Friday, March 28, 2008

Brave action by my seminary

I've been very proud of my seminary in recent days. Each year it hosts a "State of the Black Church" two-day symposium, and this year one of the honorees was Jeremiah Wright, chosen months and months ago, of course. With all the hullabulloo going on, the university with which my seminary is associated decided that it just couldn't risk having Rev. Wright on campus, so the meeting space, which had been reserved since last year, was taken away from the seminary. With a mere week before the symposium, the university trustees, citing "security concerns" told the seminary to just find someplace else for its 200+ visitors.

My response to the university? What a bunch of Cowards!

The seminary's response was perfect. The dean, Nancy R_____, and one of our trustees wrote an opinion piece for the local newspaper stating exactly why we chose to honor Rev. Wright and exactly why we are going to find another venue and continue to honor him.

My response to the seminary? Yes! I'm proud to be a graduate of this fine institution!

Well, I didn't know how right I really was. Yesterday I found out a lot more about the "security concerns." The university was not joking (although I still have no respect for its action). What I heard was that the president of the seminary, while walking across campus, had to be accompanied by bodyguards while wearing a bullet-proof vest.

Virtually all of the professors and administrators have received a HUGE amount of hate mail, some of it, apparently, containing death threats. I guess I shouldn't find it so hard to believe that there are people out there so full of venomous hatred and racism like that, but I do. I'm just blown away by it. It makes the action of the seminary even more courageous and even more important.

Young Man with Integrity is, right now, putting together a great big poster to use while he's at the County Democratic Convention tomorrow. He's an Obama delegate. I'm so very proud of him.

I pray for Barack Obama's safety, and that Barack Obama wins this election and wins it BIG. What a brave and good soul he is.

Now I'm going to his website and sending more $$ his way.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Playfulness of God

How 'bout something a little more uplifting this morning? From Belden Lane in "The Solace of Fierce Landscapes"....he's writing about the playfulness of God:

Martin Luther once spoke of his experience as a young student in Magdeburg, singing in the streets with another youngster, hoping for small gifts of money or food. A huge man suddenly came running out from a nearby house, waving sausages in the air and yelling at them in noisy jest, "What are you boys up to with such a racket?" The man grinned as he spoke, yet the boys weren't sure how to respond. They wanted the sausages, but in fearful confusion they bolted and ran. Luther later asked in his Tabletalk if the story wasn't typical of our response to God and God's grace. Like the man frantically waving sausages, he said, God holds out Jesus Christ to us, not seeking to frighten but to draw us to Godself. Yet we're afraid. We can't imagine such forgiveness. We run the other way, certain that God is angry with us, tragically misinterpreting God's play.

When we finally do begin to understand this business about the playfulness of God, when we decide not to run the other way, we discover that God invites us to playfulness in return. Therese of Lisieux, for example, could speak of virtually wrapping God around her little finger with respect to her habit of sometimes falling asleep during prayer, a habit her sisters in the religious life found disconcerting. She knew that God was a sucker for "little nothings" like herself who frequently fall asleep in their fathers' arms. Far from expecting any punishment, therefore, she knew that her 'weakness' was the very thing that bound God to her, allowing her to "hold him prisoner" for the sake of love.

There's a hardy and playful banter with God that one finds at times among the saints. Teresa of Avila once talked back when God was playing unusually rough with her, saying, "If this is how you treat your friends, I know why you have so many enemies!" This bold and playful rejoinder to God is one that pushes the outer edges of God's covenant with God's people. Its goal is intimacy, a deeper relationship with God made possible by the mutual acceptance of play.

The playfulness of God. I could use some of that today! I have to work on a lecture I'm suppose to give to one of the Ph.D. seminars at the seminary next week--I'm just substituting for the professor who is out of town. I'd much rather be out and about, visiting friends, going to the movies perhaps, anything but sitting in my home office and working through what I want to say. Dear God, if you can show me how to make this fun, please do!

I guess it's not such a bad deal. I love the topic. And it won't take me all day.

Life is good.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Experience--Terror of sheer nothing

Here is a quote from a book called "The Ember and the Stars: A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Moral Sense of Nature" by Erazim Kohak. I was stunned reading this passage, it so echoed experiences I have had in which we suddenly get a glimpse of the utter mystery beneath all of life. A philosopher and writer, he has gone into the woods to live for an extended period. He built his own cabin and he is living alone, and literally, off the land...

So I sat on the third night of the January full moon. The evening comes early: it could have been no more than a single stroke past seven when the full moon swung past the uncurtained window in the peak and cast a cone of cold white light into the room. Preoccupied with my doings, warm between the stove and the lamp, I hardly noticed it at first. Only gradually I grew aware of the immense, intergalactic emptiness bearing down on my house, leaning into the windows, pressing down on the frozen forest and deep into the snow. The familiar things of my daily work disappeared, swallowed up in the vast emptiness. Only the moon remained, and the vast, cold emptiness of the space, the deep all-devouring cold, freezing all life, pressing down on me and demanding its own.

Something like a panic seized me. I sat, paralyzed, blinded by that vast emptiness. The warmth of the stove, the warmth of my body suddenly seemed utterly anomalous: the eternal emptiness of the cosmos, freezing all life, seemed the dominant presence. There was nothing. Somewhere in some inaccessible corner of my mind I was not unaware that deep under the snow were the humble denizens of the forest, the woodchucks, the beavers, the gentle brown mice; that in their season they would reemerge, the sun would melt the snow and the green world of summer spring forth once more. But that was theory. The present reality was the vast cold emptiness, leaning hard on the frozen world from the infinitely distant stars, demanding its own.

Suddenly it seemed an immense effort to restoke the fire. Why? I was living alone. I could not strike the spark of the divine eros, I could not renew life. Only when there are two, sleeping side by side, sharing dreams, does life renew itself. I could only live it down as fire burns down, stick by stick, burning up a scant supply of dreams until there are no more and the cosmic cold reclaims its own. A man alone is a waste of good firewood, unable to resist the cosmic cold. It would be so much easier to stop the clock, douse the fire, and open the door and windows wide, letting in the immense cosmic cold. There was nothing. Let there be nothing, let nothing be.

The moon passed by my window and the experience passed on with it, as suddenly as it had come. The familiar objects of my world reappeared, the cup with the flower design, the embroidered pillow, the old clock, and my stove. I got up, selected a length of fragrant cherry and put it on the fire. There were once again things to look after, page proofs to finish, lentils to soak for the morrow. I walked out into the moonlit night. Even the moon was the familiar brother moon once more, lighting up my path to the orchard, outlining tiny tracks by the wood pile with sharp shadows: a wood mouse had been there before me. I walked slowly along the path, pausing occasionally to hear and to remember, giving thanks for the miracle of warmth, the miracle of life, for the fullness of Being. For what I had seen in the light of the cold January moon was the terror of sheer nothing--and it is not convertible with Being.

Oh, Mr. Kohak, thank you. You expressed this so well....

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mournful News...A Friend is Gone

I received some upsetting news today. A friend died.

She was a friend from my oil company days, a friend who served alongside me on the board of a local professional association of which we were both members, a friend whom I had not spoken with in probably five years.

She died on March 8, over a week ago, from breast cancer. Those who notified me had few details, reminding me that she was a "very private person." Which is true. It seems all of us were surprised.

She was raised in Minnesota, I believe, and often spoke to me of her family, which did seem to follow the austere, straight-up Scandinavian-origin stereotype. Privacy was a value she held dear.

Tall, blonde and blue-eyed, she spoke very distinctly, always making sure that each syllable was pronounced, and pronounced correctly.

When she and I were working together we would often meet for dinner at the Galleria after work, always choosing a table outside one of the restaurants so that we could look down at the skaters and enjoy the beauty of the place.

She told me once that she believed in reincarnation, and she even dreamed about it. One dream involved her as a little girl--I wish I could remember more. What has remained for me is this image of her peering around a corner in this dream. And she was someone else.

We traveled together once to a conference. In the airport waiting for our flight, I got up to look at the flight board. When I sat down again she said, "Katherine, you move like a dancer. So graceful." Never in my life, before or since, has anyone said anything like that to me, and I find there are tears in my eyes now as I bring it to memory.

We both served as president of the local chapter of this professional association, my term following hers. The friendships I made while serving in this organization were by far the best thing about it. I actually loved the chapter meetings, the conferences, the board meetings--all because I got to visit with such good friends. What fun we had.

My last get-together with my friend was lunch about five years ago. By that time she had moved to a different company ~ ExxonMobil ~ and had been promoted way up the corporate ladder. She looked beautiful, as always.

Having had the opportunity to know Lea fills me with gratitude, and I am deeply saddened, even disturbed, at this news of her death. I regret not keeping up. I regret not hearing of her death in time to attend a service in her memory.

Lea, I love you. Thank you for your friendship.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Do Not Look with Fear (St. Francis de Sales)

A member of my covenant group at the Five Day Academy shared these beautiful words from St. Francis de Sales:

Do not look with fear
on the changes and chances of this life;
rather look to them with full faith that as they arise,
God – whose you are – will deliver you out of them.

God has kept you hitherto.
Do not but hold fast to God's dear hand,
and the Holy One will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand, God will bear you
in the divine loving arms.

Do not anticipate what will happen tomorrow.
The same everlasting God who cares for you today
will take care of you tomorrow and every day.
Either God will shield you from suffering or
will give you unfailing strength to bear it.

Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts
and imaginings.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Driving Miss Daisy 2008

Here are some photos of D in his performance as Boolie in Driving Miss Daisy:

This was the photo in the Playbill --
(Is he handsome or what? And a good heart, to boot!)
And here is one of the "official" cast shots:

These two shots are the "salmon" scene, where Daisy calls Boolie early in the morning and has him come over to her house. She wants him there when she confronts Hoak about stealing a $.33 can of salmon. Boolie is not pleased.

Hoak has bought Miss Daisy's old car.
Boolie receives the Man of the Year award in Atlanta business circles...
And here Boolie meets Hoak at the old house, before they go together to visit Miss Daisy in the nursing home.

D was GREAT!

A Reflection on Time, Patterns, Cycles

Both of the speakers at the Five Day Academy emphasized, in different ways, the patterns/cycles of our lives. Here's something I wrote in response during one of the silent times:

Time has stopped this week...

Strange intersection of exhaustion on multiple levels and the mysterious energy arising from openness to God's nudgings...Somehow together the dynamic between them has bestowed upon me a taste of the eternal...

Liz and Robert and their talk of patterns, cycles ~ always intriguing for an existentialist like me...

The pattern of time and eternity...

The pattern of our lives taken, blessed, broken, and shared...

The Psalms invite us to see our cycle of orientation, disorientation, and new orientation, where, yes, we do return to the beginning and know it for the first time...

Creation itself here at this beautiful place, with winter on the march to spring and summer and back again to the cocoon of winter that will follow next year...

Sunrise out of darkness...
Resurrection from crucifixion...

Covenant groups bearing witness to Encounter, Reflection, and the miracle of Transformation and new life...

Patterns that stabilize time even while upsetting it through the inevitability of change...

The mystery of time and patterns deepens for me here in this place...

Perhaps paradox undergirds them both...a creative tension...a friction between opposites giving birth to the energy necessary to move me forward in time...while in no way diminishing eternity.

Oh, in this quiet moment, with the hawks freefalling through the sky above me, I hear the wind through the trees and the water lapping the shoreline, sounds unchanged since Jesus heard them centuries before.

What is the new season before me?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Something New Being Born Within Me

The last few days have been amazing. Really, it was the best Five-Day Academy I've ever attended--whether that's because I had no responsibilities or because my soul was simply ready to receive, I'm not sure. Probably both.

As the week wore on, I felt more and more space open up within me.

The last twelve years have been one HUGE event after another ~ for the most part the events have been good, but nevertheless HUGE changes take their toll. I left my job in corporate America, entered seminary, got ordained, sold my beautiful house and moved, took a six-month job as ED of a non-profit for older persons, entered a Ph.D. program, went through two + years of incredibly intense group therapy, lost my dear friend N to cancer, finished the Two-Year Academy for Spiritual Formation, qualifying exams, writing the dissertation, meeting D and marrying him, moving again, loving my new children-by-marriage, adjusting to family life and sharing living space, defending the dissertation, graduating, taking an interim senior pastor position, then three years serving a very conflicted church downtown.

Now I find myself in a church that is healthy, and where my part-time responsibilities are limited. And I suddenly (since last week) no longer have two other jobs--now, it's just one other job (building up my practice in spiritual direction and pastoral counseling). Having no more clerical work to do at what was my third job, I find myself, for the first time in twelve years, with a couple of mornings free.

As this life-review came to me this week, I felt something new being born.

Along with this realization of a bit of time during the week that I can call my own, came a further realization that the person who now could experience this bit of freedom wasn't the same person who began all these changes twelve years ago.

I feel more confident, more hopeful, more able to be my authentic self in most situations.

~~Do I hear a "Wow!" ? ~~ Yes!

This week it feels like I can use this "extra" time to really be creative. Some of the time will have to be spent marketing myself as a counselor/spiritual director--I have financial responsibilities in my marriage and family. But another thing I'd really like to do is develop some presentations that I can offer to retreat planners. As I listened to our faculty at the Five Day Academy, both of whom I really liked, I found myself thinking Hmmm. I think I might like to do that. And then my roommate for the week, The Author, said to me, out of the blue, in a very serious tone: "Katherine, I think you should be a presenter for the Academy." !! We talked about it some, and she told me why, which was nice to hear. The main thing was the remarkable timing of her comment. I took it as real encouragement.

Whether it actually works out isn't the important thing, though. My soul opened up this week, ready to receive something new...

Who is God calling me to become?...

Who has God created me to be?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

This and That

Well, Hillary won, and I am not unhappy. As a friend of mine said this morning, to hear her say in her speech, "For all the women who've been down and have found the courage to get right back up, THIS IS FOR YOU!" -- yes, that was thrilling. Amazing, and wonderful, and thrilling.

Young Man with Integrity apparently took quite a leadership role at the precinct convention Tuesday evening--he just knows all the rules, and apparently they needed people with that kind of knowledge! He'll go to the county convention as an Obama delegate, and I am not unhappy about that either!

And in other news...

Quite unbelievably, it's sleeting and snowing in North Texas. On March 6. Wow. The weather has deteriorated since morning, and apparently the traffic is now one huge mess out there.

I'm comfy-cozy inside today, not because I'm so smart, but because I'm still sick. Oh well.
We had a healing service on Sunday (oh, I loved getting to pray with people; wow), and at the end, I and my colleague prayed for each other. I asked for prayer about this illness--not so much for the physical healing but for the emotional part of it that tempts me toward anger and self-rejection. And you know what? I've really been better with all that since then. Combined with the work I did on it here, all of my RevGal friends praying, and this healing prayer on Sunday, I'm noticing something really different in my attitude. And that's a big contributor toward healing, I know.

My second job has ended--the little clerical one that paid me $15/hour. Guess I worked myself right out of the job--got them caught up and there wasn't anything else for me to do. Which is okay. I did enjoy being there, and they'll call me on an 'as needed' basis now.

Having my Wednesday and Friday mornings free now is going to be helpful on a number of levels. First it will help me get more rest here in the beginning, plus I'm thinking perhaps I should use that time to start a walking program. Or, I wonder whether that "Fit After Fifty" place is still open. I don't know, but Something!

If I can get well enough by Sunday, I'm going to the Five Day Academy for Spiritual Formation. This is the retreat from which I came home last year with pneumonia. Not looking for a recurrence of that!! Oh, but it would be good to get away for a while. Change of scenery. No responsibilities. Beauty everywhere. Spending some time with my dear friend The Author--she and I are suppose to room together.

I got my brother's tax information together this afternoon. He lives in Thailand. I'll take it to the tax accountant for him soon.

I was able to do some work here from home today, too. I'm arranging for speakers for my church's Wellness Ministry 2008 Lecture Series on Mental Health. Monthly, we'll cover topics like domestic violence, suicide/tragic death, spirituality and psychotherapy, family systems, the biology of mental illness. And we begin with a presentation in April entitled "I'm Not Sick. I Don't Need Help!: Getting Your Loved Ones the Help They Need." Good information for people who struggle to get their loved ones to take their meds. The lectures will be Monday evenings for about an hour. We'll serve refreshments. Should be good; I like doing this kind of thing. And I have some incredibly gifts friends who are willing to speak for us.

Let me end this little epistle by stealing a GREAT quote from Jan's blog, Yearning for God.

In those moments when we forget ourselves – not thinking, “Am I happy?” but completely oblivious to our little ego – we spend a brief but beautiful holiday in heaven. The joy we experience in these moments of self-forgetting is our true nature, our native state. To regain it, we have simply to empty ourselves of what hides this joy: that is, to stop dwelling on ourselves. To the extent that we are not full of ourselves, God can fill us. “If you go out of yourself,” says Johannes Tauler, “without doubt he shall go in, and there will be much or little of his entering in according to how much or little you go out.”
~~Eknath Easwaran

Wow. I love that. Thanks, Jan.

That's it for now. Best to you all....

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


My husband and my son-by-marriage are caucusing down the block at our precinct. For Obama. I was so looking forward to going, but had to leave work early today--I'm still coughing and have a lot of rattling in my lungs again.

Young Man with Integrity hopes to be elected to the County as a delegate from our precinct. We get 15 delegates, but D called and said there were over 400 people there. Still, most of them will leave once they sign in, so who knows? I REALLY hope he makes it.

I voted for Obama, but as I left the polling place this morning I had a big moment of 'buyer's remorse,' seeing all these women standing outside in the cold with "HILLARY ARKANSAS TRAVELER" signs. They waved at me, and I waved back, and felt so guilty. !!
(It snowed up here in North Texas last night, but by mid-afternoon it was in the 60's, so I guess they didn't have too bad a time of it standing out there.)

Anyway, gosh, two such great candidates.

D said he wants Obama as president and Clinton as majority leader in the senate. I thought that was a great idea. Harry Reid doesn't seem too effective to me.

I'm too sick to stay up and see all the results. I already know that McCain has secured the nomination--my only real prayer is for a Democrat in the White House and a strongly Democratic Congress in November!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Thrilled by God

In the ebb and flow of the spiritual life, I have had my share of flows--thankfully so. This weekend will be a 'flow' that I will not soon forget. In fact, I am still in the midst of it.

My dear friend, Zen Musician Scholar, was ordained--she is now Rev. Zen Musician Scholar~RZMS ! The service was stunning. And she was stunning, radiant. She glowed throughout the whole thing. As I sat there and occasionally looked over at her, I began to move into the center of God's grace. Oh!!!! What a feeling filled with beauty! Seeker Executive talks about being in the flow of God's grace in terms of sailing and how you suddenly "catch" the wind and off you go! It was like that for me yesterday.

As my name for her indicates, RZMS is a musician. A professional. She plays the flute regularly for the Symphony Orchestra in Large City to the East, and the orchestra came out in force to be a beautiful part of her ordination service. She had three scriptures, and after each was read, her friends blessed us with sublime music. Scripture. Music. Scripture. Music. Scripture. Music....each an opening to God.

(For those of you interested, the music was: "Morning has Broken" Adagio from "Concerto in C Minor" for violin, oboe, and basso continuo, J.S. Bach...."Preludiettino" by Georges Barrere....Andante from "Sonata in C Minor" by G. P. Telemann....And during Communion: "Sheep May Safely Graze" by Bach, Allegretto from "Hamburger Sonata in G Major" also by Bach, and "Minuet and Dance of the Blessed Spirits" by C. W. Gluck. The postlude was "Toccata for Organ" by Charles-Marie Widor.)

After I sat down from preaching, the "presentation of the candidate" began, and one of the presenters was R H, whose quote appears at the bottom of this blog. As I wrote in my very first post, R H incarnated Christ to me, years ago, in a way that became the pivot point of my life. My friend RZMS has practiced Zen with him for years and years, her practice deepening to the point where she is now a teacher of Zen as well.

Well, when R H began to speak, and held his hands up together in a gesture of prayer and respect (the Zen tradition), my heart broke open. I went back, viscerally, to that moment when everything changed and I began to take the 'right' path for me. I had just sat down, and when he began to speak, I realized that I had given everything, everything, everything, POURED MYSELF OUT to my friend and to God and to the gathered congregation, and had yet at the same time RECEIVED everything ~ renewal and wholeness. I realized that I had actually embodied what I was trying to say in my sermon.

That sense of the closeness of God and oneness with my life have continued all weekend. Last night all of us~myself and all three children and their friends~went to my husband's final performance of "Driving Miss Daisy" at a local community theater. The acting was superb. Truly. We were all very happy for D. I felt tremendous joy for him, with him.

And then this morning we had a healing service in both Sunday services, and as I prayed with those who came forward for anointing and prayer, I felt the purity of being God's vessel, filled by the very act of emptying.

Oh, I am so so so very grateful.

God thrills me.

Here's the sermon, but I've deleted those parts that would identify my friend. It doesn't flow, but for what it's worth....

The title is "Where Wisdom Dwells."

(Besides Wisdom of Solomon, which I posted earlier, she also used the Philippians hymn and the Markan version of the Shema)...

There is a place on this earth where our souls meet—our souls meet each other and they meet God. That place is wisdom.

[one paragraph about how I began thinking of this "souls meeting"]

Wisdom’s dwelling place… "RZMS"'s choice of text from the Wisdom of Solomon was not hugely familiar to me. Perhaps that’s the same with you, so let me echo Mary’s lovely reading of it. Perhaps we can remember in the coming moments that scripture carries within it a power to transform.

So, let me invite you now to open yourself to its power by closing your eyes, taking several deep-deep-deep, cleansing breaths...Breathe in the Here and the Now, the very Wisdom of God that surrounds us…"For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, for it is succeeded by the night, but against Wisdom evil does not prevail. She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well." (Wisdom of Solomon 7: 26 - 8:1)

Let me provide a bit of context for Wisdom in the Bible. In some of the Wisdom Literature, Wisdom is "optimistic and assumes the goodness and the justice of the world we live in." That’s a quote from "RZMS." I’ve been reading her writings for years, since we both entered B----Divinity School as first year seminary students in the mid 1990’s. RZMS, now Dr. _____, as we know, tells us that Wisdom assumes the goodness and the justice of our world…. Creation itself–the whole world!-- is imbued with an order that we can actually perceive/know. Once this is understood, we can live in harmony with God’s design. Ah, it’s beautiful.

But, as she also points out, that’s only some of the Wisdom Literature of ancient Israel. For a more complete view we must look at other books in the Bible in which actual human experience amplifies the complexity of Wisdom—I think, ultimately, to the point of paradox.

We learn from Job and Quoheleth (Ecclesiastes) that:

  • Wisdom is The Law~knowledge/knowing, AND Wisdom is The Spirit—Wisdom is also not-knowing, for Wisdom honors doubt.
  • Wisdom is gain and prosperity, AND at the same time loss and profound poverty.
  • Wisdom is creation and life! It is annihilation and death.

In "RZMS"'s view, Wisdom’s “purity” lies in its diversity (—ah! more beautiful paradox!):

  • the intelligence and clarity of Wisdom found in Proverbs,
  • the conservatism of Wisdom in Ben Sira,
  • the ambiguity of Job,
  • the skepticism of Qoheleth—

"Unchecked by this diversity, Wisdom’s “purity” alone could choke the life out of the living Law, the Torah," God’s gift to Israel making Wisdom accessible.

By the time of the Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom, personified as female, is "no longer Law, but mediator between God and humanity." She is “holy spirit.” And as we heard, but a point I want to stress, “while remaining in herself, Wisdom pours herself out in renewal of all things.” Human reason can neither help us understand that, nor experience the truth of it.

[story of a conversation, "sitting acroas the table from my friend" in the early years of seminary. The point was that in looking back at that conversation, I realize that I had ...]

made the unfortunately common mistake of equating vulnerability with weakness. That was how I heard what she said, when in actuality vulnerability like this is strength! It is power! As the Wisdom of Solomon tells us, it’s "wisdom’s power for good against which evil does not prevail."

Looking back, experience tells me that RZMS was living on and speaking from the cusp of life and death. I mean, actually on the cusp of it—not telling herself cover-stories to protect herself She was right there, in that painful place, the place of intense awareness of life's delicacy, it's fragiity. She was right there, in that joyful place of no fear. NO. FEAR.

Of course I don’t know whether that was exactly her experience sitting there at that table with me 12 years ago. But I do know it’s been her experience since then because at other tables, sitting across from each other through the years, usually at La’Madeliene at P____ and _____, she and I together have moved into this place of awareness, and we have spoken of it in that moment. We are suddenly AWAKE and in this place where souls meet—our souls meet each other and they meet God. We’re in that place where Wisdom dwells.

Let me ask you: How does Wisdom manifest in our world? Remember, “While remaining in herself, Wisdom nevertheless pours herself out.” How does she manifest in our world like that?

I happen to think that this is very important question for the church today. Perhaps one answer — among many more that I’m not even aware of, I’m sure — is vulnerability. Philippians: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, [poured himself out!] taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him…” –

I suppose we can read the rest of that passage as some kind of If-Then formula: Because Jesus was so good that he allowed himself to be vulnerable, so then God later rewarded him, and he became “the name at which every knee should bend, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!

But I don’t read it like that.

Vulnerability, pouring out your very self—I think Jesus did that every moment of his life. The pouring out of oneself is its own reward. Wisdom pours herself out, yet remains in herself, and renews all things. Talk about powerful!

While remaining in herself (with all integrity, with all authenticity), Wisdom pours herself out with a vulnerability so strong it knows No Fear. NO FEAR.

The Wisdom Table, so to speak, at La’Madeliene, P____ and F____, is wonderful. It’s a great table. I highly recommend it! But the place where Wisdom should always be found is the Church. The church is meant to be wisdom’s dwelling place. That is our purpose.

How tragic that the Church, instead, so often holds open no place for true Wisdom. Our souls long to meet each other, and God, but too often they are afraid to show themselves in our churches. Perhaps with good reason. The church is frequently no sanctuary for the souls of wounded people—like us.

  • Perhaps it’s too much noise and busyness.
  • Too much judgment, when the soul longs for openness.
  • Too much trivia, frankly, when the soul longs for depth.
  • And perhaps it’s too many easy equations—"Hey, you know that church down the street’s offering a blueprint for success and wealth!"...."Yeah. Well, I’m going to that church across town—have you seen its diagram for happiness?"

The soul does not speak the language of easy formulas. That’s not the way souls meet each other and God.

The language the soul understands?—Well, if you said to me it’s the language of love (as in "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your SOUL and all your mind and all your strength") I would agree with you.

But I also think the soul speaks the language of paradox.

Paradox gets us to that place Wisdom knows where knowledge is no good to us. It’s the language of paradox that Jesus used so often that gets us to that place where human knowledge -- and the need for control that so often motivates our quest for knowledge -- in frustration, just gives up. It’s the language of paradox in which reason is rendered useless, and in which the friction created when “yes and no” and “life and death” are the same thing! propels us to an empty, open space—a place where we can give everything we are, and in that giving receive renewal and wholeness. We awaken to a place on this earth where souls meet. They meet each other and God. That place is where Wisdom dwells.

Dr. "RZMS" has gifts for ministry too numerable to name them all. Perhaps the most important, certainly the most beautiful, is how often she dwells in Wisdom. I speak of--

  • The Wisdom that remains open in the midst of pain, and loving in the face of fear.
  • The Wisdom that knows the wisdom of not-knowing, but nevertheless stands up courageously for what it believes, in faith, is just and good.
  • And I speak of the Wisdom that dares to stand on the cusp of life and death and say “yes” to both, trusting the Gospel truth that from death true life is born.

The Church is meant to be Wisdom’s dwelling place on earth; it is meant to be a place where souls of wounded people can meet each other, and God, and in that space, be healed.

I believe with all my heart—and I know you are with me in this—that the Church will be blessed beyond measure by its soon-to-be (as in “any minute now”) REV. Dr. "RZMS."

May the Church take the RISK of joining her often . . . where Wisdom Dwells.