Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dreading the Holidays No Longer

It's 6:15 a.m. I'm the only one up, ostensibly to prepare for church this morning, but there's actually not much I can do here at home. I'm already showered and ready to go; I'll just leave a little early and have plenty of time to do what I need to do before services.

I love it when the house is quiet like this and I'm the only one awake. Especially when the house is full, like it is now. My inlaws are asleep in Lovely Passionate Feminist's room. LPF is upstairs in the loft, taking Beautiful Genuine Musician's bed (BGM had to work in City to the South most of this weekend), D is sound asleep in our room, and Hobbes, who awoke and meowed loudly when I went into the kitchen, has settled back down, thank goodness.

Yesterday afternoon, D brought the Christmas tree down from the attic, and my MIL began the tedious task of opening up all the squished branches. She did a great job. We have about 10 boxes of Christmas decorations, so I tackled those. As I opened each box, the memories flooded, of course. Ah, the three wise men, given to me as a gift from someone in my last church....Oh, my little mouse all dressed in Christmas red. He's been with me every Christmas for over 20 years. Tattered, he remembers, with me, the lonely years when I was single.

I dreaded the holidays when I was single. There were a few years in which I was so in love with God and able to feel God's loving presence that the holidays were wonderful, and I came through them with a heart light and free. But those years were the exception.
Most years, I just truly dreaded the holiday season.... Being alone.... Feeling left out and odd, not having a family like the rest of the WHOLE WORLD. :-) .... Accepting invitations from folks, my extended family of aunts and uncles, who felt sorry for me. Occasionally my single friends and I would plan something; being with them was good, but most years they felt obligated to their families, so I was left with few options. In the early years after my mother died I would fly out to visit my sister and her family. I knew they honestly wanted me there and loved me, which helped so very much, but all four of them smoke, which made my delight at being there also pretty miserable. After I left my cushy job and went to seminary, I had no money for airfare, so that stopped, and I ended up trudging over to the aunts and uncles and feeling like a third wheel. My fault, not theirs, of course.

After D and I married in 2004, I no longer dreaded the holidays, although it did take me a couple of years to feel completely comfortable with his children. Should I introduce my own way of doing things?--traditions of decorating the whole house--not just a tree, sausage balls, putting lots of time and effort into wrapping the presents, etc. They had their own traditions, of course, so it's taken some time to integrate and to create our own memories.

Now, though, things are different. I feel wholely comfortable. Yesterday afternoon, I decided to go ahead and decorate the house! And my MIL joined in and even suggested that we put on some Christmas music. She and Lovely Passionate Feminist went out to buy The Three Tenors singing Christmas songs. Oh, it was glorious! And FUN! I boiled some oranges, lemons, and LOTS of cinnamon on the stove, and the scent of Christmas filled the house.

Then Young Man with Integrity and his family came over for dinner. When a 2-year-old's around, it's automatically FUN! I brought out our two boxes of ornaments and she, LPF and J took to it! The tree looks fabulous! D grilled outside, and we feasted on hot dogs, hamburgers, and nearly finished the yummy chocolate cake, courtesty of my MIL who flew with it here from Georgia!
I sat at the piano and LPF sang some Christmas carols for us; she has a beautiful soprano voice. I love hearing her sing. Of course, little M was playing along with me, so it was LPF's voice that we all strove to hear, not the piano playing! Later on, little M and I danced and twirled and got dangerously dizzy!


After Young Man with Integrity and his family went home, things calmed down quite a bit. We sat in the living room, still with the music playing....my FIL went to bed, but D and his mother read their books, LPF worked some puzzles, and I colored my mandalas. Then D went to bed, and my MIL, Lovely Passionate Feminist and I lit the candles, turned out all the other lights except the Christmas tree, and just enjoyed the beauty of it all.

I love the holidays.

And I hold a special place in the my heart for those who are single, and who, like me all those awful lonely years, are wishing for a family. May you very soon find someone to love and who loves you in return, and in the meantime, may you feel God's loving presence holding you close.

I hear my inlaws stirring, getting ready for the day....guess it's time for church.

(cartoon from Google Images)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Holiday

It's been a great Thanksgiving Holiday. My inlaws are here so we spent the day at my husband's cousin's house with a big gathering of 18 people. The cousin's house is HUGE, so we also spent the day in luxurious surroundings. Oh my.

Yesterday I stayed home to work a bit while everyone else drove Beautiful Genuine Musician back to City to the South and then visited with my FIL's sister in a nearby county. I did join them for a late lunch, though, and then did a little shopping. I've decided to workout twice a week with a personal trainer, so I needed some clothes appropriate for that.
Today should be a nice, relaxing day. I hope to get the Christmas Tree up.

Here are some recent pics.

This is J and Young Man with Integrity from Thanksgiving Day.

And little M, also from Thanksgiving Day.


This is my friend LifeGiving One's little 3-year old, Julia, who had a "sleepover at KK's" so her mom and dad could have some alone time together.



And here is Lovely Passionate Feminist with both Julia and her little brother M. Great kiddo's, and LPF was a huge help!



D and his dad

Monday, November 24, 2008

Entering the Mind of Christ

I loved this paragraph from James Finley's Christian Meditation:

When Jesus sat around the fire at night with the disciples, talking about this and that, he no doubt at times simply listened to them talking among themselves. As he stirred the fire with a stick, he perhaps saw a single spark fleetingly fly upward into the night. Later, lying there, listening to their breathing as they slept, he heard in their breathing the love he knew himself to be. It is like that sometimes with us. In meditation, in daily life, we realize that we and everyone else in the world, and everything in it, are manifesting the love our very life embodies. In this realization, we enter the mind of Christ without going anywhere. We simply awaken to who we have always been from before the origins of the universe.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ouch. And Double Ouch.

I've not been comfortable with my posts recently--the ones about politics, the election, and the actions of our local Episcopal Diocese, I mean. I wrote and posted them out of true passion for justice--I feel so deeply about the importance of mutuality, the dignity of each human life, people on the margins of society, etc.

Of course I still feel that way. My posts are authentically me. But as I posted each of them, I did have a whisp of discomfort, a whisp that I conveniently and easily repressed. That discomfort grew until Thursday when I had lunch with The Author. We were talking about the election, and because I feel so safe with her, I actually said, "I don't understand it. I don't understand how spiritually mature people can be so conservative in their politics."

The Author is a very kind person. Each time I said something like that she remarked how she tries to see both sides of every position. I finally said, "I guess I'm being kind of arrogant about it," and she was very quick to agree!

Ouch.

"The problem is that people on each side are convinced they are right," she said.

So, I'm commiting the same sin that I accuse "them" of. Ugh.

Later that day my friend The Artist came by to give me my first watercolor lesson. She's a regular reader of this blog as well, so when I mentioned that I was rethinking my posts on the election, with some energy in her voice she said, "Oh really?" Yeah, I think I may have been kind of arrogant, I said. "Yeah," she replied.

Double Ouch. Two in the same day.

When I was growing up, I was the "smart one." It was how I learned to be loved, to be special--that is, to have the right answer. Indeed, to be right. As I moved into adolescence, though, I know I must've been a huge pain to my mother. We had terrible fights, and I know I was a horrible smart aleck. Well, I still have a need to be right. I see how my ATTITUDE regarding the election is the same old wound acting its way out.

The attitude in which I wrote those posts was one of absolute conviction that "I am right and "they" are wrong. Pure and simple." There's a kind of blind arrogance involved in it.

I need the conservative view to keep my liberalism from morphing into "change at any cost and the faster the better" (when in fact the costs might be too high and slower might be better!) I need tradition to balance my heavy reliance on experience. I tend to forget that. Plus, I'm sure that many conservatives and traditionalists also value mutuality, the dignity of each human life, people on the margins of society, etc.

More importantly, though, the spiritual reminder is that I must love those with whom I am in disagreement. To love them is, in part, to remember that they could be right. Certainty is a dangerous business.

I'll continue to act from within my liberal stances on issues, but I must remember to act out of conviction based in faith, not absolute certainty. That's the attitudinal difference I must cultivate.

I apologize to anyone who felt the arrogance and was offended by it. And my humble thanks to my dear friends The Author and The Artist.

Watercoloring

OK. Here they are. I told my friend The Artist that I'd post these. They are my very first attempt at watercolor painting! The Artist graciously gave me a lesson a couple of days ago--I'd always wondered how watercolorists did it, and now I have at least a tiny idea....

And I had a great time...




Award for Blogging

Jan at Yearning for God graciously honored me with the Superior Scribbler Award. Thank you, Jan! Your blog is at the top of my list of favorites!




Here's how this thing works:

*Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

*Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

*Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this Post, which explains The Award.

*Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

*Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.


Like Jan, I choose ALL on my blog list on the left, but specifically honor these five:

Against a Brick Wall. This is Linda who first introduced me to blogging. Her writing is ALWAYS compelling. Often her posts just leave me breathless, and I go back and read them again and again. She's on a wonderful journey in life, and I always feel privileged to ride along with her for a while through her blog.


Beyond Assumptions. Steve's posts are important. He writes about church and why it is, and often is not, an inviting place. He writes about raising children with autism. He writes about current events/issues. I wish he posted more often because his voice is SO honest and authentic, as you can tell just from the title of his blog.


Seeking Authentic Voice. When my time is short I nevertheless always check out what Mompriest is blogging about. She recently has moved from pastoring a small church in the upper Midwest to a large church in the Southwest which is vibrant and good but, as often happens, not quite willing to change and move forward. Mompriest is on such a compelling journey in ministry. I learn so much from her. I respect her deeply.


Search the Sea. Gannet Girl is blogging about the unspeakable grief that comes from losing a child. She is using prose, but still able to convey the deepest of the human experience, poet-like. She is a poet, I think, in touch with the Mystery in all its beauty and all its pain. I pray for her daily and hope my prayers manage to honor, if only a little, such a deeply human human being. Her blog is Beauty.


Prairie Light. Kate teaches me with every post. In her work as a pastor and therapist in a small town she is always seeking integration and authenticity. She is one, I think, who has learned the wisdom of wholeness--body, mind, spirit. She tries so many things spiritually, blogging about "God Watch," in which she looks for God in her daily life. Or doing a gratitude journal online. These days she is waiting for "the shoe to drop," and we don't know what the "shoe" is, but something has happened, and we (all her readers, I'm sure) are praying for her, confident that all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.


This was not easy. I'd honor Light and Free but I'm not sure she's open to the general public. My Heart Leaps hasn't posted since October--Kathy! let's hear from you! Also An Inherently Irrational Rationalist, but she's not a RevGal. Purple, Jennifer, Serena, Diane, Songbird---I read them all the time and LOVE them! These blogs are SO well written and wonderfully meaningful to me.


So many others.... The blogging world has been a real God-send to me.


Jan, thanks again.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why We Meditate

I'm reading James Finley's Christian Meditation. Do you know it?

Wow. It's been a long time since I've underlined something on every page of a book. I even copied one paragraph and laminated it, and it's now nearby when I meditate in the morning:

**We sit in meditation so that the last traces of our tendency to identify with egocentric consciousness might finally dissolve as our habitual base of operations.
**We meditate that we might continue thinking, but no longer live by thought and all that thought can comprehend.
**We meditate that we might continue remembering, but no longer be limited to memory or all that can be remembered.
**We sit that we might continue willing, but no longer be limited to our own will or what our will is capable of attaining.
**We sit that we might continue feeling, but no longer be limited to our feelings or all that can be felt.
**We sit that we might continue being our bodily self as long as our life on this earth shall last, but no longer be limited to our bodily self and all the bodily self can be.
**We sit that we might live in God, and for God, and by God in all we do and say.
**We meditate that we might live in a habitual awareness of God living in us, for us, and by us in all that we simply are.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Moving beyond our hatred of people not like ourselves"

The Diocese of the Episcopal Church in my area had a big meeting this weekend. 80% of those attending voted to leave The Episcopal Church.

They apparently believe that because TEC has a woman Presiding Bishop (Katharine Jefferts Schori) and a gay Bishop (Gene Robinson), it no longer respects or honors scripture and tradition. In their minds, apparently, the Church has moved so far to the dark side that this Diocese can no longer be associated with it.

This both saddens and angers me.

Is it moving to the dark side to welcome others (other-than-heterosexual-males) to the full life of the church, including its leadership?

Is it moving to the dark side to think that God IS STILL SPEAKING?

I say, in fact, that this Diocese is not in a very light place when it remains blind to its own homophobia and sexism. Blind to the all-embracing love of God, a God who calls each person to flourish and become the person God intends---which just might include church leadership. (Really, the arrogance galls me. Does this Diocese actually believe that every single woman or GLBT person who has ever come before it, or before other judicatories, seeking ordination is deluded? that his/her profound sense of God's call to ministry is an exercise in self-deception?)

This local Diocese believes that PB Schori is behaving badly when she threatens a lawsuit. Why can't she just be more Christ-like and let us leave in peace? they wonder. Well, the answer is that you're trying to steal HER (as the PB of the Church) property! Why do you imagine that you can take what has never belonged to you?

Roberta Bondi has written that one of the fruits of prayer is when you experience yourself as more real and less living in fantasy or in principle.

I had not thought much about the falsity that can arise from living in principle, but I think she's right. Standing on principle when real life is happening all around you--when women, GLBT folks, people of color are coming into their own, and God is their head cheerleader!--strikes me as quite sad, really.

Not that respecting and honoring and giving authority to scripture and tradition isn't important. It is very important. But I believe that God IS still speaking, that human beings, even those who penned the words of scripture and doctrine, were .... well, human! As I have been blinded by my own fears and "isms," and as this Diocese is now blinded, the authors of scripture and traditions were people who loved God but were nevertheless less than perfect. I once read something by a local rabbi, Ralph Mecklenberger, that is quite germane here. He wrote:

Thank God the biblical ethic of love and justice has continued to advance, moving us beyond our hatred of people who are not like ourselves. Our biblical and post-biblical traditions demonstrate progression from exclusivity to inclusivity, as the Abrahamic promise advances from a narrow tribal understanding to God’s promise of light for all the nations in the Prophets and beyond. We believe that this movement of God’s Spirit did not end when the last words of Scripture were written, but continues to this day, tearing down barriers of injustice and small-mindedness that make it impossible for us to practice the Biblical ethic of love.

Close Guantanamo!

Amnesty International is challenging President-elect Obama (oh, it feels good to type that!) to CLOSE GUANTANAMO! And I agree. This is from the AI website:

Talk of change is good. Concrete action is better. Amnesty International is calling on President-elect Barack Obama to take concrete steps in his first 100 days in office to put human rights at the center of the new government.

The new president will have the opportunity to rectify some of the unlawful policies and practices carried out in the name of national security. We are calling on the new administration to:

* announce a plan and date to close Guantanamo


* issue an executive order to ban torture


* ensure that an independent commission to investigate abuses committed by the U.S. government in its "war on terror" is set up.


Taking these steps would send a clear message to the rest of the world that, once again, the U.S. will be a leader for human rights.

A New Addition to our Household


We have a new addition to our household -- a piano!

We paid to have Beautiful Genuine Musician's piano moved up here to our house from City to the South, so that she (and others!) can play it when she's up here visiting.

Yesterday Lovely Passionate Feminist was here. She and I went to Barnes and Noble, and she bought a songbook for the piano with some lovely songs in it: Danny Boy, Santa Lucia, Finlandia. It was so peaceful listening to her play yesterday. She has a very light touch. (And she's not even the music major!)

Young Man with Integrity's girlfriend J is also a musician. They were here for dinner last night, after which she played a piece that she learned years ago--very different with some beautiful but also dissonant chords throughout. We all loved it. And then of course there was little 2 y.o. M, who ALSO played...she played the music of 2 year olds everywhere.

And we loved that as well! (for the most part) :-)

And strangely enough, even I was able to play one song that I remembered from piano lessons in fourth grade. Well, I didn't remember, but my fingers did. Pure muscle memory. Interesting experience.

I think we were all thrilled to have a piano in the house. It kind of brought us all together in a new way.
(The pic is my husband and our granddaughter, little M.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A Little Update

Thanks, Purple. Yes, I'm feeling better. Took until Thursday mid-day, but that Z-pac of antibiotics has done the trick! I worked all day yesterday (a wonderful experience!), and then D and I drove way north to visit some friends who have moved. The drive included a very interesting conversation (see post below). Took about an hour and 15 minutes, so we got there, had a wonderful Korean dinner, great conversation, D had another losing game of chess with one of their boys, and then we left. Our host arrives at his work at 5:00 a.m. everyday, including Saturday, so we didn't want to linger. Plus, D and I were both tired. But oh my goodness, it was good to see these friends. They are exceptional people, I think. Both are kind (the kindness that arises from the heart), deeply interesting (deep thinkers and feelers), generous, and, I think, well integrated. D and I always come away from a visit with them feeling good.

Anyway, that was my first day of feeling better, and it was long. This morning, though, I'm still not coughing, so I'm grateful.

Lovely Passionate Feminist is here, down from Small City to the North and her life at the university. She's still asleep at the moment, but D and I are eager for the day with her. She is simply a TOTAL DELIGHT!

What are YOU up to this wonderful Saturday?

The Meaning of Being an American

I grew up during Watergate and Nixon and Vietnam -- I became politcally aware during those years. Spent hours in front of the television watching the Watergate hearings, even ordering a copy of the proceedings. I was outraged at our President's behavior.

I didn't know anyone personally who went to Vietnam. But I have a memory of my senior year in high school, listening to a broadcast of the final pullout of American troops, and feeling such relief. I was outraged about our behavior in the world.

All that to say that I have never felt particularly patriotic. In fact, I've been wary of patriotism because it can slide into nationalism which I think is evil. I've prided myself on being a critical thinker when it comes to my country.

But last night, as D and I were driving to visit some friends (see post above), I found myself asking my husband what he thought it meant to be an Amerian. He said that being American is choosing to live in compact with others who believe in the ideals expressed in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Good answer.

I'm rethinking my stance.

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common
defence,promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

-Checks and balances on government, with three branches
-Tension between state and federal government
-Freedom of religion, press, expression
-Right to a speedy trial and to confront your accusors
-Trial by jury
-Right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all ...are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among [Us], deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Feeling Better Sooner!

I started this blog in the spring of 2007 when I was home sick with bronchitis, then pneumonia, then asthma, then bronchitis again. I had a terrible spring! But one good thing that came from that "sick" time was learning about blogging from my friend Linda. Through her example, I thought I'd give it a try and consequently something very good (new friends) emerged from a not-so-good time in my life.

I've been free from serious problems since then, more than a year, but I think I have bronchitis again today. Fortunately my doctor has an opening later this morning, so we'll see.

I don't know exactly why being sick upsets me the way it does. Maybe because my mother died of lung problems. Maybe because it interferes with my commitments. Maybe because I think sickness is a sign that I'm not where I should be spiritually--(I do think the mind/spirit-body link is powerful, but on the other hand, it's not the only thing that affects the body.) Maybe because it says I'm stressed out--(but I've been slowing down recently and saying 'no' to things, so I don't think that's it).

No way to know for sure. I just need to really believe that "what is IS" and then let it go. Let it go. Let it go. I'm sure that will help me feel better sooner!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh, what beauty, John O'Donohue

John O'Donohue speaks my truth once again--

"Once you start to awaken, no one can ever claim you again for the old patterns. Now you realise how precious your time here is. You are no longer willing to squander your essence on undertakings that do not nourish your true self; your patience grows thin with tired talk and dead language. You see through the rosters of expectation which promise you safety and the confirmation of your outer identity. Now you are impatient for growth, willing to put yourself in the way of change. You want your work to become an expression of your gift. You want your relationship to voyage beyond the pallid frontiers to where the danger of transformation dwells. You want your God to be wild and to call you to where your destiny awaits."

You can find this quote here:
www.jodonohue.com

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

WOW

Barack Obama, the next President of the United States of America!
Wow.
I say again, WOW.

a prayer for election day

Gracious God,

Thank you for this day, this important day. Thank you for your love and grace and freedom.

I am grateful, O God, that I live in a place on Earth where I may freely vote and express my opinion in that way.

I am grateful for journalists and bloggers and writers and great thinkers who may freely express their opinions. Freedom like this is precious, and I do not want to ever take it for granted.

Whatever the outcome, give us--give me--the spiritual maturity to remember that all our hope ultimately lies in you. When the outcome becomes clear later on today (or tomorrow), help me, O God, to thank you and to acknowledge that you are present, in the here and now, and that all shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

I pray that our nation-state may know its place in this world ~ that we are one among many, and that whatever leadership role we may have carries within it an attitude of servanthood, for otherwise it is a kind of tyranny and not true leadership. In whatever the future holds, I pray that somehow we may find the courage to turn to you and not give in to fear.

May it be so.