Saturday, October 23, 2010

Shakespeare it's not...

...But I have been reading over some of my earliest blog posts this morning, and it is amazing to revisit the early part of my walk with Christ. I don't think it is a coincidence that I started this blog in 2005, right about the time I left the Unitarian Universalist Church and began seeking a Christian community. This coincided with the 2nd anniversary of my baptism.

I visited a few Episcopal Churches, many of which have since closed. I visited a very soulful Roman Catholic church that moved me so much I cried through every service. It, too, has closed. I railed at God about throwing me in the desert to wander from place to place with no sense of home. Advent of that year was one of the darkest times I can remember.

But through it all I believe that God was working.

And looking over the old posts, I am moved by how evident it is that the Holy Spirit had my by the hand.

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Living it

For several years now there has been a bible study at Grace on Sunday mornings called "Live it". I can't remember if I have ever sat in on it before, but today I got up early and joined the conversation.

The whole thing takes place out in the narthex. (Foyer). And because we are who we are, the group is made up of a mash up of folks. Today we had a retired priest, a few folks from Crossroads, the facilitators and me.

I like the format. They use the readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. We read the collect, the Gospel lesson, some of the letter from Paul to Timothy and more from my friend Jeremiah. After each reading we talked about them.

God breathed

And gave us scripture

And today I was so happy to be reading it with friends, new and old.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Back to Africa

In January I am heading back to Mali for a couple of weeks. I have already started packing.

I am not excited. No. Not at all.

This time, I am bringing my eldest son with me. About a month ago I asked him if he wanted to go and at first he said no. But after thinking about it and talking to a friend, he decided that he did want to go. I am beside myself.

There will be an interesting group of us traveling together. 2 teens, a 20 something year old drummer from a rock band, a middle aged mom (me) and possible a 60 something drumming student from my church. Pack us all up in my Honda Fit and we'll make the trip to NYC to take a plane to Mali via Casa Blanca. The entire journey will take at least 24 hours. But traveling, as with everything, breaks down into a series of steps. First the drive to NY. Then the flight to Morocco. A long layover. A flight to Mali. And then we are there and the world expands before our very eyes.

Lord, I praise you for the beauty of your creation.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Might be time to read Jeremiah

I have been keenly aware of the pressure I am under, especially at work. It is a tough job, heading up a charity that depends 100% on donations to survive. Not only am I about supporting my staff and keeping the organization on an even keel, but I am also a figure head that represents the organization out in the world. And there are times when that feels like a very heavy load to carry. Because, lets be honest, I am just as much of a goof ball as the next guy. It is crazy that the way people feel about me would have anything to do with whether they support the ministry... but I know it does.

About Babylon:

I will admit, there are times when I feel like I am in exile. We have a new priest at my church and the transition has been way harder than I expected. Right at the moment when I need stability, the rug has been pulled out from under me. The bible study I have been attending for 4 years just got canceled. Lectio Divina isn't happening on Sundays anymore. I have no relationship with the new guy, so I really can't imagine talking to him about any of this.

Lord, I know you have a plan for all of this. I will pray for strength and courage and perseverance.

Monday, October 04, 2010

I'm thriving, thanks.

My local hometown bird cage liner (The Providence Journal) has recently started a themed section called Thrive that appears on Monday mornings. This section of the paper is entirely devoted to New Age spirituality in all it's various forms. There are articles on Feng Shui, yoga poses and 'finding your inner strength'. Today's version had story after story about how women are leaving churches in droves to seek God within themselves. They described a bookstore where you can find crystals that will help you channel your inner healing energy to treat your cancer, or buy a smudge stick of sage to get rid of negative energy in your house.

I've been there, done that, believe me. I was the high priestess of the church of what's happening now, following every rabbit hole for a sense of peace and serenity. I did smudge sticks, runes, tarot cards, astrology, new agey music and chakra healing. I tried to manifest my destiny with positive visualization and crystal meditations. For the majority of my adult life, I was a seeker. What I didn't realize until after I was a 'finder' was that the very thing I was seeking was a deeper relationship with God.

And you know what? That seeking led me to get baptized in a pond in Chepachet. And in that pond I found out that a deeper relationship with God requires only one thing- Jesus. No crystals, no trances, no mystical music, no burning weeds or pseudo native spirituality. No purchases in New Age bookstores. None of it could bring me to a place of peace. Always, always, my soul was restless within me.

In fact, I think that a great deal of spiritual damage has been done by the New Age stuff. There is a perpetual sense that if only you were more spiritual, you would handle life better. If only you could visualize more powerfully, your cancer would go into remission. If only you search more effectively within you, your relationships would be great, your friends kind and generous and your dog would stop pooping on the rug. When you become God, you end up responsible for everything in your universe.

I ran into a friend who is fully in the grip of the New Age stuff. I asked how she was doing and it was clear that she was really having a hard time. Life has been a challenge lately, and she believes that she is somehow responsible for all of it. She believes that if she were just more focused, things would magically resolve. It is a heavy burden, I tell you. One that I carried for years. (Why oh why can't I just manifest the thin, rich, happy woman I think I should be?)

When I saw my friend, I wanted to just shower her with the REAL love. The love that has only one source. The love that is not dependent on us in any way. The love that flows freely whether we deserve it or not. I wanted to shake her and say 'Put down your copy of The Secret and try this instead' and hand her the New Testament. It's all there, my sweet friend. All the secrets we need to know are right there.

For me, no more searching. My spirit is no longer disquiet within me. I am armed with scripture, an abiding trust in Christ and a religious community in which I can grow as a Christian.

And finally, my dear friends, I am thriving.

My heart is not proud, O Lord,

my eyes are not haughty;

I do not concern myself with great matters

or things too wonderful for me.

But I have stilled and quieted my soul;

like a weaned child with its mother,

like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord

both now and forevermore.

Psalm 131 NIV

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A secret love

I have been playing djembe for over 4 years now, but I have to admit, I have always wanted to play the dun duns. Dun duns are the big bass drums in the West African drum ensemble. They are the booming, melodic backbone upon which the other drums weave their magic spells. It is a heavy responsibility to carry the whole rhythmic structure of a piece. If the dun duns mess up, the djembes, the dancers, the whole thing comes to a screeching halt.

Dun duns are big wooden cylinders covered on both ends with thick cowhide. You play them with sticks made out of a very light and fibrous wood that is remarkably strong for being so light. They are about an inch in diameter and have a hammer head embedded in one end.

My teacher has lent me his set of dun duns and I am learning a few songs. I have been practicing like crazy over the last couple of days and having a ball doing it. I have put the set of big drums in the corner of my dining room and every time I walk by I pull up a chair and play for awhile.

Hey, do me a favor. Don't tell my djembes, ok?