Tuesday, December 25, 2007
It is Christmas morning in our house, as it is in much of the world. Even the Orthodox are celebrating the Feast of the Nativity today. (We rarely align, due to different calendar systems. How unlikely!) After heating yesterday's coffee, setting a fresh pot going, and putting rice on for our diarrheic dog, I turned my attention to our kitchen table, which has been buried under cookies and candy and boxes and tissue and ribbon and communion bread for a long time.
That table was its own record of the season. 16 days ago, we had friends over to bake cookies, drink wine, eat amazing hors d'oeuvres, and generally celebrate friendship. The table never really emerged from that event, as we continued to pack cookie bags and wrap staff and team leader gifts and sort through dog harnesses and xmaswear and take phone notes and make lists.
This morning, I packed the last three cookie gifts, condensed the remainder, put away the boxes and tissue and ribbon, and swept up the crumbs and more sticky reminders. Then, I turned to the table that holds our little stereo, unburied the advent candles, and replaced them on the table.
Two have been burned. Two have not, and the Christ candle looks as virgin as the Holy Mother herself.
Somewhere around December 9, our world cleaved. We got a call from our adoption agency, asking us if we wanted to connect with a certain birthmother, living in Florida, due to give birth on January 3. On December 20, we had spoken with her, flown her to California, and were meeting with her and the agency to work out details. Since then -- five days ago -- we have moved her twice, scoured the area for affordable weekly housing (don't bother -- it's not here), collected gently-loved baby goods from our church family, run countless errands, gone to clinics and Medi-Cal offices. And: planned 4 worship services, written sermons and entire liturgies, led small groups, thrown parties, created graphics, rehearsed, decorated, redecorated, and redux over the last week of the divine waiting. Did I mention prayer? There's been a lot of prayer in there.
Things could still go differently than we imagine. The birthmother could change her mind. The baby could not survive. The birthfather could decide to contest. The last remaining Indian tribe might claim the child, with scarcely a drop of native blood, as its own. There are lots of unknowns in this scenario, including God's will.
Today is Christmas, and a young woman is very far from home, staying at an inn, waiting for the birth of her child. And we, we are exhausted and terrified, and very very hopeful.
Yesterday's doctor said the baby isn't going to wait until January 3.
Improbably, the word "cleave" has two precisely different meanings. To cleave is to "split or divide as if by a cutting blow." It is also "to remain faithful."
You can tell by the advent candles when our lives cleaved. We need to light them all tonight, on this first day of Christmas, to celebrate the arrival of the long-expected babe.
Painting: Nativity, by He Qi (China)
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
(As background, we had just read Luke 3:21-38, where Luke tells of Jesus' baptism and then gives his lineage. Or not. I noticed for the first time the qualifier in verse 23, where Luke writes "He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph." Luke is taking pains to contrast God's paternal claim on Jesus at baptism, and the common belief about his "paternal" ancestry through Joseph.)
Wonderful husband gives this idea (my words -- his were better): Jesus in the flesh was the constant creative tension between his humanity and his utter divinity. That is, every moment, every action, was a pushme-pullyou of those competing natures -- utter particularity and utter universality -- shown definitively in his cries on the cross.
That took us on to other things (and discovering that wonderful husband is pretty much a Christian Platonist), which is always fun.
Then, he decided I was becoming an apocalyptic, aiming for/reveling in the ushering-in of God's kingdom, a/k/a the End Times. (Not in the paperback novel sense, for Christ's sake. No leaving the car behind for me!) I told him I'm still all about Process.
So, apparently, I'm a "Process Apocalyptic."
Which, I'm inclined to think, reflects the can't-help-but-live-it theology of my Lord.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....
The miscellaneous yet ubiquitous 2nd rate candy: waxy chocolate, candy canes, stale ribbons. And, every plate of cookies or cakes that is very kindly given but enough for 12 people, unless I see it first. Especially the shortbread/spritz cookies that are made with nonbutter and no finesse.
Oh, golly, and rum/bourbon balls. What a waste of cocoa and spirits.
2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)
3) tradition (church, family, other)
We've pretty much blown apart the traditions in our house and made them the way we want them. So I'll have to say consumerism.
Blown up anything on lawns. The image of Santa praying at Jesus' manger. Cutesy statuettes. Over-the-top electrics.
5) gift (received or given)
I've done some poor gift giving myself, just totally guessing wrong. Worst I've received? Any one I wasn't expecting from a giver expecting reciprocation. Or the childhood ones with long and strong strings.
Aaah, but there are so many to choose from. The whole Nutcracker. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. Christmas songs sung sexily, generally. All I Want For Xmas Is My 2 Front Teeth. And, truly, by 12/26, any background soft strings or Muzak version of anything.
Bad blogger! Bad!
Friday, November 23, 2007
Thank you, Jeanne.
by Jeanne McKinley
About a year ago I woke up to a strange hum. I was disoriented by it at first, didn't even know what the sound was, so I got up, looked out the window and saw a steady line of cars driving down the hill.
What in the world?
Are they evacuating the neighborhood and nobody told us?
I looked at the clock, it was 4:45am, then it hit me -- it was the day after Thanksgiving.
I remember being blown away by the fact that my entire neighborhood was on their way to be the first ones out for the store buster prices, free socks or scarves or whatever other item the store would be dangling to bring us in, and then I had a moment of panic,
"Oh no, I'm going to miss it!"
I was missing the sales that would help me save money on Christmas presents!!
And then I remembered...
I had done that before, joined in the throng, jumped in the fray of craziness at 5am, I thought I had been missing something by not being a part of the American ritual of day after Thanksgiving sales. I realized, as I was standing in a line that wrapped around to the middle of the store that I had fallen for it, the idea that I needed to buy these socks at a great discount and that my family would be really excited about these fleece coats that were the "hottest thing" -- though I wasn't saving money because I had grabbed about 7 other things not on my list, but that I just Had to have.
I've been thinking about resistance today, the idea that this is my chance, as the holiday shopping season heats up, to resist. It's not easy. Resistance is a word that you feel, as I choose to not buy fun looking, sparkly junk that will put a momentary gleam in my children's eyes or make my house look pretty, I can feel that at times. As I choose to create things that will be meaningful and relational but will take effort and my time and frustration when it's not looking like I wanted it to, I feel that.
Here's something else -- I admit it -- maybe it's a girl thing but I love to shop. I love to spend money and buy things and I love to buy other people things and there's more -- I love to find the Perfect gift for someone, the thing they will absolutely LOVE. I love that feeling of "AH HA!" this is IT, and I'm going to be awarded the giver of the year award because I found THE present that will bring the most joy and happiness to that person, the gift that shows I know them best and have found the thing that resonates with them perfectly. The gift that they'll tell their friends about, "Jeanne got me that!"
Not pretty is it?
I can justify that feeling with the fact that I want to show my loved ones how much I love them by finding that perfect present but there's something I'm getting out of it as well, strokes, appreciation, people pleased with me.
No, not real pretty.
These are some things that God is redeeming in my heart this year as I refocus and rethink Jesus' birthday. The way I'm going to buy gifts and the way I'm going to give gifts. To give of myself as Christ gave to me. To hold my friends' and family's faces in my hands, look deep into their eyes and tell them how much I love them. And most of all to worship Christ in a beautiful, uncluttered way and to be free to love Him with all of me.
It's different, it's transformational and it feels really good.
Friday when I wake up to the hum of traffic, I'm going to roll over, pull the blankets tighter and cuddle with my hubby and I'm going to resist.
Resistance doesn't sound so bad after all does it?
Monday, November 12, 2007
How is that possible? How could three weeks have gone by without my doing something that matters to me, especially when my Outlook calendar has "Blog" as an appointment every day at 7, and my online email clearly states my dereliction? How is it that, even for the important things in our lives, stuff gets in the way?
I set my cell phone alarm for noon and five p.m. to remind me of midday and vespers prayers. Around the same time I created that system of remembering, I stopped doing my morning and bedtime fixed-hour prayers, and learned how to quickly disarm the alarm. How does that happen?
I'd like to blame it on newdog/work/holidays/congregation/husband/anythingotherthansloth, but that would be a lie. What gets in the way is my recent resistance to prioritizing what I claim is most important. The reality: scan your calendar and your Quicken, and you will know what your true priorities are.
Jesus said, ""store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." It seems that just now my treasure is not what I want it to be. So perhaps the first step (besides admitting my sin/sloth/distraction) is to assess my treasure and align my heart (and my daily schedule) to it.
Here I am, dogsnoring/workwaiting/holidayslooming/congregationpausing/husbandworking, writing. It's about time.
It's about God.
Friday, October 19, 2007
- If you were a food, what would you be? Something creamy, but with texture, bite, and a whisper of sweetness. Ginger ice cream. Or pumpkin risotto with aged asiago, toasted pumpkin seeds, and crisp fried sage (with a tiny bit of cayenne in there). Or, going back to the ginger theme, a 3-variety ginger cookie with white pepper.
- One memorable meal. I had too many, apparently, and Blogger nipped them out. Let's just say there have been many, many.
- What is your favorite comfort food from childhood? Macaroni and cheese. Guacamole. Really.
- When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit? Fritatta.
- What's the strangest thing you ever willingly ate? I don't eat meat, so that lets a lot of the truly unfamiliar stuff out. But on that theme: Beautifully grilled fresh salmon, prepared by dear friends who didn't equate salmon with meat and whose love outweighed my morals.
How much money can I spend? What's the meal? Drink depends on the meal. Generally? Sparkling. Or a Manhattan. Ideally? A white from the hands of wine artist Didier Dagueneau.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
There are two retreatants here at Mercy Center (in a building that can hold 250 easily for conferences and has 90 bedrooms). Or at least there were: the other one's room looked pretty cleaned up this morning. Which means that, aside from staff and the Sisters of Mercy (not the band. ripple.) it's me, pretty much. So at breakfast this morning, the cook had made 4 small omelets and laid them out, along with maybe 4 cups of oatmeal, 4 yogurts, etc. You get the picture. I had one omelet and a piece of toast with peanut butter, in a room with umpteen 6-to-8 person tables, and a lot of icons on one wall (which I enjoy very much). So external silence is easy this time. Internal silence, less so. (ripple.)
For this morning's meditation I went to the chapel, where others from the communities inside and out were already meditating. I've been alone in the meditation room (which has meant I could do sun salutations between sessions), so it was pleasant to be in a room with others, sitting in the presence of the Lord.
I've been keeping the hours, too, which is a heck of a lot easier here than at home.
The other thing I've been doing is reading: my usual devotional (My Utmost for His Highest), and Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution. I'm on a headlong search for a December book for my Christian Spirituality book group, and my focus is on returning Christ to Christmas by thinking Simple. (We're doing Advent Conspiracy in our church. (gravel)) So many people are torn by Christmas: sad or exhausted or lovingthetraditionsbutoverwhelmed or having to rev up to consider the nativity on 24 December. The commercialism is really getting to me, both because of the increasing gap between the rich (including me) and the poor (including most of the world, and a lot of our country); and because it's so hard for folks to even see Christ through the tinsel and batteries. Even Christian bookstores and websites are all over selling. Which shouldn't surprise me but does. (gravel, gravel).
If you have a book idea, post it in comments, okay?
So here's more gravel, in no order:
1) There is simply no reason that one (okay, I) cannot live with this sensibility in the "real" world.
2) I need a timer for the hours and the discipline to obey it.
3) I'd really love to have early morning meditation and communion with others. ("Contemplation and Communion") Maybe offer it on campus? 1-2x/week?
4) 1st and 3rd Wed. evenings?
5) We (okay, I) can't keep living with all the waste and excess. (Poor wonderful husband.)(Wait, that may be a ripple.)
6) Contemplation has to become community action. And vice versa.
And rippling: why do I immediately move away from Jesus into "the next thing"?
Monday, October 08, 2007
Abandon all but Love of God and Neighbor
Spread the good news that God is acting again!
God is here
God is now
The time is now to spread the good news
Before God’s kingdom is consummated in full
Before our generation passes away
Let the good news go out that God is acting again and his will is to forgive, heal, free the oppressed, make all things clean, serve the least, raise the dead to life and call all who have ears to a new way of life.
What is the new way of life?
The way of loving God and having faith
The way of loving neighbor and loving stranger
The way of standing for life, even to death
The way of believing God, and following God’s beloved son, God’s anointed one.
This fall, we're reading McLaren's Secret Message of Jesus, and I'm preaching a series based in it. I am so grateful that we (me, McLaren, our church community, Jemila Kwon, whomever fits) are not alone in thinking about what a different lens might mean to both the way we live and the effect we have on the world. More about that soon.
Friday, October 05, 2007
1) Disposable income. I was able to treat soon-to-be-married Music Minister and some of her girlfriends to high tea yesterday, which gave me great pleasure (and her a few moments of peace and frivolity).
2) Companion animals. Tanq on the lap, snoring. Jamba on the laptop case, which is on top of the portfolio, which is on top of numerous unread magazines, on top of diversity training materials for my other gig, on my desk, in the sun.
3) The wonderful husband. A gift from God, undeserved and unearned. And Heather, Laveille, Jeff, John and distant ballast of all friend kinds.
4) My church community. After nearly five years you continue to amaze and inspire me.
5) God's rescue from the sucking muck. Him lying on his belly on dry land, reaching an arm into the ooze just to pull me to safety. Over and over again. And the many, many packages in which that grace appears. Including all of the above.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
This year, our facilities manager (who is also our evangelism geek) wanted to do an exercise to help people talk about their faith. Our folks tend to feel that talking about their faith is somehow wrong, and definitely difficult: wrong because proselytizing; difficult because unreflected upon. So he set up three questions for each person to write a sentence answer and then share their answers with one other person. The questions were: "How has your relationship with Christ changed over the last 5 years?" "How have God and Jesus impacted your life?" and "Why do you attend and are active in this church?" His idea was that by answering those three questions they would have the base for a conversation about their faith.
Toward the end he asked people to share anything they wanted to. The first person to speak was a first time visitor, a very young man, who spoke enthusiastically about being invited to stay to lunch, and about his own journey. A few others spoke as well. (I wish I could explain how amazing that is all by itself -- it's so new.)
Then our evangelist geek collected all the cards people had written on, and made lists of what they'd said. I just read them this morning.
In this line of work, like many other vocations that are people-focused, it can be very hard to count successes. We're not a "turn-or-burn" church, and we don't believe that profession under duress or ecstasy is the primary marker of faith. Though we have a membership roster, on a daily basis it's irrelevant. But the temptation to quantify is deep: we want some way of knowing how we're doing.
Mostly, how we're doing is determined by what we see happening in people's lives. Highly unquantifiable. Often unmarkable.
So reading people's answers to the questions was heartening. The light of Christ was gleaming in nearly every word. Of course, the people who were there and answered were the most likely to be gleaming, but the shine was no less real, no less a qualifiable "Amen", if not a quantifiable count.
Friday, September 21, 2007
1. Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?
Mostly a minimalist. I like to collect art, napkins, and bowls, but that's about it. We have a lot of stuff now, and one of my secret fantasies is to send my wonderful husband away for a week and rent a dumpster.
2. Name one important object ( could be an heirloom) that you will never part with.
I don't think I have any, but my wedding ring would be among the last to go.
3. What is the oldest item in your closet? Does it still fit???
This year I got rid of a dress I've had since high school -- red chiffon spaghetti strap -- that I'd converted to a cocktail dress at some point. It fit, but it was time to go. Oldest now? Probably one of my hats.
4.Yard sales- love 'em or hate 'em ?
Oh God kill me now. Hate them. One set of people emptying their garage into other people's garages and dickering over pennies to do it. Ugh.
5. Name a recycling habit you really want to get into.
We're pretty good about recycling, but I know we waste water waiting for it to warm up. I'd like to start catching it and using it, or getting instant water heaters.
My car is 1995 or 6 and has nearly 200k miles, but gets >32 mpg. The next one will need to do better than that. I should start recycling my own energy on the bike path that connects our house to campus.
And, I'd like to see our church's buildings outfitted with solar. We have crazy roof space, and we're in the Santa Clara valley (CA). There's got to be a way! Oh, and recycle gray water! So many possibilities!!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
A couple of months ago, right after our puppy arrived, my wonderful husband went on a men's weekend with guys from his men's group. They were going out of town, so he was hitching a ride with another guy. That guy came to pick him up, and came into our kitchen where puppy and I were sitting.
I had met this guy once before, when they met at our house. Maybe one other time at a big event. I'm not sure I'd recognize him on the street today. The first time we met, he was a little overexuberant with the hug and kiss; I chalked it up to personal style.
So he came in. My husband went up to get his stuff, and I took puppy to a tree outside our kitchen to pee and the guy follows me out. He makes friendly conversation about the puppy, and then comes to where I am and leans in close.
If you've ever had a new puppy, you know that the rituals of housebreaking are rigorous and precise. You want the puppy to learn to pee in one spot, outside, every time you take him there. So as this guy leans in, I am impaled on a cypress tree. Suddenly he starts massaging my shoulders, firmly, as he leans in to speak to me.
One of the things you may not know about me is that my boundaries are pretty high. I have layers of armor that serve me well, and though I've worked hard to make it more permeable, there's still quite a bit there naturally. (When I was younger and less healthy, people would cross the street in order not to walk past me, the dark heat was so intense. I kid you not.) No one casually touches me; it just doesn't happen.
This guy, this stranger, slimed right through the holes in the armor and handled me. I thought: I've got to keep puppy safe. I felt: waves of revulsion and bile course through me. I acted: by stepping away as far as I could without disturbing the peeing ritual. Words sticking in my throat. Husband came out, guy looked friendly, and off they went.
Me? I spent the evening in front of the tv with puppy and cat, staving off both nausea and shame. A month later I told my husband, and he confronted the guy, and wound up leaving the small group they shared.
So it's two months later. I think I've mentioned before here that this was a hard summer -- not busy, but a lot of emotional stuff in our church community. I've been tired, and kicking myself for being tired. Yesterday I spent an hour on the phone with a clear borderline personality, and then another 15 minutes standing on line next to a chatty old man who kept touching my arm (and talking about how he could sure use a wife like me). And the waves came over me, and the shame.
In her essay "The Last Story of Spring", Lamott tells how her dog goes missing in the woods on a mountain near a crevass, and the fear and grief that overcomes her. A friend happens along, and wants to help. Lamott writes, "My enchanted woods had turned into the dark forests of fairy tales. But looking at Amanda out of the corners of my eyes, I remembered what happens in fairy tales: The helper always appears in a form that doesn't look very helpful, yet that's who's going to get you out of the woods."
Sometimes I realize later that I've been in the woods and hadn't seen the darkness fall.
Husband comes home from work yesterday, and I tell him I just want to have a quiet evening and be close. No sooner does he put his arm around me than I start weeping, my body shuddering. It doesn't stop all night. I put words to the stuff I can, and watch Frasier during the rest. Husband is attentive, gentle, quiet, and protective. By the end of the evening, I'm cried out, and safe from my own wars.
"Telling helped a little. It felt as if maybe the worst was over. 'But why didn't my faith protect me?' I asked one friend. 'It did... You found your way out of danger -- and disgust -- through humility, and even confession -- to the love of safe people. Now you are safe again" Lamott writes in "The Muddling Glory of God".
Sometimes grace is simply the truth, leaking out in all its pain and sorrow and grief, then flowing to someone who can catch it up for you.
Sometimes Jesus is the blanket that someone gently covers you with in love.
May your truth and blankets come.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Each morning, my life shows these activities before 8 a.m.: get up twice to take puppy out, take puppy downstairs, make coffee, separate puppy and cat, feed puppy and cat, clean up after puppy and cat, glance at news to make sure we're not the only survivors of nuclear holocaust, greet husband, wash dishes, remove puppy from chewing on cookbooks, drink coffee, meditate on devotional, not fall asleep while doing morning prayers.
Sometimes email manages to get in there. And I often manage extended prayer after 8, when the husband is gone, the puppy is sleeping in his crate and the cat is bored with taunting him.
Blogging? Not so much. Meditation? Walking? (both of which were on my not-computerized calendar) Hah! I feel like a slug. Slug 4 Jesus.
Housebreaking puppy is a longterm investment of energy; I get that. But there's been a lot going on in my spiritual life and in our community, and I haven't really had time to reflect on it, or to see God reflecting in it.
Squishy invertibrate herbivore, leaving a trail.
The order of things must change: someone's been pouring salt on my relationship with the Holy One.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I also have a lead on a cafe that would like to host a book study (or Bible study -- not sure yet which) on Monday evenings. Will call on that one today. Either way would be good, since God will be the One doing most of the work!
Oh, the first book will be The Secret Message of Jesus. It is an extraordinarily accessible look at the kingdom vision of Jesus -- you don't have to be a disciple to get it. I'm thinking about Velvet Elvis or something like that next -- suggestions, anyone?
Thursday, August 23, 2007
After the vandalism, we decided to do a little good in the neighborhood -- clean our sign, but then go out into the streets and ask if anyone needed any little chores done. About 15 people showed up (out of maybe 75 in Worship, usually) and did just that. But they weren't alone: 2 newspapers and 3 tv stations were there too. They were followed through the neighborhood (which was a little disruptive to the task) as they went on their mission of love. (I wasn't there -- was facilitating a meeting in San Francisco.)
Neighbors were shocked by the vandalism, concerned for their own safety, and deeply supportive of us. In fact, the vast majority of feedback and media we've received has been positive. People are generally horrified that anyone desecrates a church, period. Most have responded to folks choosing to do good in response to evil with pleasure and gratitude. Our local Councilman, Evan Low, has been both encouraging and helpful, asking a whole lot of his contacts (and local residents!) to donate to repairing the sign. We got a call from the Anti-Defamation League and an Art Institute teacher offered his class if we needed any design work done. That's just a taste of the love we've gotten back.
It hasn't been all positive, of course. I received one email asking for our justification of welcoming everyone, including lgbt people, which I responded to in good faith. I (and everyone else with an email link on our website) received one email from an anonymous person (who, based on his/her address, works here) simply listing the standard "clobber" Scriptures with an unkind note. Fortunately, no-one has yet said, "Yay! Desecration!"
But all that, though gratifying, isn't the point. Here's the point: the Holy Spirit inspired our folks to do as Jesus taught -- to love our enemies, and return good for evil. Any day we do what Jesus taught us to do is a good day for me.
Above the fray and fatigue, the Spirit has been carrying me this week. God is so very good.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Last Saturday night, the main sign on our church campus was defaced. The perpetrators left a clear message by spray painting "Fags to Hell, God Rules". They also painted out the rainbow fish that proclaim that our church community is welcoming to all, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Hate is always distressing and painful. It creates fear, and builds walls. Hate is Evil itself, which is always working to generate the same hatred in us. That is its purpose.
As Jesus-followers, we know the truth: God is love. God loves and cares for each and every one of us as if we were God's only child, God calls us to be people of love, not people of hate. That is our purpose.
Jesus taught us, "Do not repay anyone evil for evil ... Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." So yesterday, when the church gathered after Worship to figure out how to respond, we decided to share some love in the community.
Tonight participants will bring cleaning and gardening supplies to campus. While we clean up our sign, we will go out into our neighborhood and offer to clean and garden for our neighbors. And then, prayer, celebration, and pizza in the twilight!
We hoisted a rainbow flag yesterday below the US flag on our flagpole. And we're adding a new sign to our main one: "God loves you. We do too". We will also be providing window signs with that same message to anyone who wants them.
I don’t know how many people will participate with this short notice. But whether it’s 1 or 100, we see this act of hate against us and lgbt people as a God-given opportunity to show our community the love we've found in Christ.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
It's hard to talk about why 1st century and 21st century are similar times for faith and our concept of knowledge without using words like "postmodern". As a result, those who are trying to talk about and live a new/old kind of faith take a beating. And, since most of them/us are younger (20s/30s), they're/we're a prime target for farts young and old.
So pictures are good, esp. when they draw on cultural icons, like the motivational posters. Check these out, at Emerging Grace.
(Note: the opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my church community. But they might.)
I'm praying people attend, both our people and the men. We sometimes forget how important contact and small talk are, particularly when you are or feel isolated from the world around you. Whether we're talking about elders, those who are physically or mentally ill, foster kids, homeless folks, or just people going through a rough time, Jesus works through our face-to-face love. And when our kids go, it's such a blessing. So many of the men have children they never see -- they are delighted by the little ones trying to strike up conversation, or asking impertinent and innocent questions.
May Jesus be in our midst, gently reaching out through us and our hot fudge.
Monday, August 06, 2007
The Apostle Paul advises the first church at Thessalonika to "pray unceasingly". Jesus tells his disciples that if they abide in Him, He will abide in them. Some translators use remain instead of abide, but the key point is that sense of Christ's taking up residence in us, some merging of our heart/mind and His (as His was merged with God's)
If prayer is the soul's intimate connection/dialogue with God, then there is some connection between our need to pray unceasingly (abiding in Him) and Jesus' abiding in us.
But it's not in the Bible. At least I can't find it. No direct connection between any specific activity and Jesus' (or the Spirit's) taking up residence in us and vice versa. Some western Christians will say that we "receive the Spirit" through some specific act of God's doing -- baptism, Jesus' breathing on his disciples. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about (comm)union, mind and soul, through constant prayer (or in constant prayer). And there's no question that's a stream of sensibility in there. But no single aha! line to point to.
The eastern churches (eg. the Orthodox) take it for granted, this sense of (comm)union in prayer. Besides scripture, they have always depended on the revelation of the early fathers and mothers, who tended to "mystical" description, rather than the west's "rational" argument.
I believe it with all my heart, this possible (comm)union with Christ, through/in constant prayer. And I'm preaching on it Sunday, which Scripture is making more difficult by the minute.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Why "Tanq"? Because my wonderful husband wanted an English Bulldog (50 lbs, 5" from the ground) and to name him "Tank". The Frenchie was a compromise, as is the name ("q" is more French. Get it? We almost called him "Freedom"...)
This is an older photo, from his puppy home in Oklahoma. I'll get a new one up when we have one. Then, we'll get back to business around here.
Friday, July 20, 2007
1. Share a moment/ time of real encouragement in your journey of faith
I was originally rejected for ordination. The Barnabas responsible for pleading my case to the committee had met with me just once (to talk about himself) and hadn't read my ordination paper. So when they asked what my Christology was, he said, "I don't know." I got the word, and knew it was all over -- that I was out. My grief was horrible.
Hearing the news, my mentor pastor was irate, and went back to the committee with tongue of fire. They reviewed my materials and, early in the morning before the event, approved me. I arrived, in casual street clothes, to watch everyone else and was told I would be getting ordained.
Sitting on the dais, I felt completely inadequate and terrified. My right leg was bouncing uncontrollably, with my then-fiance's hand on it, trying to steady me. He leaned in and told me I could leave, but that God had brought me there and would guide me on. I felt a rush of the Spirit, and went out to take my vows. Still terrified, still crying, but grateful.
God, in the heart and words and body of my mentor pastor and my now-husband kept me going that week.
2. Do you have a current vision / dream for your work/ family/ministry?
Personal dreaming is sort of new for me, and I'm not very good at it. But my vision for my spiritual life and work (which are pretty much one thing) is a tribe of committed disciples, closely living whole together in love of Jesus, loving in his world. I shoulda been a monk.
3. Money is no object and so you will.....
- Buy land and house in the South for my husband and start a retreat for pastors and others. Sports bar included.
- Finally replace my car.
- Get more dogs and cats.
- Give a lot to kids without stable home lives.
Sounds cliche: prayer. Not the extended kneeling and beseeching, but the steady surrender to and embrace of God. Husband is a very very big help.
And, honestly: good wine. Often French.
5. How important are your roots?
Don't really have any (other than growing up in CA), so have had to create them and discover tendrils of possibility in the soil. It helps to know that, at base, I am the daughter of God. That's roots enough for me right now.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Have to say this: I'll believe it when he's in my hands. And even more after our terrific vet, Karen Blount, checks him out.
Blogger isn't letting me post pictures today, but I'll get one on as soon as I can!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The conflicts were inevitable: when a community moves from being "we'll accept anything you do as long as no one ever has to address it" to "following Jesus means taking responsibility for your actions and we will hold you accountable", there are bound to be conflicts. We have also moved from "pastors are saints who must never err (but eventually fall from grace in a big way)" to "pastors and leaders are all models for Christian living, including modeling confession and reconciliation". It's a recipe for eventual pissiness. And, I pray, eventual health, grace, and faithfulness.
But the other thing is really what's been keeping me from blogging. I am ready for a dog. After our very beloved boxer, Mo, died two years ago, I just couldn't think about it. Plus, my longterm friend Kenya the black torty cat died a couple of months later, in my lap. Then, since we're trying to adopt a human baby, I thought that getting a new dog at the same time we were getting a new baby was a recipe for exhaustion, if not disaster. But the baby isn't hurrying, so I'm getting a dog.
Now the big decisions have been 1) boxer or french bulldog; 2) rescue or puppy; 3) how much we are willing to pay at the outset. Of course, that's gotten us into summer -- when no one can ship flat-faced dogs. But I'll tell you what: we will have a dog by mid-August. The baby is in God's hands.
Friday, June 29, 2007
When I signed up for this retreat, it was after a significant amount of searching for a Christian meditation retreat. To no avail. So East-West at a Catholic retreat center was as close as I could get. I signed up with trepidation, and deep hunger. I was ravenous.
As the months passed, I was both looking forward to it and repelled by the thought of it: looking forward to the open time, fearful of the openness of the time.
Looking back, I feel God compelling me, drawing me here this week. Choosing the books I brought, selecting the place, guiding both my practice and my willingness to claim what I needed. I came here to jump start my meditation practice, but God gave me the view from 45,000 feet. The momentary clear apprehension of the vision that my husband has been pressuring me to write down. I know it needs to come down to 30,000 feet, and I need to make the effort to write -- really write -- but I am utterly grateful for the crack in the sky.
God draws me, draws us. Pulls us toward God, and creates us in line, shadow, form and gesture as we come closer.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
1. Since last night's meditation, I have been very happy. That kind of lightness in your chest, soft smile, world-is-good happy. I really love this -- and can see why people get addicted. (Or maybe it's the fact that people make food for me?)
2. Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines is one of the most important books I've ever read. It's not easygoing (at least not in the old issue; the reissue may be easier), because Willard is a philosopher by training and profession. The first 60% or so is theology, history, and social commentary, with a deep explanation of the Apostle Paul. Reading it is a bit like shucking oysters. And then: pearls. Why the spiritual disciplines matter, and why we cannot progress as followers of Jesus -- no, as reflections of Christ -- without them.
3. I left Christianity somewhere around middle school, when I became politically aware (I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X in 5th grade, so sometime after that). But I loved Jesus. Loved Jesus. I remember watching Jesus Christ Superstar in Rochester, NY, with my best friend from sixth grade who had moved there, and being frozen in my seat at the end. Weeping. They pretty much had to drag me out of the theater.
Sometime later, and I can't say when, I developed a big moving lump in my sternum. You know that place where your trachea meets your heart? Where breath and blood merge? For decades I've been trying to open it, to describe what's inside. It's the reason I traveled, the reason for MBZC, the reason I studied ethics (and 3rd-world women's studies; and went to divinity school), the reason for attempting communal living and voluntary simplicity, the reason for a lot of political action, the reason I kept sneaking into churches when no one was there, the reason I went ahead and was ordained even though my whole body was shaking and my not-yet husband had to act like a horse whisperer to keep me on the dais.
Over the years, I've tried to describe its contents in poetry, through my philosophy teaching, through nonfiction writings, through speeches, through living. I've tried in sermons, in small groups, in blogs. I've cried and yelled in frustration trying to describe it to my very patient husband. Soon after I started pastoring my church, I gathered a group of people from the church and tried to inscribe it instead, by trying to start another "worship service" that wasn't really a worship service that now I'd call an "emergent church", sort of. Each time, I've failed. The philosopher training (and my general leanings toward both high emotion and high abstraction) has blocked me. The lump itself is the way we are to actually daily live; its contents are kingdomvision.
4) The first time I read Brian McLaren, I felt something in that same spot -- between breath and blood. Right now I'm reading his newer (not newest) book, The Secret Message of Jesus, in preparation for leading a small group study of it in the fall. For a long time now, he's been grappling with that thing between breath and blood too. Thanks to God, McLaren, unlike Dallas Willard, and to a much lesser degree me, was trained in English, and so is having some success at describing it in concrete terms, in the language of poetry and pavement. I am envious, and very grateful.
5) Gratitude = happiness. See #1, above.
6) The post title? At noon, there is no shadow. Only light.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
And, to top it off, the leaders for the retreat have given me permission to take afternoons to study, read, and write. I don't know if God had anything to do with their answer, but I know God got me to ask.
We serve a mighty, and very thoughtful, God.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The same goes for the church. We've asked for nothing, required nothing, and been pissed when we got nothing. If someone misses an obligation, we pat them on the head and say "there, there, of course you had other things to do!" We tell them that following Jesus is easy, and we don't ever talk about devotion to Jesus -- that God must come first. Or, for that matter, that when they join a community they are choosing to take on commitments to that community.
But the part that's getting me today is that way too many people think that the way to resolve conflict is to pick up your ball and leave the game. Tremendously mature. Shockingly useful. And then they wonder why they hate going home, their kids are a mess (or simply don't think church and God matter, since their parents act like they don't), and no one ever tells them the truth about anything.
We've been lax in accountability ourselves. We've talked about it, but we haven't enforced it. Those days are over. Right now. And if people don't have the spine to actually work through relationships (with help, with prayer), they're just going to have to find another game to play in. A pick-up game, where if no one shows up it's simply cancelled.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
I also truly honestly deeply believe that a church transitioning from
faith lived out 24/7 in your real life and high expectations for leaders to actually be spiritual leaders and think about what they are modeling to newer people and kids
will experience conflict, as the low bar habits of neglectful membership (and forget about discipleship!) crash into the high expectations of actual community and purpose.
And I believe this is normal and part of the journey.
Can't say I'm loving it, though.
Friday, June 08, 2007
So our President said he's going to veto the stem cell research bill, because "If this bill were to become law, American taxpayers would for the first time in our history be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos. Crossing that line would be a grave mistake. For that reason, I will veto the bill passed today.''
So American taxpayers can be compelled to support the deliberate destruction of thousands of full-term-or-grown Iraqis, along with the "accidental" destruction of thousands of Americans, but cells are a problem?
"Right to life", my patootie.
My ideal getaway island would include coffee and drinks brought to me. Emerald water, high 70s, slight breeze. Soft sand. Very few people. Very quiet.
1) What book(s) will you bring? Fiction. Chick fiction. Anne Tyler, probably. Or Candace Bushnell, if I were really tired.... might manage Kathleen Norris or Anne Lamott, but don't count on it. Definitely Esquire and Vanity Fair.
2) What music accompanies you? Well, since I'd have to download or rip to get what I want, probably what's already on the Zen, which is mostly gospel. But some Jimmy Buffett, Otis Redding, hmmm... Concrete Blonde, Edie Brickell, Etta James, maybe. Definitely some sax.
3) What essentials of everyday living must you take (as in the health and beauty aids aisle variety)? 45 spf Sunscreen . Waterproof mascara. Sarong. My favorite tinted Lorac lip balm. My sleep mask. Oh! and foot cream for after the pedicure.
4) What technological gadgets if any, will you take with you or do you leave it all behind? If I take my laptop I'll work. I'd take the Zen, and cell only if I were playing hooky.
5) What culinary delights will you partake in while there? Whatever is local, fresh, and vegetarian. Green papaya salad is always good. French champagne and rose and sparkling water.
What makes for a perfect day on vacation for you? Waking up without the alarm. Making coffee. Going for a long walk, either with praise music playing in my ears or a good friend/husband. Coming back to coffee, newspaper or book. Reading outside. Cooking a very leisurely dinner, or letting people bring it to me. Hot tub and pedicure. Skydiving or something else fun if it's day 3 or 4. Great conversation. And private time with my husband...
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Me: You called me?
God's child: Yes.
Me: What can I help you with?
God's child: Well, I'm out of (physical) rehab and I wanted to be put on the prayer chain. I called the office; you were gone last week?
Me: I was gone the first half of the week, and I'm finally caught up (laughing).
God's child: Oh (not laughing, realizing I'd been back a number of days).
Me: Did I neglect you? Do you feel neglected?
God's child: Yes. Yes I do.
Me: I'm so sorry. When we spoke two weeks ago you said you were doing fine, and since I didn't hear from you I figured everything was okay.
God's child: Well, every other minister I've had just called.
Me: (deeply chagrined and chastened) I'm really so very sorry. I'll call later this week. I'll make myself a pest.
God's child: (laughing a tiny little bit) That would be fine. If you can find us between doctors' appointments!
That was yesterday afternoon. I cannot stop thinking about it, and my internal dialog runs from shame to justification to realization-about-everyone-else-I've-neglected to figuring out why I don't call easily. No pastor has ever called me, so I've no models of that. I grew up with privacy: no dropping in, don't ask to be invited, etc. And I do have a fear that I'll call and be rejected. Then there's the "I have other work to do, other people who are actually dying to visit, sermons to write, budgets to produce, scripture to read" stuff.
Bottom line: She is a child of God, and I am her sister in Christ. I should have called sooner. Period. Especially since I'm trying to teach everyone else in our church to do just that.
So, Child of God, if you're reading this, thanks for the chastening. I'll talk with you tomorrow.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
The article quotes Warren as saying: "I don't have to agree with 100 percent of what another person does in order to work with them on the 20 percent that we do agree on." Murdoch was credited with donating $2m to Warren's PEACE plan almost immediately, and one of his publishing companies puts out some of Warren's books.
There are lots of good reasons to like and dislike Rick Warren, and even more reason to dislike Rupert Murdoch. But Warren is the only major evangelical I've seen come out very strongly against poverty, corruption, illiteracy, and other ills abroad and at home. If Murdoch is helping him do that, good for him.
As a Christian, publicly calling someone out is one's last resort. (See Mt. 18 for our dispute process). If Warren is indeed Murdoch's pastor, the last thing he should be doing is publicly disciplining or reprimanding him. Ecclesiastically and practically, it's the wrong thing to do.
There is also a tone to the criticism that leans toward levitical purity: Rick Warren should walk through the streets shouting "unclean" until he chides (and, presumably rejects the money of) Murdoch. How Jesus-like.
I pray we continue to find ways to work together when we can, and find others to work with when we can't. The kingdom is just too important.
(A small BTW -- the Christian Accountability Network was "founded in early 2007 to provide balanced Biblical accountability to America’s prominent pastors and teachers regarding their teaching and life." This is, apparently, its first foray into ethical discernment and teaching, though founder Rosebrough seems to live out loud in many places in the blogosphere. He has now achieved some of the notoriety he clearly desires.)