Saturday, February 1, 2014

Expectations

Expectations -- sheesh!  Can't live with them and can't live without them.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Inter-Relatedness

Our "modern lesson" this morning in worship (we sometimes use something other than a secondary biblical reading) was from Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1967 sermon on Christmas Eve, which said, in part:

It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality. ...Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you've depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren't going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.

I love that.  Our guest preacher, Rev. Sandhya Jha, used it in her sermon on "Ubuntu" and anti-oppression.  She's a dynamo...really excellent.

She also led about 40 folks in a Diversity Workshop on Saturday, helping us identify our "intersectionality," those things that tend to identify us -- our race, socioeconomic status, class, age, sexual orientation, gender, etc etc.  We talked about how difficult it is to see beyond those differences into our common humanity.  And people were SO open about it, so eager to have this conversation with each other.

Stimulating.  Deeply gratifying to be part of it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Peace in the Midst of Suffering

Suffering is such a difficult subject.  I preached about it last Sunday...
 
I want to talk to you this morning about a serious subject – the subject of Suffering. Well, actually, I don’t WANT to talk about it.  I’ve struggled with this my whole life, and frankly, I find it absolutely infuriating.  But it’s our reality, and I think it’s important, when we worship God, to be real about our experience.  And suffering is just part of that; we're born into a world of kindness and beauty and goodness, and suffering.   These are the terms of our existence. 
Now, not to rank different kinds of suffering—that would be DUMB, but I do need to say that some suffering is easier to get a hold of than others.  When we can explain suffering, it gives us something to hold on to, and that can help.  "Well, we’re suffering because of that person over there who’s behavior is unacceptable!  OR, we’re suffering because we ourselves refuse to change, or leave, or let go.  OR we’re suffering at the hands of an institution or a system, or a corporation or a government, or a Church.  When we can identify the reason, there’s usually a way to deal with it.  But when there’s no identifiable reason for it…as in tornadoes that just randomly drop down out of the very sky!  OR … of course, there’s sickness and disease. People get cancer and die.  But to get a diagnosis right before your wedding day?  or while you’re pregnant?  What’s that about?
Come on . . .  no no no.  Why would a supposedly loving and powerful God allow … I mean, NO.  If God really loves us, and God is really powerful, then . . . NO.  Perhaps  you've worked through this question and are satisfied with your answers, but I have worked and struggled and worked some more, and, for me, there is no good answer to this question of why suffering exists.  It just does! …. There ARE some other things about suffering that we can talka about, though--important things, especially today on this Peace Sunday. 
Spiritual giants through the ages have addressed the issue of pain and suffering – and many agree that if we stop resisting suffering, it will help.  When we can gently  let go of our resistance to the pain that’s visiting us, we’re more open to the lessons that suffering wants to teach us.  The assumption here is that suffering carries within it some kind of gift. 
Personally I sense some truth here, but I also think that this idea comes dangerously close to spiritualizing suffering.  It can lead us to discount how vicious suffering can be, glossing over the cruelty and malice involved in some suffering.  So I think we have to careful here… After all, we’re called to stand against suffering, aren’t we?…Just like God stands against suffering.  God never allows us to suffer in order to teach us a lesson.   God hates it that we suffer, and as Compassion itself, God suffers right along with us.  And the thing is ….God is always at work creating a new thing, calling us to become all we can be, nudging us to help create the Reign of God on the earth.  So suffering is here—it’s not from God, but since it’s here, know that God is always working with us to somehow redeem it.  At least offer that possibility.
I do think that one gift suffering nearly always offers is to help us move from surface to deeper  ways of knowing.  Suffering can free us from the illusions created by our false egos, with their love for self-deception. 
Poet and philosopher John O’Donohue says that “even if we had lovely parents and a magic childhood—even then, there aren’t many humans walking around who aren’t covered in the shell of false ego.  But suffering cracks that shell and breaks it open, so that the new, hidden life within us can emerge” and we can more easily SEE reality and truth. 
Another important thing about suffering...let me quote John O’Donohue again here. 
"Part of the beauty of the Christian story is the way it’s so real with suffering.”  After all, the Cross is the central symbol of our faith – a truly horrible symbol, an instrument of torture, yet the Cross is so powerful because . . . “there’s a cruciform structure to every pain and sadness we encounter.  The cross isn’t just on a hill in Jerusalem. The shape of the cross is internal to the human heart.  All our hearts have that shape.   
Human beings are nothing if not one big contradiction.  We’re relational—connected with others at our core, and at the same time we’re unique individuals who stand alone.  We are free, but our freedom is limited--the absolute paradox of limited freedom.  
O'Donohue puts it like this:  "This cruciform structure that is the human heart is where these contradictions meet.  The cross goes from the lowest point of the clay (from where we're grounded in our humanity) to the highest point of divinity" (those times when we actually get a glimpse of the Image of God within us). ... The Christian story tells us that the crucifixion and the resurrection are of a piece.  The resurrection is the light hidden at the heart of the cross.  It's so sad and so frightening--but only through the Cross is the beauty of real healing and life revealed.  Through the pain of the cross we are invited to come home to ourselves [and to the intimacy of what it means to be human, for this is something we all share.  Nothing connects us to each other more than the vulnerability we all experience in suffering.
Now, this is heavy duty stuff, taking us to the heart of what it might mean to be a Christian.  But perhaps it does not resonate with you.  Part of the problem with preaching is that it’s a monologue, when I’d really like to hear how you respond to this.  I’m going to be here in this chapel area between/after the service today to listen if you’d like to talk about this, OK? 
So, suffering is a given.  Being careful not to spiritualize it, it might carry within it some gifts – breaking our false egos open, connecting us to each other in powerful ways.  And the Christian story,  in particular,   takes the crucifying pain of suffering and connects it to the Resurrection—they are of a piece!  That’s what Jesus did and that’s what his Spirit continues to do—The possibility that our suffering might, in some mysterious way, be redeemable  is Christ’s invitation to Abundant Life. 
And we see this possible reality everywhere.  Why do we love Nelson Mandela and grieve as we anticipate his death? In part because in the midst of his suffering, he opened himself up to the work of the Spirit that was always nudging him to stand for justice while loving his enemies.  And oh, how that created a man of true peace.
Another smaller example—my husband David and I met 10 years ago, on July 5 2003.  We celebrated that anniversary on Friday by having lunch together at the same restaurant where we met.  David and I are the same age – 10 years ago we were both 47, middle age, a time in which we were both focused on our careers.  Now, at 57, we’re still there, but thoughts of retirement are also part of our reality now.  And our conversation on Friday touched on a couple of things that have happened to both of us, separately, recently that made me think of the  life cycle, where middle age is about productivity, and from there as we age, we move into the “generative” stage—in which we give back.  It’s the stage where to the extent that we’ve allowed our sufferings to creatively transform us, to mold us into better people, then our suffering is redeemed because we’re able to give back to our little circles of influence – the people we know.  Our children and grandchildren can benefit from our…greater maturity.  Or not.  :-)  But anyway, it’s possible.  Small example.
A bigger example is ­­­­what I heard in Shelley sermon last week.  This history of the LGBT movement in a sense IS a history of suffering—oppression carries suffering within it.   Shelley’s words were a call to action because this suffering born from oppression is now  on the threshold, moving from the weight of pain into the lightness of something new.  The NEW THING that God has been creating all along is now becoming more visible.  So, let me encourage you to stop by the Hope 4 Peace & Justice table in the narthex this morning and see what you might be able to contribute to this movement of the Spirit in our world.  It’s possible that it can provide meaning to some  suffering.  Turn it into something good. 
The anthem this morning said in part that “We see a distant land, it shines so clear.  I hear a distant song; it fills the air.   I touch a distant land and I feel its glow.” So this distant land, in which suffering is no more -- is another of the contradictions that constitute our lives. Yes it’s distant, AND it’s also right here.  Right now.  Closer than the air we breathe.
You see, suffering is not the last word.  We are MORE than the suffering that is simply part of the terms of our existence.  We are not meant to live small lives, giving in to the bad things that happen such that we become small people. – No.
We are all called to lives of meaning and importance, and such beauty.  While it’s not easy, we are free to face suffering head-on, using our God-given freedom and our God-given community of people who love us, to create the abundant life that God wants us to have—even in the midst of inexplicable suffering, to know lives of true peace.  May it be so.  Amen.
 
 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Galship


This week's blog carnival topic is: What does Galship mean to you? The phrase was originally coined to refer to RevGal Fellowship--all the ways we build community, share our lives, support each other, and have fun. So blog about Galship-- What does Galship mean to you? Ready, set, write

Well, I love the word -- 'bout time we had an alternative to 'fellowship.' 

Perhaps the best way to say what it means to me is to provide a couple of vignettes . . . .

Galship is Fun (Crazy, even!)
We were all in seminary together.  Every so often Lee and Wendy would come to my rented house there by the university for a Girls Night Out.  We'd eat together, sing some Taize songs (yes, that's what seminary students love, right? beautiful, but rather sedate, I have to say) and just talk and talk.  I can't remember exactly how this happened now...we must have tired of Taize.  We went in my study where I had a CD player, and we put in an Oldies but Goodies CD with the INCOMPARABLE songs of Diana Ross and the SUPREMES!  And then we did what we all do -- well, when we're alone, at any rate (think Tom Cruise in Risky Business).  We WERE Diana and Florence and Mary, the most fabulous girl group in the history of Rock 'n Roll, people!!...STOP! IN THE NAME OF LOVE!  .... LOVE CHILD (my personal favorite) . . . BABY LOVE   . . . .  WHERE DID OUR LOVE GO?  OMG. We jumped and danced and held a pretend microphone, each one of us taking turns as Diana and the other two having raucous fun mimicking her in the back.   Honestly, it was probably one of those 'you had to be there' moments, but the truth is I nearly pee'd in my pants it was SO FUN, and FUNNY, and WILD and CRAZY.  The three of us laughed and laughed and laughed, and the more we laughed the sillier we all became, and that evening the silliest thing in the world was outrageously funny.  It was really like we were drunk!  My mother used to say "you got your giggle box turned over, Katy!" and except that it had a lot more belly laughs than giggling, that's how I'd describe this evening... with my gal friends. 

Galship is Being There When I Needed Someone
The other vignette that comes quickly to mind is that day of my mother's funeral.  (Yes, from silly to painful.)  I was single back then, and I remember feeling the agony of loneliness hitting me hard that day, even though my sister and brother, aunts and uncles were all there.  Numbing loneliness, haunting, tortuous.  About half an hour before we were suppose to leave for the funeral home, my friend and neighbor Carol showed up on my doorstep.  She was coming to the funeral anyway, and was suppose to go with some other friends of mine, but she said she'd decided instead that she'd like to ride over with us--me, and my family.  I have no idea how she knew what I was feeling, but she most definitely did.  A God thing, no doubt.  She sat in the car with me and held my hand.  That's what I remember.  She simply held my hand and didn't let go.  Connecting me with . . . I don't know how to describe that.  Her action connected me with more than just her, Carol -- it felt like she was saving my life (I suppose I'm exaggerating to make my point, but perhaps not by much), connecting me with the Source of Life, a magnificently existential moment of COMMUNITY and LIFE.  Writing about this today, nearly 20 years later, it still brings tears to my eyes. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"How is the Spirit Calling?"


Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; God is  the one who will keep you on track.

 I have been a spiritual director for a number of years now.  Spiritual direction is about companioning people as they seek to live in God’s presence—it’s really not about any actual ‘direction’ in the sense of telling someone what to do.  I’ve found the whole process wonderfully helpful in my own spiritual life.  Often, when I feel led to ask someone a question, I’ll realize that the question is also my question. 

That happened to me recently.  The person who sat before me was going through some difficulty at her church (in another denomination), and I found myself putting the question like this:  “The Spirit hasn’t abandoned you; the Spirit is still doing its job, so to speak, calling you toward transformation.  How do you imagine that’s happening for you?  What does that calling look like for you in the midst of all this difficulty?”

This time of transition here at CoH is such an incredible opportunity for us to grow spiritually.  Alan Jones once wrote:   The Spirit is most present at three open spaces in our livesin the unpredictable,  in the place of risk, and in those areas over which we have no control.  And times of transition are great examples of “open spaces.”  During a transition we abide in what’s called “liminal” space, like the space we inhabit when we stand in a threshold between the past and the future.  Liminality means that the space we formerly inhabited, which was secure in its familiarity, is no longer, and the space we’ll inhabit in the future is undefined and full of questions.  Times of transition ask us to let go and place our trust in God, in the healing and loving power always at work in our world.
So, when I ask myself that question—How is the Holy Spirit calling me during this time of living in liminal space—what does that calling look like for me?—my sense is that I need to be more intentional about practicing trust.  I know that trust is not a warm fuzzy feeling; it’s a decision, a choice I have to make each moment.  I’ve made myself a little poster for my office, to remind me. 
The other thing is that the Spirit may be calling me, once again, to learn to let go of outcomes.  This has nothing to do with passivity.  In fact, to let go is a powerful action, but it’s an internal action, a change in attitude or outlook.   In this particular time of transition at our church, I think this means, for me, to let go of clinging to seeing things only one way, remembering always that the Spirit is at work both in the lives of every person in this amazing congregation and at work in creating a variety of possible futures (all of them full of God’s presence) that we simply cannot now see.  Importantly, this also entails uniting this letting go with the essence of spiritual trust found in the difficult but stunningly wise words of St. Julian of Norwich, the English mystic:  “All shall be well.  All shall be well.  And all manner of thing shall be well.”  
Gracious God, you are with us all, guiding and sustaining and healing, creating joy and bringing love to our lives.  May we respond with trust, with gratitude, and with the eyes to see how indeed all shall be well.  Amen.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Codes for Reality"

Here's one of my devotions for this month (my church sends devotions via email to those who sign up for them)


Psalm 8

1 O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! 3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; 4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals* that you care for them? 5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,* and crowned them with glory and honor.

 

One of my favorite podcasts is Krista Tippett’s interview show called “On Being.”  A recent guest was physicist S. James Gates who specializes in super string theory, which, I found out, is based on something called super symmetry theory.  The title for the podcast was “Uncovering the Codes for Reality.”  Dr. Gates and his colleagues have discovered codes inside the equations for super string/symmetry theory.  He likens these codes to how DNA is a code that makes us who we are biologically.  The difference is that these codes are sitting inside equations about the nature of all reality. 

 

What’s fascinating is that these codes are made up of zeroes and ones, just like a computer program.  They’re used in precisely the same way that computers use ones and zeroes to send digital information, bearing a striking similarity to a web browser’s  “error correcting codes” which allow our computer browsers to work accurately.  The scientists were so stunned that it took them months to really admit to each other how bizarre this discovery really was. 

 

Gates cautions that just because they’ve found these codes sitting inside the equations about the nature of reality doesn’t mean that at our most fundamental level we and our reality are computer programs.  (Remember the movie “The Matrix”?)  To leap to that conclusion would be a logical fallacy—mathematics can’t be used that way.  Still, he said, and I certainly agree with him, it is a deeply intriguing discovery. 

 

As I listened to this interview—and I was listening intently—I remembered that one name for God is “Ultimate Reality” and that “in God we live and move and have our being.”   That reminded me that although Dr. Gates’ words were bringing the MYSTERY of reality to me in a powerfully visceral way, I also experience God in a way that is easily recognized and identified as the movement of God in my life and my relationships.  Yes, ultimate reality is a huge mystery, something that we with our human limitations will always have to approach provisionally, with humility.  But God is also known to us through Jesus, the man from Nazareth.  In Jesus we can be confident that we see and know something of the divine mystery. 

 

Thank you, gracious God, for the Mystery that you are.  May we approach Mystery with respect and humility, but also with deep trust, remembering always that it’s the gift of your love, so knowable, that sustains us, grows us, and carries us into the future with confidence.  Amen.

 

Katherine Godby

Associate Pastor for Spiritual Life

 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Taize in the Interfaith Peace Chapel

Here's a photo from our Taize service...first Fridays  in our Interfaith Peace Chapel.


We do Taize differently than I've ever seen it elsewhere.  We have about a dozen musicians--flute, guitar, cello, clarinet, plus several singers who form a group we call EvenSong.  Toward the end of the service the musicians play three instrumental pieces during which time folks can get up and move to stations for prayer and anointing with oil.  We end the service by singing four songs straight through, and during this time people move to the kneelers, or they light a candle on one of the side tables, or pray with icons (another side table), or whatever...we have one woman who usually does a prayer-walk holding her Bible up (a little distracting but I guess people are  used to it now).

The Interfaith Peace Chapel was designed by Philip Johnson.  Here's how it's described:

Regardless of what one believes about God, can any of us doubt that the world will be better when religion is a source of peace rather than conflict?
The warping walls of the Interfaith Peace Chapel do what walls are not supposed to do. Without right angles or parallel lines, the space slightly disorients visitors and prepares them for the reorientation of their souls. 
Regardless of faith, our goal is to orient the hearts and minds of people away from conflict and division and toward cooperation and community. People of faith have been a part of many great movements for human progress. Churches, synagogues, temples and mosques have built schools, hospitals and orphanages. They have fed the poor and advocated for those at the margins of society. They led the Civil Rights Movement just a few decades ago and stand ready to lead a new movement toward human peace. 
The tragedy of our age is that religion is the greatest threat to peace and, perhaps, to humankind’s survival. We believe there ought to be a better way. 
The Interfaith Peace Chapel includes over 8,000 square feet, is 46 feet tall at its highest point (the height of a four story building) and measures over 106 feet long. It seats 175 people and is designed for conferences, seminars, small interfaith services, weddings, memorial services and other intimate chapel experiences. 
The Interfaith Peace Chapel provides a sacred place for people of all faiths, and for people who profess no faith, to come together in unity and love. No matter the headlines or conflicts outside, within the walls of the Interfaith Peace Chapel all faiths, nationalities and ethnicities are welcome. The Chapel is an example of inclusive spiritual cooperation for the rest of the world.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Expansion," an extraordinary sculpture

Aren't these extraordinary?  Wow.


The story behind this sculpture is here.  Along with these views:




Existence in the Gentle Vastness of God's Mercy

I've been feeling off-centered most of this week.  My husband made an effort to comfort me, and as  he held me, my mind went off to a point of existential awareness regarding the profound aloneness that is being human.  We are born alone, and we die alone, as they say. In those moments I experienced that singularity in a profound way; the solitariness (if there is such a word) invaded my whole being and sorrow welled up within me.  I wept.  When I was able to speak some of this, David countered, saying "No, we're not alone.  We form communities and those communities are meaningful.  Even as we die we're surrounded by our loved ones." 

Yes, we connect with others in various ways throughout our lives -- some folks are able to connect more deeply than others, and I count myself fortunate that I've had mystical moments of connection, soul-to-soul, with several people.  There is paradox here...we do connect in ways that alleviate our aloneness, but what I'd meant was that our individuality cannot be shared with another person...our uniqueness, when we die, dies also.  Isn't that right? 

But as David spoke my mind moved into new territory, and I said, "So, DEATH is the great connector."  Yes, I felt the truth of how, at the moment of death we are moving into a vast web of relationships...the loved ones who've gone before, the people we've admired but never met, the children we never bore. . . . in that sense death does transport us --- hmmm, maybe not transport, -- death opens us into a greater awareness of this vast web of connections and relationships of which we've always been a part, but were closed to much attentiveness to it. 

And then yesterday I read a couple of things...     

John O'Donohue's words:
May the Angel of Wildness disturb the places where your life is domesticated and safe, and take you to the territories of true otherness, where all that is awkward in you can fall into its own rhythm.
Yikes.  That is scary.  Confronting the "true otherness" within me...wow, it takes a huge amount of trust to come face-to-face with what I've sensed was 'alien' and allowing it to fall into its own rhythm within me.  I'm not sure what that is, but I feel close to it.

Cynthia Bourgeault, writing about that stunning scene in Babette's Feast when General Lowenhielm touches the great truth of Mercy: 
This brings us to one of the most wondrous aspects of the Mercy that the General, with the eyes of his heart wide open, instinctively recognizes.  Theologians speaks of this as the apocatastasis, the final restoration of all things "at the end of time."  I first wrapped my mind around this concept by way of a strong visual image that came to me one Sunday many years ago when I was still living in Maine.  I'd put my daughter Lucy, by then a teenager, on a ferry from our island to the mainland four miles away to meet her boyfriend Scott.  Standing on a high bluff on an exceptionally clear afternoon, I could watch the whole little drama play out. I saw each of the sequences unfolding in turn:  the ferry approaching the dock, Scott's car winding down the landing road, Lucy moving to the front of the boat in eager expectation.  I could feel their excitement.  But from my vantage point, it was all present already, all contained in a huge, stately "now."  The dimension that for them was still being lived in time, for me had been converted to space, and the picture was complete.   
I grasped that day what apocatastasis really means.  I saw how time--all our times--are contained in something bigger:  a space that is none other than the Mercy itself.  The fullness of time becomes this space:  a vast, gentle wideness in which all possible outcomes--all our little histories, past, present, and future; all our hopes and dreams--are already contained and, mysteriously, already fulfilled.  The great mystics have named this as the heart of the Mercy of God: the intuition that the entire rainbow of times and colors, of past and future, of individual paths through history, is all contained--flows out of and back into--that great white light of the simply loving present of God.  Alpha and Omega, beginning and end.  And in that Mercy all our history--our possible pasts and possible futures, our lost loved ones and children never born--is contained and fulfilled in a wholeness of love from which nothing can every possibly be lost.   
The poet Dylan Thomas writes of this in "This Side of the Truth."  Dedicated to his son, the poem beautifully elucidates how all those apparently irreconcilable opposites of our lives--innocence and guilt, success and failure, triumph and loss--are somehow encompassed in a deeper, unifying forgiveness.  In the end. neither good nor bad has the final word, but "all your deeds and words, / Each truth, each lie, / Die in unjudging love."   
If only we could understand this more deeply!  If only we could see and trust that all our ways of getting there---our good deeds, our evil deeds, our regrets, our compulsive choosings and the fallout from those choosings, our things left undone and paths never actualized---are quietly held in an exquisite fullness that simply poises in itself, then pours itself out in a single glance of the heart.  If we could only glimpse that, even for an instant, then perhaps we would be able to sense the immensity of the love that seeks to meet us at the crossroads of the Now, when we yield ourselves entirely to it

Yes . . . . Yes . . . . and YES YES YES!!!

And then last night, during worship, the topic was "the courage to surrender," and, as the band played, I experienced an overwhelming sense of how FREE  I can be, am, when I let go of all to which I'm clinging, just let it go, give it up, and allow God to then fill me with every good gift.  I don't have to allow my off-centeredness to stop me from being anything I choose and am meant to be. 

OK.  And now I have a sermon to write. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reflections on chairing the conference

Chairing the Annual Meeting of my denominational conference was a fabulous experience.  I was surprised how much FUN I had, telling a couple of people that the extrovert in me really took over.  (And thank goodness; otherwise, I'd be even more exhausted than I am, and that's hard to imagine!)  It was non-stop from Thursday afternoon through Sunday after church, but we didn't have any huge problems.  A couple of glitches -- I'd forgotten to arrange for someone to introduce our keynote speaker (ha! minor detail!), but I realized it with enough time to just do it myself, so it was OK.  And we had more people show up for our Sunday morning plenary and closing worship than I anticipated, so we ran out of bulletins and had to bring up more chairs.  Oh well.

One of the best things about this was that we had 70 volunteers to help us. Amazing.  Way more than we needed, but it was such fun to see them greeting folks and hanging out.  I loved it!

And Cathedral of Hope has such a beautiful music ministry.  Friday night we had Angie Landers sing, cabaret style, at the Interfaith Peace Chapel...wow.  She's really as good as any professional I've ever heard.  And then Saturday night at the banquet our men's octet sang--they are wondrous, plus Marlene (alto who graces our Taize services every month) and a lovely soprano whose name escapes me at the moment.  Really, we had 150 at this banquet and they were ALL bowled over by the quality.

David came over for the banquet and stayed with me in the hotel -- really nice to have him there.  Douglas arranged for me to have the hotel room as "comp," which I appreciated.  I would've paid for it myself -- it was so necessary for me, really.  If I'd had to drive 45 minutes every morning and night to get home that would've been bad.  I was staying to lock up the church, so that would've put me home very late.

There's something about doing this kind of thing...it's a bit like preaching, I mean, in terms of this strange place within me between desiring both to be hidden and the center of attention.  The old wounds within me creep up and make it a bit difficult to let this just "be."  Appreciate the compliments, but don't let them go to your head.  Admit your mistakes and learn from them, but no need to dwell.  Let it go.  Let it go.  Let it go.  A satisfying memory now. That's all.  






Saturday, May 25, 2013

Things to do

Now that two HUGE extra responsibilities are almost at an end, my thoughts turn to the freedom that will be soon be mine.  What to do? What to do?  Oh, the possibilities . . . .

Paint the guest bedroom.  I've redone that room in a light yellow with black outline theme.  It's a very small room, but I think a nice yellow accent wall might be nice.  Worth trying.

Host a salon . . . Wouldn't it be fun to invite people over just to sing and act and recite poetry...to be a little creative?  Hmmm, I wonder how that might look, I mean, how we could structure it.  Dinner, then singing or whatever?  Maybe just an afternoon of hor d'oeuvres, punctuated by various creative activities.

I'd like to put some moulding around the doors entering the living room.  Plus some wainscoting on one wall in particular.  Saw a beautiful photo on houzz.com of three large panels on one wall, each one filled with beautiful wall paper.  Wow; that could be stunning.  Maybe each one as wide as two rolls of wallpaper; that would make it easy.

Write some essays.

Vacation.  We head for Durango in August -- can't wait for that!!

And a quick trip to New York City in June, just David and I.

Maybe another The Artist's Way group study.  That was a wonderful experience.

Get my study organized -- it's a disaster.  Too much "stuff."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Even disconnection announces my place

Do you know this poem by Mary Oliver?  Wild Geese 


You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I am part of all that is.
I touch reality and it touches me.
Even disconnection announces my place.
The great endings, and the beginnings, 
hold me.  
I float in the eternity of God's hand.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ah, We Never Tire of Henri's Wisdom...

Hat tip to  Jan...


If. . . . .

If we are to take risks,
to be free,
in the air,
in life,
we have to know
that when we come down from it all,
we're going to be caught,
we're going to be safe.
The great hero is the least visible.
Trust the catcher.

~~Henri Nouwen


Our church is studying Henri's "The Way of the Heart" for Lent.  We have about 14 different study groups in which we've trained the facilitators, plus we have individuals reading the book, and the senior minister is combining it with the lectionary and preaching about it during Lent.  It's amazing to have all kinds of folks stopping me in the narthex on Sunday morning to tell me their experience with "solitude," "silence," and "unceasing prayer."  Wow.

So, thanks for these further words from Henri, Jan.  

Safety and risks...risks and safety...the paradox continues...

The Mystery of the Self class

I'm teaching a class each Sunday morning called "The Spiritual Life," and for the past several weeks I've begun a new series called "The Mystery of the Self."

We've covered Kierkegaard's vision of how the self is created, Robert Kegan's The Evolving Self, and today I did an introduction to process theology so that next week we can discuss Catherine Keller's view of self from a feminist process perspective.

So interesting how the class at 9 a.m. is more intellectual -- people there are interested in ideas, and we play off each other's views.  The folks who attend at the 10:45 class are coming at this from their own experience of how they have (and are) developing their sense of self.

So, I'm getting both sides of how I myself came at this subject.  It's really gripping me...I'm loving it!

And today I found this amazing graphic...from living-flame.com

Monday, December 31, 2012

Seeing the Lights at Christmas

Took Eddie and Morgan to see the Christmas Lights at Interlocken this year -- I've always wanted to see this neighborhood myself.  We had a good time, and going after Christmas meant there were hardly any cars!





Thoughts at the End of the Year

Thanks to Jan @ Yearning for God, here are some thoughtful questions.  I'm at home alone tonight (David and Katie drove to Georgia today, but I don't have the time off from work to join them.)



1. What took place in your home relations? Your work relations? Your church relations? What events in the larger community of city, country and world most captured your attention?
  • David and I have had a very good year together.  He has become the acknowledged minister for The Agape Meal on Thursday nights at his church which means that he gets to plan and lead worship, plus pastoral care.  He feels like the pastor he is, and that's been so meaningful for him.  (The Agape Meal is for people who are homeless.)...When I was hospitalized he was a true angel, helping me heal more quickly by making sure I felt loved and cared for....Deborah married Kevin -- a huge event for all of us.  They missed Christmas with the family, though, by planning their honeymoon cruise over the Christmas holiday.  We missed them, but they had a GREAT time....Katie has come through the most demanding semester EVER with flying colors.  David and I are both so happy to see her mature and grow like she has.  There's something just appealing about Katie -- her personality engages people -- and during this semester that was so trying, people in all aspects of her life stepped forward to share how much they love and respect her.  It was beautiful to behold!!...My sister Susan taught me the meaning of family.  I'm forever grateful to her.
  • Work-wise, I ended my pastorate at First Congregational and began a new job as Assoc Pastor for Spiritual Life at Cathedral of Hope, a largely LGBT church.  One of the fastest growing demographics at CoH is straight families that want their children to be raised in a diverse church with progressive theology.  It's been amazingly meaningful to me to serve there.  So grateful.  
  • Larger Community -- of course, the re-election of Barack Obama.  Thank God for that.  And the heart-wrenching shooting in Connecticut -- that continues to be painful for me.  

2. What books and art instructed your mind and heart?
  • I was struck with "The End of the Affair" by Graham Greene...what a complicated story about two people's love/hate relationship with God, how they both fought believing in God, but were ultimately convinced (at least she was) by love itself--its mystery and its power.
  • We saw "Les Miserable" on Christmas Day -- I cried all the way through it...that story just touches on every aspect of life that is important.  Love, Justice, Family, Courage, Faith, the list is endless.  It was so intense for me, though, that I doubt whether I'll see it again any time soon.

3. Did you make any new discoveries about yourself? 
    
 I did.  I guess part of the effect of years of therapy was that I've thought of myself as  "good person" for many years now.   This year it was brought home to me that I'm a mixture of good and not--so-good.  I can be horribly self-centered.  And I've hurt those closest to me, terribly.  Forgiveness has been their gift to me.
4. What was your greatest joy in this year gone? What was your greatest sorrow? 

  • My greatest joy has been truly recognizing the depth of David's love for  me.  Not just because he was so attentive during my hospitalization, but in a number of other areas as well.  My TRUST has increased several-fold.  When I think about my husband, JOY is there.  

5. How do you want to create the new year? 

  • I want to lose weight.  I received test results from my doctor indicating that I'm just over the normal range for diabetes.  Of course, I know Prednisone raises blood sugar levels, but I also know that I don't exercise enough, so I need to take this seriously.   
  • I want to read more and STOP playing "word ace" on my phone.  I can follow David's example here...he read over 80 books this year.
  • I'm over-committed until the end of May--two huge responsibilities tacked on to my regular job.  Those commitments are made, but beginning in June, I want to make sure I have some real Sabbath time each week.

6. Who are the people with whom you would like to deepen your relationships in the year to come? 
      I'd like to continue renewing my friendship with Anne.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Places, memories

Like Roy, I began on Birchman Street.
No memories, just Birchman and old photographs
.....Toddler Susan, peeing on the sidewalk
.....Toddler Susan and the myth of eating dirt
.....Mom frantically giving the old Birchman address to the police on the night
                someone broke into our house, the house on Odom.
Yes, Odom, down steep Burton Hill Road
.....Denny, of the beautiful camera, after waking from a nap
.....swing sets and chalk on the driveways
.....Bernice and Shannon and oh, she drowned in the family pool
Beaumont and Nederland...Ginia Busby and Charla Pruitt and Cindy Holiday
.....Dances in the garage
.....Scary father late at night.  Protective sleep three in twin beds.
.....Ditches, crawdads, "Oh! a tornado!"
.....Mrs. Risinger and David, the boy who knew the beauty of red and brown
.....Chinese jump-rope, silver tooth, "no, you don't want to see..."
.....An itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny yellow polka-dot bikini
.....The smell of sulphur, fried shrimp, and DDT
.....'Girls, this is Joe, my drinkin' buddy'
San Antonio....Sherry Lawrence and Donna Sager, Ms. Ridell and Ms. Neilsen
....."Gregory likes Susan"
.....Murder in the dark--how did she stand us?
.....Chinaberry trees, four-square, piano lessons and recitals
.....Tippy, oh Tippy, lonely tears, bitter solitude
.....Bronchial pneumonia...but it's not real
.....Running through the sheets hanging out to dry, climbing out the window after dark
.....Peter and the Wolf puppet show extraordinare -- or was our Talent Show the best ticket in town?
.....World's Fair, and Aunt Zelma.  Mom is so unhappy.
.....Krueger Junior High's education in loneliness
Dallas....Farmer's Branch, the alamo-looking Junior High
.....A teacher who was kind
Fort Worth...Stripling Junior High--diagramming sentences in 'pink shoes'
.....surviving the nightmare normal
Euless....Sotogrande and Trinity, Donna Hall and Jimmie Wilson
.....Wanda, the suicide, she of curly red hair
.....Mom and dad, the separated.  Airport dream of freedom.  Airport shame and TRAPPED!
.....Pam,sexually abused, but let no one take that in
.....VOE essay winner, while Pam Green and Janet and, oh yes, her husband Joe
.....Dr. Golden and clinical depression, but let no one take that in
.....Love: the willingness to extend oneself for the sake of another?  Why is that so hard?



Creativity

From "The Artist's Way"


Basic Principles


1.   Creativity is the natural order of life.  Life is energy: pure creative energy.
2.   There is an underlying, indwelling creative force infusing all of life—including ourselves.
3.   When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the Creator’s creativity within us and our lives.
4.   We are, ourselves, creations.  And we, in turn, are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves.
5.   Creativity is God’s gift to us.  Using our creativity is our gift back to God.
6.   The refusal to be creative is self-will and is counter to our true nature.
7.   When we open ourselves to exploring our creativity, we open ourselves to God: good orderly direction.
8.   As we open our creative channel to the Creator, many gentle but powerful changes are to be expected.
9.   It is safe to open ourselves up to greater and greater creativity.
10. Our creative dreams and yearnings come from a divine source.  As we move toward our dreams, we move toward our divinity.

Creative tension between plurality, tradition and resisting domination



From Chapter 1Remembering Esperanza: A Cultural-Political Theology for North American Praxis,
                                 by Mark Kline Taylor, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 1990

We need a creative tension between tradition, plurality, and resisting domination.

Singular attention to TRADITION alone =
·       provinciality unaware of other traditions, shallow understanding of the plurality of forms within one's own tradition may reinforce domination by failing to attend to oppression and the needs for thoroughgoing critical resistance


Singular attention to PLURALITY =
·       celebrates flux and play of relative forms, but may fail to marshal resistance to dis-membering nihilism
·       lacking a sense of one's tradition often blinds us to a knowledge of how traditions have also nurtured and might yet help to create a sense of play and appreciation of difference 


Singular attention to DOMINATION
·       without the other two postmodern emphases, easily fails to actualize its own vision and strategies for achieving justice and freedom from oppression
·       w/o plurality, it can founder on the divisiveness that springs up  with different visions of 'the just'
·       w/o tradition (some traditions of myth and ritual, at least -- not necessarily the established Tradition), the struggle for freedom is impoverished, lacking the resources of communal memory and symbolic heritage (often providing minimal dialogical consensus for marshaling critique and action)


Correlations of only TRADITION and PLURALITY, leaving out resisting domination:
·       can easily become a Christian liberalism centering on tolerance, one which is repressive through its lack of a specific critique of oppression.
·       this repressive tolerance finds it difficult to stop the "grand conversation" among many voices in order to point out sin/wrong/evil, in order to envision a just future, in order to take a stand.


Correlations of only TRADITION and RESISTANCE TO DOMINATION, w/o pluralism
·       undermines the Christian struggle for justice by ignoring the need to orchestrate differences among the communities working for justice (and defining it)


Correlations of PLURALITY and RESISTANCE TO DOMINATION, w/o tradition:
·       forges a link between the greatly valued virtue of tolerance and the need for freedom as the priceless conditions for a full humanity -- BUT tolerance and freedom can be sustained on their own terms with their own rhetoric only for a short, unstable time.  The forging of tolerance and the struggle for freedom (no easy link to make) often require the resources of myth, ritual, memory -- in short, tradition.
·       w/o tradition, the rhetoric of tolerance/freedom may inspire and appeal, but the power to nurture the common good is likely to be short-lived. 

From Chapter 1
Remembering Esperanza: A Cultural-Political Theology for North American Praxis,
 by Mark Kline Taylor, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 1990