Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wedding Ring Wrangle

While planning to rededicate our marriage, my priest mentioned that he would bless our wedding rings.  I felt a moment of anxiety.  I haven't worn my wedding ring for at least a couple of years, because I am a drummer and I was worried that constantly taking it off to play would make it more likely that I would lose it.

So I went home and started looking for my ring.

Which I couldn't find.

I ransacked my jewelry box, my bureau, all the likely spots where I would have stashed it.  I looked for days.

Finally, I decided that I would need to get a new one.  Nguyen and I went to a Cambodian jewelry store near the Asian market and I picked out a very plain gold band.  Looked fine, felt fine.

Of course, a couple of weeks later, I found my original ring.  But since it was a little less comfortable, I decided to keep wearing the new one.

But then I lost it.  I took it off for drum class and hooked it on my drum.  And forgot to put it back on, so the ring goes missing.  I searched my car, drum bag, the studio where we play, everywhere.  Nowhere to be found.

So, out comes my original ring.  It is a sweet ring... channel set sapphires in a simple gold band.  It fits snugly enough that I can wear it while playing with drum sticks, so I don't even have to take it off for class.

Yesterday, I was playing drums at McAuley House.  My stick bag fell off the chair and dumped my sticks on the floor.  As I was picking it up, I heard a little tinkle sound.  And sure enough, there, on the floor, was my plain gold wedding band.

I decided to put it on my RIGHT hand... so now I have two.

Which in a funny way, seems appropriate.  Nguyen and I were married almost 25 years ago, but it wasn't a Christian wedding.  A month ago, we rededicated our marriage in the Church and in a way, it is like part two of our original wedding.  Two parts of the same, wonderful, event.

So for today I am wearing both rings to remind me of the double blessing of our marriage.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Into the silence 2.0

Last year about this time I went away for a silent retreat and came back a Roman Catholic.  In the silence, I heard God asking me if I was willing to carry the cross.  I heard God calling me to the Catholic faith.  I remember how it felt.  I cried a lot.  I felt joy and terror and peace and Jesus.  It was such a big, sweet, loving, encounter.

Simon of Cyrene was there.  The cloud of witnesses looking on.  The quiet of an empty church and solitude.  I wrote a lot, and read scripture.  I slept for hours at a time.  I walked.

When I got back I was teetering on the edge of radical change and knew it.  And knew it would be hard.  And suspected it would be beautiful.  I was thirsty, so thirsty for deeper connection with Christ.  I longed for him.  It was at once lovely and painful.

I met with a priest and began the unpleasant task of finding a parish.  It was funny that it had never occurred to me that being a Catholic meant finding a new church.  Truly one of my least favorite tasks....  I checked out a few parishes and mostly felt uncomfortable and foreign.  Thankfully, I wound up in a church with a wonderful pastor.  He met with me weekly to prepare for confirmation.  I also met with a couple from the church.  And while the process was hard, it was also clear that it was the right process.

For me, the liturgical year feels more relevant than the calendar one.  Christ the King is coming and I am coming to the close of one of the most eventful years in my spiritual journey.  When I look back, I can hardly believe that in the midst of all the chaos at my work, I was simultaneously undergoing a radical spiritual transformation.  But I believe that the conversion was a gift God gave me to equip me for the work he has planned for me.

This year, as I enter into silence and the rhythm of the Liturgy of the Hours, I pray that I will, once again, seek his will for me.  And rest in his presence.  And praise him.  And love him.  I love Him.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Elizabeth Claire

I have never gotten a straight answer for why you had to die.  I have heard, variously, that you were going to have some sort of birth defect, or that you were going to be a financial burden.  I suspect it was deeper than any of those things.

But I am sure that if you had made it into the world, we would have loved you, regardless of your health or costs.

And though in this life I can never know for sure whether you were a boy or a girl, I always think of you as my sister.

I pray for the day I will see you again.

Prayed up

This past week has been an extremely busy one for me and my team at CareNet.  We were getting ready for our annual banquet and were expecting 560 people.  Always, always, there are dozens of last minute additions, changes, cancellations, and table shifts.  In the midst of all of this frenzy, I need, as the main speaker, to remain in a place of calm, open to the quiet promptings of the Holy Spirit.

It seemed easier this year.

First, we did a great job of organizing.  We had a team of folks who showed up every week to help and a group of people who were dedicated to praying for us every day.

I was extremely intentional about taking time for prayer.  I began to pray the liturgy of the hours the week before and found it to be a God send.  (Literally, of course)  In the midst of the hubbub at work I would slip into one of the private rooms with my ipad and read the prayers for that hour.  Every day I would start the morning with the office and morning prayer.  Every night I would end with Compline.

I went to Mass nearly every day.  After, if it wasn't a work day, I would drive to Oakland beach and park my car, drinking coffee while soaking in the beauty of the day.  I sat in silence, waiting for God to nudge me.  I had a notebook and pencil and would jot ideas as they came to me.  Eventually, these ideas came together to form my address.  And while my team was nervous that on Monday I still didn't have my speech prepared for the event on Thursday, I was in a state of quiet expectation, knowing that God was going to give me the words.

On Tuesday,on the way home from the beach, I stopped at St. Timothy's and sat in the adoration chapel for awhile.  Jesus calmed my soul.

On the night of the banquet, I was very very busy greeting over 500 folks, chatting with pastors and friends and supporters.  I spent hours at the venue, checking on details, working with the AV guys, rearranging the table chart at the last minute to fix a mistake.  It would have been so easy to get stressed or frazzled, especially because some of the folks around me were.

But I felt a sense of complete calm and peace in the midst of all of it.  I knew what God had given me to say.  I had practiced it several times and felt absolutely sure that I could do no better.  Periodically I would duck into a tiny room off the lobby of the venue, shut the door and rest in his presence for a moment or two before heading back out.

And when I walked up to the stage to address the assembled guests, I had no nervousness at all.  I opened my mouth and spoke the words God had given me and let the Holy Spirit take control.  It was a wonderful night and a great experience to be in the midst of his embrace, his will, his love.

Prayer.  No kidding.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

I count it joy

I love being a Catholic.  Never have I felt closer to Jesus.  Never have I felt more in tune with God.  I am on the ride of my life in the church that Jesus himself established and it is incredible.  I get to take communion.  I get to sit in adoration.  I get to pray the psalms.  I am standing just inside the door of the body of Christ himself.

I love being a Catholic.

I just needed to say that.

Divine liturgy is, well, Divine.

A friend suggested I pray the daily office.  (If you must know, it was my spiritual director.  About 10 years ago.)

As an Episcopalian, I found it a bit complicated.  I had an Book of Common Prayer, but it didn't actually contain the readings for the office... so you had to look them up in the bible, flipping back and forth.  It was a pain, frankly.  There were versions online that had all the readings, but I just never found reading the office on the computer screen that satisfying.  So, I stuck with the psalms.  In my most impoverished period I was squeaking by with one psalm a day.  Pathetic, I know.

A year ago, I began to thirst.  As a deer longs for the brook, so my soul longed for scripture.  I began to read the bible every day, vaguely following a 'read the bible in a year' schedule.  It broke down to 2  chapters of old testament, 1 psalm, 1 section of proverbs and 1 chapter of the New Testament every day.  I began this in November, so I just started where I was.  Come January, I found myself at the beginning of the bible and have been reading through ever since.  In the summer I finished the New Testament, so at that point I started to read the Deutero Canonical texts instead.

My same spiritual director suggested that maybe this year, I start reading the bible by praying the Divine Office instead.  As Advent is approaching, I thought I would give it a try.  This time, I ordered the books that actually contain the readings.  By now I am a Catholic, so I ordered the Catholic version.  While waiting for them to arrive, I found an app for my phone.  For the last few mornings, I have been reading my 2 chapters of Jeremiah and then moving on to the Daily Office, which is 4 psalm sections and a chapter or so of scripture and then a part of a homily or writing of a saint or some section of one of the councils all tied together with some beautiful prayers.  It is a lot of reading, but it still only takes about 30 minutes or so.

The full liturgy can be as much as 7 times of prayer a day.  I have found myself, over the last couple of days, reading the prayers whenever I have a free moment.  Yesterday, I read the prayers 5 times.  Today it was 3 and I am going to read compline before bed.

I found out that priests in the Roman Catholic Church are required, by canon law, to pray the entire liturgy of the hours every day.  This amazes me, frankly.  Amazes and awes me.  (I find the priesthood pretty awesome, to be honest.)  That means that every parish priest is spending about 2 hours a day in prayer.

As a lay person we are not required to pray the hours, but even just in the last couple of days, I have gotten a tiny taste of what it must be like to order your life around regular prayer.  And the fact that you are praying with every priest, monk and nun on the planet is genuinely humbling.  For me, that this has been going on for over 1000 years just adds to it's power.

I hope that this becomes a regular part of my daily life.


Sunday, November 03, 2013

It's not that bad

At first it was like somebody shoving a knife into my heart. I felt sick in my stomach. I felt anger and pain, sorrow, sadness and rejection. Someone finally withdrew their support from my organization because they believe that the Catholic Church teaches heresy.  Does that make me a heretic, I wonder?  Ah well.  No matter.  While the enemy is having a field day watching christians splinter into ever tinier fragments, I am going to focus on the work at hand. I went to Mass with my beloved husband and let the prayers of the ancient church wash over me.  I am going to try and stop taking it personally and try to accept rejection with grace, letting it unite me closer to my sweet Jesus in his suffering.  Him whom the pharisees rejected is the cornerstone of my life.  I pray for unity, forgiveness and compassion.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The Feast of All Saints

For me, the definition of a saint is one who says YES to God.  My dream and goal is to live a life that is one big yes.

Yes, I will follow you to a river and be washed clean by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I will embrace the sacramental quality of my marriage and dedicate it to you.  I will say yes to raising my children to be Godly men.

Yes, I will sacrifice all that I am in order to follow you.

Yes, I will try to live a life worthy of you, sweet Friend.  And I will fail.  And I will confess and continue to ask the Holy Spirit to sanctify me despite my brokenness and sin.

Yes I will endure ridicule, disdain and even hatred in your name and the name of your blessed church.  I will say yes to rejection. I will trust you.  I will love you.  And when I falter, I will crawl back to you on my knees and beg the Holy Spirit to fill me with the courage and fortitude that is not mine, but yours.

I thank you, sweet Jesus, for all the saints you have put in my life.  My husband.  My sons. My spiritual director.  My beautiful and Godly co-workers.  My priest.  Thank you for all you have done for me through them.  Thank you for their patience and ministry and love.  May you bless them abundantly in this life and the next.

Sweet Friend, you have asked for so little and given me so much.

Today I say YES.