Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Today I am missing Vietnam

My parents are heading back to Canada on Sunday and I am sad that they are leaving. Our trip to Vietnam in February really changed the dynamic of our relationship, I think. We are much closer after having experienced that together.

One of my favorite blogs is Vietnamese God. Always there are stunning photos of the country I miss so much.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Way closing

I have been reading a book on discernment by Parker Palmer, a Quaker, called Let Your Life Speak.

I am doing this because a friend has asked me to be on her 'discernment team' and it is required reading by the diocese of RI.

I have gotten to a chapter that I am getting something out of. When Way Closes.

There is, evidently, a Quaker expression, 'way opens' when God means for you to go in a certain direction and the way opens before you. I have certainly had this happen in the past. It happened when I stumbled on Bell Street Chapel, my UU church. And again with Grace Church, my current, Episcopalian, church.

But the author says that there is another variation on this... when a door closes firmly behind you before the next door has opened.

This, too, is something I have experienced. I left Bell Street when I knew it was time to close that door, even though my next step was far from clear. I had no clue what denomination I was going to be. No clue what church I was going to join. No sense of direction at all.... except that the Unitarian Universalists were NOT it.

Lately I have felt way closing behind me and am totally unsure of the the way forward. I have basically stopped doing my kitchen tools business. I am thinking that sales is NOT my way. So far I haven't completely abandoned it... keeping my toe in the water just in case the inspiration hits me and I want to resume my business. But the truth is, I feel the door closing and it is a little scary because I don't have the next thing lined up. I have absolutely no idea, in fact, what the next thing might be.

Here's where I stand:

I love my church.
I love to play my drum.
I love teaching.
I love learning.
I need to make some money. (not too much...)

Lord, I am asking you to nudge me, ever so slightly, in the direction you wish for me to go.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sometimes my feelings get hurt

I am still a sensitive high school kid under this pulled together exterior. Sometimes the cool kids don't invite me to the party and I want to go in the girl's room and cry about it.

But damn it.

As a Christian, I think I am supposed to grow out of that. I am supposed to worry about what I can do for God. What I can do for others. Not what others may or may not think of me.


It is hard to break a lifetime of habits.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jimmy Santiago Baca

My friend Emily fell in love with Jimmy Santiago Baca's poetry, and as is her custom when such things happen, she wrote him to tell him about it.

He wrote back.

Thus began a long and fruitful correspondence. He had started a foundation to bring literacy programs to prisons. She helped edit an anthology of prisoner's writing. She even invited me to write a crit of one of the pieces. My mother, a poet herself, wrote one too.

In all the time Emily has talked about Baca, I never read any of his work. I read the interviews she emailed me. I visited his site. I checked out his bio. But somehow I never read a poem or story.

So when Emily arranged for Baca to come to RI for a series of readings and workshops, I decided to go check him out myself.

I arrived at the reading at AS220 late. I was coming from a meeting and slipped in the back of the room and sat on the floor.

Jimmy read 3 poems and told stories between them. He is a great story teller. His poems are stories, too, drawing you deeply into the emotional core of what he is talking about. He read one, El Gato, about a man who saw hope and love and need in his infant daughter and at that moment turned from a life of violence and despair. I was breathless hearing this poem. The hope of the world is contained in this poem.

Afterwards, Emily invited me to join them for a late supper and I almost didn't go, but at the last minute, said yes.

I sat next to Jimmy and spent the next hour or so listening to him telling stories about his life. Emily laughed afterwards about the look on my face as I listened. I don't know what I looked like, but I know how I felt. I hung on every word. All I kept thinking was, this guy is a miracle. This guy's life is a miracle. God has pulled him from the abyss and I am sitting here, in a restaurant in Providence, witnessing a miracle of God's love.

What is the miracle? If you read Jimmy's bio, you learn that his life was shit. Prison, drugs, a completely dysfunctional family. It was bad. Like, so bad you can't imagine how anyone can drag themselves out of it, bad. Hearing him talk about his past was bizarre. The stories made my hair stand on end... and yet, there he was, this beautiful spirit. This big LOVE. This man who wants to help people who are desperate. This crazy-talented writer.

I think only God can pull off a transformation like that. I felt like I was sitting next to a miracle and it made me want to fall to my knees in gratitude.

I cried in the car on the way home. I thanked God in my prayers. I spent the next day in a fog.

At dinner, I told Jimmy that I think there are sometimes defining moments of transformation in our lives. That if we live a life open to them, these moments can change us forever.

There have been a few of these for me.

In every case, I suspected that something big was happening, but I didn't know exactly what. I suspected these moments had meaning far beyond what I could discern. That they were signs of some huge shift.

Now I add one more:

The night I had dinner with Jimmy Santiago Baca.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The spirit of Pentecost

Oh, boy, do the Episcopalians know how to put on a show! What a great scene at Grace church today.

First, it was packed. I'd say easily 250 to 300 folks in the pews. We had 6 baptisms, 3 dove kites flying around, 20 people reading the gospel in all different languages, and, yes, African drumming. Sidy, Lisa, Lucia and I played after the collect and after the gospel reading. Later, we played out on the sidewalk during the party at coffee hour.

For me, Pentecost is a personal favorite. My kids were baptized two years ago on Pentecost. I had the second part of my own baptism on that day. And I am just a sucker for the whole Holy Spirit descending to earth thing.

Perhaps the best part of the day, for me though, was at 5:30. I was early for my drumming class, having brought Noah to youth group. So I laid down in the very last pew and just stared up at the ceiling. I said a quiet prayer of thanks for the fact that my step mother took communion today. And for the wonderful experience of playing with my teacher in my church. After today, I think he understands more about me, because church is such a big part of who I am.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of the Spirit in the church. I pray that we are worthy to receive you. I pray that we shine the light of your love into the darkness of this world.


Friday, May 02, 2008

I will miss

the Wednesday evening Eucharist at Grace church.

It is winding down for the season in a couple of weeks. We don't know whether it will resume in the fall, but I pray that it does. It has become an important part of our week. And as much as some days I would love to sit in the chancel alone with my thoughts and meditations, I am mostly thrilled that my children and husband come with me each week to worship and celebrate.

It is a beautiful service. The whole thing takes place in candlelight. We sit in the choir boxes, facing each other. There is a lot of singing. The prayers of the people, even, are sung by the congregation. It is often deeply moving.

I am going to miss it over the summer. I hope it will continue in September.