier than the last time she saw me. I also realized that I felt totally unselfconscious about my appearance or my weight. When she said I looked great, I thanked her, knowing that it was true. I do. Not necessarily physically, but spiritually. I think I look happy. I think I look joyful. Feeling at ease in my own skin has got to be some kind of miracle.
The last few weeks have been so full of God's grace. How could I look anything BUT happy?
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
As I stood in the church narthex, feeling out of place, I looked up and saw a friend from when I worked for AT&T back in the 1980s. She was a former nun, and even then, before I was anywhere near being a Christian, I was drawn to her simple peacefulness. I have thought of her many times since then, especially as I progressed on my own Christian path.
I walked over to her with a big smile and we chatted for several minutes. She told me what she is doing these days and I shared briefly about my conversion and told her what an impact she had had on me. She smiled and said that she thought that when people have a strong prayer life, they sort of radiate God's peace. I would have to say that that is true, especially of the nuns I have met in my life.
Prayer has power. This I believe. God wants to engage with us in that way. He wants us to speak to him from the quiet of our hearts. From the darkness of our rooms. From the noisy sidewalk in broad daylight.
I'll be there, Lord. I'll be praying.
Friday, September 19, 2008
This is Shaggy.
He is a dog in the Clarenville Newfoundland SPCA Shelter.
Yesterday he met a rabbit. He sniffed said rabbit and wagged his tail. Shaggy passed the rabbit test.
Shaggy is going to be our new dog. My parents are bringing him down when they come in October. It is an arranged marriage, of sorts, because we have never met him.
He is a hairy dog.
Shaggy is going to get a haircut.
I think during the transplant, there must have been a point when my friend Carl was technically dead. And now, today, sitting in his room overlooking the skyline of Boston, he was very much alive.
I held myself together pretty well for the most part. All smiles and encouragement.
And then at one point I looked up at the heart monitor and saw the beautiful pattern of a healthy heart and all pretense of pulled-togetherness evaporated and I started sobbing.
Because the last time I saw a monitor connected to my friend, there was barely any pattern or beat at all, just a pitiful series of little blips that wandered aimlessly across the screen.
Not today. Today the spikes were standing at attention as they marched along in regular formation. Today, those beats are strong and powerful and, well, healthy.
Lord God, great healer, thank you.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Today I found out that as my friend Carl was receiving his new heart, my friend Amy had a friend who was going into the hospital needing... a new heart.
When she told me this, I could do nothing else but cry. And it wasn't exactly for sadness for her friend, though it was partly that. I cried because the Holy Spirit saw fit to connect Carl with her friend, through us.
And there were other things related to transplants and organ donations that came up in conversation which hinted, broadly I think, at the behind the scenes work that God is doing these days. In other words, today we caught a glimpse of the Holy Spirit and it pretty much brought us to our knees.
God is in the intersections. He is in the places where our lives overlap with one another.
Today I thank God for my friend Amy and all the other friends with whom I intersect.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I wanted to drive out to the pond in which it took place and spend some time reflecting peacefully on all that has taken place since then.
But I was working all day at CareNet and then had a Pampered Chef show last night... so I was effectively on the run from 9 am until 10pm. Today I woke up with a cold.
For all this time I have referred to myself as a new Christian. I wonder if I will ever start to feel more 'seasoned' at this? Maybe my descriptor is slightly off. I am not a new Christian, I am a struggling Christian. A learning Christian. Sometimes a part time Christian. (That is usually when I am driving, sigh.) An imperfect Christian. Perhaps I will change the way I think of myself to simply 'Christian' because one never really becomes an expert at this, do they?
Last night when I mentioned that it was my anniversary, Nguyen was taken aback.
"Why do you make a big deal out of the date?" He asked.
"Why do you ask that?" I replied.
"Well, haven't you always had the heart of a Christian?"
I admit I was floored by that. Because the answer is yes and no. Yes, Christ has always been with me... but no, I didn't always acknowledge or honor that. September 10, 2003 is the day I finally opened the door and invited him in. And to me, that is a clear a demarcation in my life. It was the day I opened the door to joy.
In case you missed it, here is the story of my baptism.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
My friend Carl got his heart today. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.
Carl has been on the transplant list for almost a year. For the last 6 weeks he has been in a hospital room in Boston, attached to a wall by a catheter that goes through his neck and into his heart. It has been, I feel safe to say, hell.
What is remarkable is that he managed to keep his spirits up all this time. He has been an constant source of inspiration to me over the last 6 years.
So, today, I left for church early. I turned my cell phone off as I always do. As I was walking in the door, I realized that my husband was running up behind me. He drove all the way to Providence to tell me that Carl's sister had called and that a heart had become available last night and Carl was in surgery getting his transplant. (Bless Nguyen for knowing I would want to know right away.)
I was filled with such a mixture of feelings: relief, hope, joy, fear, sadness for the donor and his or her family. What an overwhelming moment.
Late this afternoon I got an update that his new heart is beating and he made it through surgery successfully. Now it is on to the long road to recovery.
Father, you have answered so many prayers in the last few weeks. So many prayers.
I pray for Carl's complete and speedy recovery. I pray for his family, that they may have the strength and courage to support him in. I pray that Carl continue to come to know and trust your presence in his life and take solace and comfort from that when things get difficult.
Father, Healer, Lover, I pray that you guide me and Carl's friends and family to know the best way to be of service.
I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior. Amen.
Friday, September 05, 2008
We are a small group. On a given Sunday, there are usually just 4 or 5 of us who gather to pray the scriptures together. It is a time of such joy and spiritual nourishment. We are bathed in the love of the Holy Spirit, constantly awed and surprised by His presence, week after week.
The group has been meeting for a couple of years now, but only in the last year has it gelled with a core of dedicated members. We, all of us, have come to love our Sunday mornings together. So, although I understand that people have to move on, I am feeling very sad indeed. I take solace in the fact that my friend will be bringing our spirit (and the Holy Spirit) with him to his new group. I know they will be very blessed by his presence.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
The kids started school today too, so all around it is a time of change. My boys were so beautiful on their first day... new clothes and shoes. Noah was relaxed and excited to see his friends. Emmett hung back, standing by himself, looking very nervous. But by the time I picked him up at 3:00, he was all smiles, dragging his new rolling backpack behind him. We had a fun time going to the grocery store afterwards and picking out stuff for their lunches. Fruits, dried and fresh, cheese, even a can of slim jims, which seemed to be a slightly better choice than, say, oreos. Maybe I am kidding myself. The boys are paper bag guys, at this point, which I may have to rethink from an environmental perspective... but for today, that is what we have.
That wonderful fresh breeze that carries the promise of fall blew through our hearts today.
I praise you, Lord, for the beauty of your creation. For the changes of season and the rhythms of the year.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
For me, Summer is a big challenge, and has been since I was a kid. I think it has something to do with the complete lack of structure. I am a person that is most creative within structure, and I am not terribly good at creating it for myself. This may explain my deep attraction to the liturgical and sacramental nature of the Episcopal Church.
So, while other folks are wistfully thinking about the end of beach days and travel, I am getting energized for the fall. I start looking forward to cool weather, the rhythm of the days and weeks falling into a pattern, the time alone, which this year I am trying to fill with at least one or two part time jobs. I have started planning my trip to Africa in January and am actually feeling optimistic that I will be able to do it.
I am excited for my brother and husband, too. I just have a gut feeling that things are shifting, not just for me, but for all the people I love. Last night I told my drumming teacher that I believe things are going to get better for him, too.
I don't know why I feel such optimism today. Is it the cool breeze that heralds the change in season? Is it that tomorrow is the first day of my new job? (I got a part time job at the crisis pregnancy center at which I have been volunteering. I am now the volunteer coordinator!) Is it that the kids go back to school tomorrow?
Or could it be that sometimes I remember that God is in charge of everything and because of that, we are always going to be ok in the end.
Welcome, Fall. I am happy to see you again.
Monday, August 18, 2008
How could I have missed this church?
On the way to the cottage in Nova Scotia, I was keeping an eye out for an Anglican Church.
We passed a Mennonite, Roman Catholic, United, Presbyterian... and finally, in a little village just before the cottage, a lovely white Anglican church with big gothic doors. I made a mental note of it so I could visit it the next morning for the service at 11:00.
The next day, after an early breakfast and walk on the beach, I got in the car and headed off to church. As is my custom, I left far too early. I was worried about how far away it was and couldn't remember clearly, so I allowed myself 45 minutes to get there.
Strange. Within ten minutes, I passed the Presbyterian and the United church and kept driving. Did I forget where the Anglican was? Then I drove past the Catholic church. I took a side road, thinking I might have forgotten where we had turned. Nope. Finally, I got to the Mennonite church and knew for sure that I had overshot because that was the first church we had seen after leaving the highway. By this point it was nearly 10:45, so after having allowed myself tons of extra time, it looked like I was going to be late. I turned around and headed back to the village. I backtracked until I reached the United Church of Canada and pulled into the parking lot at exactly 11:00 to the sound of the first hymn in progress through the open windows.
I snuck into the church and quietly looked for a bulletin. None to be found. One of the parishioners noticed me and came out, handing me his bulletin. He walked me to a pew and I sat down.
The United Church of Canada was formed in 1925 and was comprised of Methodists, Congregationalists and about 75% of the Presbyterian churches in Canada. I believe that today it is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. On the day I was visiting the Salem United Church in River John, they were celebrating their 200th anniversary as a congregation. They had a supply minister in the pulpit. In rural Canada, it isn't unusual for clergy to be in charge of several churches and rotate around in the summer. I think this minister on Sunday may have actually been retired.
The service was about the same length as what we have at Grace, but the lack of a Eucharist was made up for in sermon length. At one point, an older gentleman in the back of the church started snoring. I smiled to myself.
After the service, several people approached me and invited me to sign the guest book. I had a nice chat with a woman who just got back from driving across the Unites States. The minister introduced himself and invited me to come back next time I was in town.
I got in the car and headed back towards the cottage. I passed the Presbyterian church. And then, on my left, was astonished to see the Anglican church was just letting out.
How very strange that I had missed it! I can only wonder if God had some reason for me to be in the Salem United Church last Sunday.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
There were 6 of us in a tiny two bedroom cottage, with lots of rain, and still we managed to not kill each other.
Nova Scotia is a fantastic place. The people are quiet, and even a little reserved, but very very kind.
Re-entry was a bummer when we had to stop in Bangor ME for the night last night and ate horrible Chinese food and slept in an Econolodge with a view of a parking lot. There was a bit of redemption today, though, when we stopped in Dorchester, MA for some real Vietnamese noodles and I got to shock the crap out of the check out lady when I spoke Vietnamese to her. HA!
PS: In a rest stop on the highway, a guy from Massachusetts parked his Lexus right by the entry doors and purposely took up TWO parking spaces so his precious car wouldn't get dinged. Why not park on the far side of lot, buddy? Then no one will ding the car.
Don't you just want to key those guys' cars when they do that? Not very Christian of me, harrumph.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Probably won't be able to access the computer while I am gone. I admit, it always feels a little like a vacation when I am away from the machine. Though I will miss all my online friends.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
My friend Amy is the interim minister at a church in Pawcatuck and she is doing communion for the first time tomorrow. I have been thinking about that all week.
Tonight, I went to see my friend Sam in his band 'Entrain'. They were the headline act at the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament in New Bedford. Nguyen and the kids and I ate Portuguese food and drank the Madeira wine that the church uses for the Eucharist for the rest of the year. I am sorry I missed the big parade. I suspect they put some of the consecrated host into a monstrance and walk through the streets of New Bedford with it. I am sure it is a wonderful spectacle. Maybe I'll go next year!
While we were waiting for the band to start, we wandered around the side streets towards the church. It had all kinds of wonderfully gaudy decorations, a big plaster statue of the Virgin under a plexiglass cover. She was sporting a crown of blue Christmas lights and plastic flowers. At the entrance to the church, there were oak wine casks flanking the doors, to symbolize the Madeira wine that is made just for this feast.
We peeked in the door and realized that a mass was in progress, so we quietly backed away and wandered back towards the feast grounds.
Dinner was terrible, but wonderful, nonetheless. The food was pretty dreary. Overcooked and over salted. We had goat stew, baccalau, broiled chicken, caldo verde soup and fine Portuguese bread. The folks behind the buffet line offered to cook burgers for the boys and gave them an order of french fries to go with them. We sat at a table with a man who told us he had flown in from Seattle to attend the feast.
After dinner, which sat like a rock in the bottom of my stomach, I danced off all the calories while watching Sam and his band play. They were absolutely fantastic. I have to add music to the list of things that bring us together.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
My brother used to live downtown in the Methodist Church on a busy cross street in Providence. Across the street there is a convenience store that carries the usual milk, bread and potato chips. At some point, they began to carry cigarette papers and crack pipes, too. This upset my brother a great deal. He hurled invectives at the place and refused to shop there, even though it was the closest place around.
Today, we were at the same church hanging his gallery show. He has a series of photos from his trip to Southern Africa and the show goes up tomorrow. At some point, hungry and thirsty, I said I was going across the street for some drinks and a snack.
I stood at the refrigerator looking at the selection of drinks, when I noticed a smaller glass front refrigerated case off in a corner. Inside were tubs of kefir, a kind of creamy yogurt cheese. There were also clear tubs of what looked like humus, a paste made of chickpeas and sesame butter, lemon and garlic. I grabbed a tub of kefir and walked to the counter.
The girl behind the counter suddenly perked out of her lethargy and got a little interested.
'Do you know what that is?' she asked.
'Yes, isn't it a little like yogurt?' I replied.
'Yes! That is right!'
At which point her father walked out from the back room. He saw the kefir on the counter and got extremely excited. He ran and got a plastic spoon.
'Do you want to try?' he asked.
'Of course!' I laughed. He opened the lid and I realized that I had chosen one that had already been opened. No matter. The spoon slid into the thick white cheese and he handed a big blob of it to me. Heaven!
'Have another!' he said as he took the spoon back and dunked it again. (I guessed at this point I was buying this tub!)
'Wait. Try this...' he said as he hurried to the little refrigerator and came back with a tub of humus. He took the same spoon and scooped a big mouthful onto the end of it. The humus was incredible. Nothing at all like the oily, mealy variety you find in the grocery stores. This was a creamy tan color with striations of the greenish olive oil drizzled across the surface.
'Now this!' he laughed, pulling the lid off of a little container of flan.
During this whole feast at the counter, I learned that they were Syrians who had been living in the United States for 15 years.
When they discovered that the kefir, and now the humus, were intended as snacks, they ran to a freezer and pulled out a package of Syrian bread. Out came a slice which the daughter quickly defrosted in the microwave. The father slather kefir and humus on the bread and handed me a chunk to try. Oh, Heaven again.
I brought the feast back to the gallery in the church and relayed this story to my brother, who was convinced that the place must have changed hands since he had moved. Honestly, I don't think so. There were the same lottery tickets and crack pipes, alongside the potato chips and rolling papers. It just took someone to notice the kefir in the refrigerator to make connection with these owners..
In the Acts of the Apostles, God visits St. Peter in a dream. Three times he tells Peter that no food is impure. That it is ok to eat anything, despite the strict purity laws of the Jews of the day. Peter protests repeatedly, insisting that he would never eat food that wasn't pure... never eat with gentiles as is proscribed by the law. But God insists and moments later it is revealed that the servants of a Gentile are waiting for him to take him to join their master in a meal.
It seems to me that sharing a meal is one of the great moments of connection we, as humans, experience. Being invited to taste the food of a new friend's homeland, joining a former enemy at the table to eat and drink, sitting with people you don't yet understand or know, is truly miraculous in it's ability to bridge the gaps between us. Jesus taught this every time he broke bread with the broken. To eat with someone is to accept, love, heal.
Christians do this every time we take communion. I suspect Jesus chose that particular way of connecting because it is so powerful. Eating and drinking with each other is intimate. It is loving. It is radical, too, sometimes. We are drinking from the same cup. The doctors and lawyers. The professors and teachers. The addicts. The homeless. The sick. The well. The housewives, working people, students. Together we drink from the same cup and eat of the same body. With all Christians, everywhere in the world, for all of eternity. And with the person next to us at the rail.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
In the din that is midnight in my neighborhood, the thrum of traffic from the highway, the sounds of cars on the main road nearby, the crickets and tree frogs, I heard an owl for the first time in my life.
This site has samples of the song. My owl sang both last night.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Today I am grateful for morning prayer, a beautiful liturgy of the Episcopal church, based on the ancient practice of praying the hours. I woke up this morning and turned to my prayer book, read the psalms and a passage from the book of Judges and said the Lord's prayer, all before having my morning pee.
I am grateful for bible study at Grace, a spiritual adventure with participants from all walks of life, all ages, all economic, social and ethnic backgrounds, all states of mental health. We bridge what would ordinarily seem like an enormous chasm to come together in love and gratitude as we explore God's holy word. Praise to you, Lord Christ, that you always (always!) show up to participate.
I am grateful for breakfast with my new friend... an 18 year old with a vocation to the priesthood. We have only been friends for a few weeks and already I feel I have received great gifts from her. I pray, Lord, that I can offer her gifts, too.
Lord, I am grateful for my funny, silly, wonderful, children. They are, perhaps, the greatest gift you have ever given me.
I am grateful for my friend Amy and the amazing work you are doing in her and through her. I am privileged watch her journey unfold as she focuses her life on doing your work. Thank you for her ministry and her vocation, Lord, and for her friendship.
And oh, God, I can't even begin to speak of how grateful I am for the ministry of the crisis pregnancy center. I could never have guessed what it is like to be in the presence of such courage. These women are my heroes, Lord. They have such courage to choose the path of life. I can't say that I would have done the same had I been in their shoes at that point in my life. I can only stand in awe of them. I offer them all to you, Lord. I ask you to continue to be with them as they face the challenges in their lives. I know you are showering them in love and grace and I thank you for that. I thank you, Lord, for the babies who are coming into the world by your grace. You know them. You love them. They are your beautiful creation. I thank you, too, for the men and women who feel called to minister there. They are doing your work, Lord. Praise God.
Lord, I thank you for this day of miracles.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
It started a few years ago. I think a songbird dropped a single poop in our flower border. In that poop, the seeds of destruction were hiding. A shoot emerged the following year. Nothing to worry about, right? I donned a pair of kidskin garden gauntlets and yanked the offending shoot from the ground. It broke off suspiciously easily. A few days later, dozens more sprouts made their appearances in it’s place.
Now, at this point, I must admit that I am a weed gardener. By that I mean that the only plants that survive in my flowerbed are basically weeds. Echinacea, liatris, daylily, tickweed. I planted loosestrife before I realized what havoc it was causing in our wetlands. I look longingly at Joe Pye weed and aesclepias, knowing full well they would take over whatever ground they are planted in.
So I am not averse to weeds in the garden, but I want them to be there in my terms. The blackberries were pushy. They shot through the sweet yellow flowered bush my Italian neighbor gave me as a cutting. They bullied their way through the weedy flowers I had haphazardly planted. They marched across the shady spots, the sunny spots and everywhere in between. And every year I tried to pull them up, dig them out, catch them before they blossomed and bore fruit…. Because God knows if they drop seed, we are in trouble. The whole neighborhood will be taken over.
But this year, I got side tracked and the canes began to blossom before I got to them. And then I realized that they were heavy with unripe berries. Hundreds of them, bright red, waiting to ripen in the sun. So, against my better judgment, I left them to ripen.
Today, the harvest began. How much trouble can they cause if we are eating them, right? My 7 year old and I went out with a plastic container and collected the first cup of berries. We washed them when we noticed tiny green creatures crawling around on them. Tomorrow we’ll see if more are ripe. Then the next day. Then the next.
In the mean time, I have my gauntlet gloves ready for the final attack at the end of the summer. But secretly I wonder if a blackberry border would be such a bad thing after all.
Note: I am cross posting this to Ask4Moms.com. That is the parenting blog I write for with three friends. Come check us out!
I have been replacing the skins on some African drums lately. This is a painstaking process to learn. You start with a whole goat hide. In my case, the hides I am working with are from Mali. It comforts me to think that the goats were enjoyed as stew by a family in Africa.
The first step in the process is to soak the skin in warm water. I set it in a plastic bin in the bathtub. After a few hours it is pliable and soft.
Then I trim the skin to the size of the ring that will hold it onto the drum. The ring is being reused, so it is rusty and old, usually made of rebar that has been welded into a circle. I try to position the backbone skin of the goat down the center of the ring because it is the thickest part of the skin and you want the sound to be even.
Once the skin is on the drum, I try to tighten it evenly all the way around, pulling a rope here and there until the rings are centered. I have yet to master the art of keeping the bottom ring of the drum centered. There must be a trick to it that I don't know.
And then, the shaving. It is safer to do this while the skin is still wet because it is less dusty. African goats have been known to pick up anthrax spores, which grow naturally in the wild. There has been at least one case of an American catching anthrax from a goatskin he was working with. (Actually, he was an African living in Brooklyn.)
So I shave the skin on the drum while it is damp. I use a double edged razor blade, holding it carefully in one hand, bending it slightly with my thumb so that I have a curved blade to work with, which is less likely to nick the skin. Slowly, gently, I draw the blade towards me, working from the head end of the goat along the sides. It is hardest to shave the backbone, where the fur is very thick. The first time I did this, I was left with a bunch of nicks and little mistakes. Luckily I didn't have to scrap the whole thing. Yesterday, though, my technique had improved and the skin was beautiful afterwards.
Shaving is the slowest and most demanding part of the process, even if it isn't the most physical. It requires incredible concentration. It is easy to mess up, and if you mess it up badly enough, you have to start from scratch with another skin.
But it is also, for me, the most intimate part of the process. I get to know the goat. I come across a little scratch from a thorny bush, or a bug bite scar. I take off a tiny bit of fur at a time, getting to know it's spots and patterns. It's smell. It's texture. Yesterday I noticed a tiny swirl of fur that made me smile. I remember those swirls on the withers of the goats I have known in the past. This goat is long dead, but it lives as an organic part of something that will become joy, music, love.
At the end, when I am vaccuuming up the fur from my patio, when my hands are stuck with brown and white hair, when I find stray bits in my water glass (or wine glass!) I give a little prayer of thanks for the goat, the tree, and the spirit of the one who built the drum.
Monday, July 21, 2008
A clean inbox and an empty trash folder is the cyber equivalent of a clean desk.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I made some biffels. (Best Friends for Life)
I threw up. He said.
Andy, our councilor, was sick. (As in cool, not as in puking.)
He demonstrated his body building pose for me and told me about how cool chapel and compline and morning prayer were. He described the lake and the ox and showed me his arts and crafts project. I saw a picture of the kids in his cabin and heard about the navy showers. He lifted his shirt and showed me his six pack. He described how he and the biffels moved their bunks together so they could talk late into the night. His arm had all their phone numbers written in sharpie marker. He seemed to have grown 6 inches in one week. He gave me a big hug.
He can't wait to go next year.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
So, I am asking you for prayers. This has been a long road. He has been on the list for a transplant for a couple of months and today I am grateful that he is still on that list.
I ask you to be with my friend Carl in the hours, days and weeks ahead. Give him courage. Comfort him. Heal him.
I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
I have been teaching childbirth classes at a crisis pregnancy center here in RI.
It has been a little bit slow to start. For my first couple of series of classes I had one or two young mothers who would skip one or two of the classes. Some nights I would show up and no one would be there at all.
But we kept trying. The center's coordinator and I sat down and made a schedule for the classes for the whole year so now she can fit clients in according to due dates. People are starting to show up. Clients are coming in with their boyfriends or husbands.
I feel humbled and grateful that I can help these women prepare for their births. Some of them are confused and scared and I can reassure them that for at least this aspect of parenting, they can be prepared. And I help the dads, too. If the boyfriends or husbands show up, I teach them what to do to support their women during labor. I honor them for being a part of it. We are setting the stage for them to be active participants as parents and I tell you, you can see transformation happen before your very eyes. This is a miracle of God's grace.
Lots of times we get women who want to keep their babies and are looking for some support. But sometimes women who were planning abortions come to the center and change their minds. Sometimes those women end up in my class.
'Why do women who are planning an abortion come to the center in the first place?' I asked the coordinator.
She answered simply, 'The Lord brings them here.'
Which tells me that even in the midst of the chaos of fear, they are open, ever so slightly, to whisperings of God.
Praise to you, Lord Christ.
Friday, July 11, 2008
It has been developing slowly, but I am pretty convinced that my 3 1/2 pound rabbit, Theo, has fallen in love with me.
Lately, when I am lying on my bed, reading, he will jump up and come over for a snuggle. He takes his turn getting scratched, then returns the favor by licking my hand. If I try and pat him at that point, he actually gets mad and shoos my hand away.
Last night, I came home late. I crawled into bed in the dark and all of a sudden realized that Theo was bouncing around on the bed. I was laughing my head off, especially when he started walking across my sleeping husband.
Sigh. I am in love.
Look with mercy, O God our Father, on all persons who have become ill, weak, distressed, or isolated. Provide for them homes of dignity and peace; give them understanding helpers, and the willingness to accept help; and increase their faith and their assurance of your love. This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
|Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,|
|and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.|
|Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;|
|for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,|
|I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'|
|Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?|
|And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?|
|And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'|
|And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'|
Sunday, July 06, 2008
Yesterday I drove to Fall River for a drumming class and found, to my dismay, that even that wasn't enough to pull my from my depression. I got in the car to come home and cried, for no reason at all. Just because.
Today, I got up early, hoping to bring my sick friend with me to Grace, but he called to say he was too sick to go. I promised to say prayers for him.
When I got to church, I shared with friends that I was feeling punky. Then I noticed a young woman looking a little lost. I asked if it was her first time and she said, in broken English, that yes, it was. It turned out she is a South Korean exchange student visiting for the first time. I was flying solo today, so I asked her to join me.
Later, I was on the healing prayer team during communion. It was amazing to be praying for my fellow congregants. Truly, it feels like a privilege.
And then, after everyone had drifted back to their pews, I turned to my prayer partner and told her that my friend was ill and needed prayers. And suddenly, without warning, I started crying and said
"I feel like I have been a shitty friend to him."
At which point, the complexity of all my feelings around my friend's health crisis came to the surface.
So her prayers were for my friend, AND for me.
I got some prayers, said some prayers, made a new friend, and got to take communion with Jesus, all in one morning.
I love church.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Many readers of this blog are, in fact, God's workers. You have dedicated your life to ministry in an official capacity, going to work for the Big Guy in churches large and small. Some of you are community ministers, too. Ministering to the poor, the disadvantaged, the indigent or mentally ill.
Lately I have been grappling with what it means to live a life of service. I have been inviting God to take me up on my offer to be of service to him. I don't know yet, what it looks like, but I know that there are already things I am doing that feel like ministry.
My kids, for example, are perhaps the greatest ministry of all for me. And my childbirth classes. The Lectio group at church. For the last couple of weeks, pinch hitting for my rector at the bible study. Serving dinner to my friends at the soup kitchen. Praying the office.
Living a life of service changes you, I think. The other day, I heard that one of my son's schoolmates was caught smoking pot. In another life, my first concern would be fear for my son. Worry that HE would somehow get involved with this kid and his drugs. And that fear was there, of course. But my first thought was that this kid needs an adult desperately. He needs healing. He is a deeply troubled kid. I am praying for him. And maybe, at some point I will be given an opportunity to talk with him. I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me be of service to this boy. In the mean time, I had a word with my son and we talked about why drugs are a very bad choice. It was a great conversation.
What if we all lived a life of ministry?
What would the world look like?
What would our lives look like?
Friday, July 04, 2008
My brother lost his job this week. After 13 years, he was given two weeks' notice during a major restructuring. It wasn't just him. Every employee was laid off. The entire staff was given the pink slip.
Today in the paper I read that the electric monopoly here in RI wants to raise their rates by 21%.
Gas is $4.10 a gallon.
My oil bill was $900 to fill the tank last time and that was before the price of oil spiked.
Holy Shit. Moving to Vietnam is starting to look like a reasonable option. Anyone want to join me?
In other news, we are reading the book of Acts in our bible study and I am being reminded why it is one of my favorite books of the bible. I love the story of the Simon the magician and of Peter, who really mans up in this book. No more bumbling goofus. Nope, he is one tough cookie by this point.
Reading Acts with my friends at church is a sure fire way to keep me from being swallowed by fear. That and reading the daily office.
Here is today's psalm:
Psalm 142 Voce mea ad Domine
|1||I cry to the LORD with my voice; *|
to the LORD I make loud supplication.
|2||I pour out my complaint before him *|
and tell him all my trouble.
|3||When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path; *|
in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me.
|4||I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me; *|
I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me.
|5||I cry out to you, O LORD; *|
I say, "You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living."
|6||Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low; *|
save me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
|7||Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your Name; *|
when you have dealt bountifully with me,
the righteous will gather around me.
Monday, June 30, 2008
$300 in fees. Hours on the phone. Endless attempts at being patient with people who clearly could care less about any of it.
No trip to Newfoundland.
So, I finally get credit for our air miles. I transfered, at considerable non-refundable expense, some of my parent's miles so we would have enough for the flights to Canada. And then I call to make the reservations and there is exactly one flight to St. Johns available for the entire month of August, which flies out of Boston, via Toronto. We would land in St. Johns at 3am. But the single available return flight is 13 days later... which is impossible for us. In other words, Air Canada, United's nefarious demon-possessed partner in crime, has blacked out the entire summer for air miles users. And because Air Canada is run by the government, they don't have to play by any rules at all. They ARE the rules.
1 flight. For the entire month.
I give up.
I now have 100K miles which we are unable to use. I called my folks to tell them the bad news on Saturday.
Dad called me back this morning with a counter proposal. We think we are going to drive to Nova Scotia and hang out together at the halfway point for a week.
Airlines (all of them) be damned.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
And then, I got to this-
Watch people run in fear »
That is so bad it is almost funny.
I didn't watch. Instead, I wondered who came up with that tag for the video? And what kind of a world do we live in, anyway?
Lord, help me keep my eyes on you today.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
was when I sat on the phone for over an hour this morning talking to a 'supervisor' in the United Airlines Mileage Plus call center in Manila, trying, for the 5th or 6th time, to get my air miles credited from our trip to Vietnam.
After 3 months of phone calls, letters, emails, more phone calls, I actually broke down and started crying on the phone.
We will not be able to fly to Canada this summer to see my parents if the miles don't get credited because we can't afford the $3200 it will cost to fly to Newfoundland. At this point, even if they DO credit the miles, it is looking unlikely that we will get them in time to get flights.
The worst thing is that the people they have manning the phones in Manila are like talking to a computer. Absolutely NO sense that you are dealing with a human being.
So there I was, an hour into the call, bawling my brains out, and the guy on the other end of the phone just kept repeating the same thing over and over again. 'We will send an email to Rapid City. No we can't call them. No we can't expedite this. No we have no record that you ever called."
I hate United Airlines.
edited to add:
I didn't work in call centers for 10 years for nothing. I found the back door toll number to the office in Rapid City, SD and called to speak to a nice woman who was able to fix the problem in less than 10 minutes. 3 months and 10 minutes later. Sigh.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Almost every morning my father made me breakfast. My favorite was a bagel with cream cheese and red onion and a cup of black coffee.
Thanks, Dad. I have never forgotten that.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Where, dear reader, did I get this idea? There is nothing in the scriptures that promises that. In fact, it is basically the opposite. 'Pick up your cross daily' is not a promise that being a Christian will be a walk in the park.
And for me, it goes further. Somewhere in my head, I began to equate pain and suffering (especially emotional pain) with....sin.
I realize that when I am in pain, when I am suffering, I start looking around for a sin to blame. (And unlike Job, I usually can find something!) I have an underlying belief that I am inevitably the cause of my own suffering, through some sin or other. Not only that, I realize that I have a sense of shame around pain. I want to hide my pain because it is shameful.
Is this my past, new age, theology rearing it's ugly head? Is this the whole 'you draw this energy to yourself' stuff?
I remember when my friend Steve died of a drug overdose several years ago. I was devastated. But I knew that he was with God... off to a better place. I felt like I wasn't 'spiritual' enough if I was experiencing this much pain over his death. Thank God for the priest at the funeral, who preached on Jesus crying with Mary and Martha at Lazarus' grave. I suddenly felt permission to cry, to grieve.
I sometimes try to connect my suffering to that of Jesus, but if I have this underlying idea that I don't have the right to feel pain, it becomes a hollow gesture.
After rereading Job, I realize that I may never understand suffering, but that is ok, too. In the end, Job realized that he would never get it, either.
I need to pray about this.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Regular readers know that for the last couple of years, I have been facilitating a Lectio Divina group at my church on Sundays before the service.
I tell you, it has been an incredible gift. Every week we get together and read the gospel lesson for the day, and then prayerfully invite God to speak to us through it. And every week something extraordinary happens. The Holy Spirit shows up and we all more or less sit in awe and thanksgiving at the miracle of God's love.
I am finding that Lectio has impacted me in other ways... specifically in my ability to grapple with difficult passages in the bible.
Today, for example, at bible study, we were reading Acts 5. This is a brutal chapter about Ananias and his wife Sapphira dropping dead when it is discovered that they withheld on their donation to the Christian community. (I joked that this should be our Stewardship scripture passage this year... but my priest said no, darn it.)
It is a challenging passage, to be sure. But after a couple of years of regular Lectio, I have learned to resist the temptation to judge a scripture, and instead, let it speak to me. Engage with it. Grapple with it, yes, but in an open minded way. When I do this, crazy stuff can happen.
I always approach bible stories from the perspective that God is Love. That means that in stories where God appears to behave badly, I assume that I am not getting the whole picture. In the case of Ananias, though, it doesn't ever say that God struck him down. Nor does it say that Peter cursed him and he died. It simply states that when Ananias was confronted with the fact that he was holding back from God, he died.
I can put myself in his place. I know that there have been moments in my life when I was confronted with the contrast between Jesus' sacrifice and my own shittiness. Last year on Good Friday I spent the whole three hour service in such a state of distress that by the time I got to the confession with my parish priest, I was beside myself.
Let's imagine that Ananias and his wife were actually around when Jesus got executed. Let's imagine that they truly loved God... that they understood the power of Jesus' death and resurrection. But somehow, in the midst of their lives, they lost their connection to God just long enough to let petty fear get into their hearts. Fear of economic loss. Fear of the instability that happens when you give up everything. And that fear caused them to hold back on their donation, just as it does for me, sometimes.
When Peter confronts Ananias, in the blazing moment of realization, I can imagine being so grief stricken as to simply
The Jews believed that when you encountered God, the energy was so great you couldn't survive it. You were annihilated on the spot. Is it possible that Ananias and Sapphira saw God in that moment? That, perhaps, it was not only the moment of their deaths, but also the moment of their redemption? I pray for his and Sapphira's souls that that was true.
In Lectio Divina, we invite God to speak to us through the scriptures. We open ourselves to how the scripture relates to our own lives. Today, I began to think about ways that I have been letting fear creep in and distract me from God.
Maybe this story speaks something totally different for you. That is the beauty of this living word, this gift from God.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.
With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?
Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.