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

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?


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.

"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...