Thursday, May 31, 2007

adapted to seek God

You know that Indigo Girls song about Virginia Woolf that goes "So I know it's all right. Life will come and life will go. So I know it's all right, cause I just got a letter to my soul." That's how I feel right now. I was glancing at my bookshelf the other day and found Evelyn Underhill's The Spiritual Life. I read it years ago, but couldn't remember its content. So this morning I started reading's just a little book. But SO rich in its pages. SUCH a good reminder. Check this out: "for life means the fullest possible give and take between the living creature and its environment: breathing, feeding, growing, changing. And spiritual life, which is profoundly organic, means the give and take, the willed correspondence of the little human spirit with the Infinite Spirit; its feeding upon Him, its growth towards perfect union with Him, its response to His attraction and subtle pressure. That growth and that response may seem to us like a movement, a journey, in which by various unexpected and often unattractive paths, we are drawn almost in spite of ourselves - not as a result of our own over-anxious struggles - to the real end of our being, the place where we are ordained to be: a journey that is more like the inevitable movement of the iron flying to the great magnet that attracts it, than like the long and weary pilgrimage in the teeth of many obstacles from 'this world to that which is to come.' Or it may seem like a growth from the childlike, half-real existence into which we are born into a full reality."

The first half of this quote is the Eucharist, yes? And the second, calling. I love this. Makes me relax and just surrender to that pull and stop agonizing about it. To just pray and be in God and enjoy that reality.

Okay, bear with me. One more quote: "This, of course, is what religion is about; this adherence to God, this confident dependence on the unchanging. This is the more abundant life which, in its own particular language and own particular way, it calls us to live. Because it is our part in the one life of the whole universe of spirits, our share in the great drive towards Reality, the tendency of all life to seek God, who made it for Himself and now incites and guides it, we are already adapted to it, just as a fish is adapted to live in the sea. This view of our situation fills us with a certain awed and humble gladness. It delivers us from all niggling fuss about ourselves, prevents us from feeling self-important about our own little spiritual adventures, and yet makes them worthwhile as part of one great spiritual adventure."

sigh. Thanks, Evelyn.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

progressive Christianity

Check out this thoughtful post on progressive Christianity from mompriest:

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I'm so sad right now. I just got home from a wonderful talk with a newly ordained priest. The reason I decided to meet with her was to finally ask details about the real possibility of going to the closest seminary...quite a drive away...for their commuter program, which she attended. It was empowering. As we fleshed out details she said, "You're excuses are dwindling away." And she was so right. I was realizing that I've been clinging to my excuses as a reason to put this off. But it's so doable! So exciting that it's an actual possibility. UNTIL I came home and told my husband all about it. Whenever I get serious about this, and talk about it like it's going to happen in the near future, he gets nervous. So normal! This would be a huge change for our family and for him! BUT in his questions, in his wording and tone, I hear judgment and skepticism and fear and sexism. He insists that I'm seeing his comments through this prism, which is very possible. But it's the feminist that flares up inside me. I fear he completely takes my decision to stay home with the girls for granted. True, when I got pregnant, all I wanted to do was stay home. I didn't want to work. I had no ambition of any kind other than motherhood. But this has changed. I now have a dream and I am passionate about it. And I need his support if I have any chance at following through. When I say this to him, he gets very defensive about how hard he works and how cushy I have it. This is true! He works hard and I appreciate our life and all he does to support it. But that's not my point and he doesn't hear me. He doesn't hear that he has a career. He has a space, an office, a whole day away from the home. And I don't. My situation has major perks, but all this isn't the point. I point blank asked him if (ideally) he wants me to stay home until the kids are in college. I thought he'd say no, but this was his answer: "I don't think we have enough information to answer that question." Give me a break. He won't admit that he doesn't want me to go to grad school and become a priest. I SO understand his misgivings, I just wish he'd be honest about them. He says he wants me to be honest about my personality and that this grad school thing would be stressful for someone like me who is a bit high strung. Well, yeah! Does that mean I shouldn't do it? What's the alternative? The way he panics is to get very practical and to ask very practical questions, all which lead to arguing. What I want him to say to me (and this may be asking WAY too much) is "Honey, I know how much this means to you. I think you'd be great at it. We'll figure this out. It will be hard but I'm behind you. I love you and I so appreciate all you've given to this family while I've been pursuing my dream." ha ha ha ha ha ha. Pollyanna perhaps? C'mon revgals. I know this is something many of you have confronted. Why do we have to get into an ideological fight every time I'm actually serious about going back to school? He wants to know exactly what it will look like. "How will this affect our family?" A good question but not what I need right now. I've been such a coward, I need encouragement! Not this. And how can I possibly know (until I'm doing it) how it will exactly affect our family. But I love him. And I need to be sensitive to where he's at. Just feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Cheer up, Church, you're worse off than you think

Phew! What a day! Much to write about.

The title for this post comes from a song by Charlie Peacock. I don't even fully know what it means, but I like it and it came to mind during a discussion I had last night. Two people were in a heated argument over what the church is. Person A thinks the church is the place for dialogue; that it is a safe place that can hold a broad spectrum of beliefs and that it is the only place in the world these days where there is hope for a bridge between the more "conservative" and the more "liberal." He thinks that the church should welcome people of less popular viewpoints and engage in dialogue. ie. a liberal church engaging in compassionate dialogue with people who feel GLBT folks should not be ordained. Person B thinks the church has been engaging in dialogue like this for many years and now it's time to take a stand for the "truth." This person is tired of listening to "narrow-mindedness" and is no longer willing to engage it. The church for Person B is a place for proclaiming the Gospel, but since the Gospel varies depending on who is doing the proclaiming and who is listening to the proclaiming, that you just have to pick the church you agree with and go there. Person A thought this was sad and hopeless and giving up on any hope of communion within a very divided church. And they weren't only talking about the Anglican Communion. What do you think?

Secondly, this morning was sad and beautiful and tumultuous. A young priest returned to work this morning from her 8 week maternity leave. It was her first day leaving her infant in the hands of a babysitter and she was a wreck when she got to church. Couldn't stop crying. Luckily, her first responsibility was leading a group of women, all mothers, so of course, we lent sympathetic ears. The rector has told her that he doesn't want her to bring the baby to work with her. He has good reasons. But seeing her today I just couldn't help but think that he was wrong. What's wrong with just bringing the baby for the next two months, while he's still an infant and nursing often? There's a nursery upstairs and she could have a babysitter up there with the baby. How to support her? Do we empower her to fight to bring the baby? Or do we support her decision to leave him at home. Of course, this decision is up to her. But painful to witness. It feels like a decision made for the efficiency and professionalism of a corporation rather than a church. What do you think?

And lastly, I've found a spiritual director! Hooray! Walking away from our meeting I felt like I could finally breathe. I felt peaceful and energized. Because she was affirming. She compared spiritual directors to midwives. I LOVE that. That notion that she will help birth this energy and spirit I feel welling up inside me that wants to be born but needs help. She also likened her role as "accompaniment." I love that. Like I am singing a melody and she will provide the underscoring, the texture, the support to my lyric. What I'm most excited about is that I feel comfortable just being myself with her; answering her questions honestly and openly...not trying to say the right thing. She talked about helping me find my voice. She brought up my acting background and suggested that to be a good actress, you have to be good at getting into the skin of the character and that it requires a certain empathy. Yes! I am good at this. But it has been hard to find my own voice, my own skin. She thinks that women have their mid-life crises in their 30s. That makes me feel better, cause yup, that's what it feels like, all right. On a theological note, she was there the night Bishop Spong spoke at our church and she, like me, so appreciated him. But she disagrees with his view of God. She feels like God does "get down in the nitty gritty." Amen. I don't want to give up that notion of the Spirit moving us, nudging us, and intervening in the world. Just because God hasn't intervened in tragic cases where we feel He should have, doesn't mean that God doesn't intervene ever. It's a mystery. It doesn't make sense. We will never cease to struggle with this, nor should we cease to. But why give up on the notion of God acting in the world?

Sunday, May 6, 2007

What's your name?

I heard an awesome sermon in church this morning. And it got me thinking...the theme was: What is your name in Christ? The priest challenged us to find our name, but not the name of our petty selves, or even our idealized selves, but our true selves, our selves in God. And she confessed that once she got past her false names and obvious labels, she came up with her name as Christian. But then she realized that that word has so much baggage means completely different things, depending on who you are and who is hearing it. Unfortunately. So what's my name? On my best days, maybe it's something like She Who Sheds Light or She Who Encourages or She Who Gives Life but today my name was She Who is Full of Resentment and Dumps it on her Husband. or She Who is the Most Narcissistic Person Ever or She who threatens her children because she can't think of more creative parenting techniques. I know I'm way too hard on myself. I know that my name in God doesn't change even on days when I'm full of darkness. I know that it's hard being married to someone who has a dream job while I'm home with the kids. But I fear I have the grass-is-always-greener disease. I've been so selfish lately. I'm trying to find the balance between being authentic and being loving. I need to ask for what I need. I need to stand up for it. But I need to love my husband. I need to be happy for him that he is being fulfilled and challenged in his job. I can be such a baby sometimes. I don't want martyr to be part of my name.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Spong speaks out

I went to hear Bishop Jack Spong speak last night. It was quite an experience. He is an amazing speaker and very funny. I took away a lot from the evening. To sum it up, I left the church humming a new song I wrote called, "I'm confused." Seriously. Spong is OUT THERE. And yet, it just depends on who's listening to him. He's out there to me, someone raised in a traditional Presbyterian church. But to someone who can't accept traditional Christianity, his message is fresh and full of possibility. But he doesn't even believe in a Theistic God. He emphasized the damage the church has done proclaiming humanity as wretched and depraved and sinful. "Why do you like that?"he asked. "Why do you keep coming back for that message?" "Have you ever heard of anyone being helped by focusing on how evil they are?" He proclaimed a call for a new reformation. He wants to raise the consciousness of Christianity. He says no one can define or explain God for another. All we can do is describe our own experience of God, of the holy, and these are two very different things. He experiences God as the source of life, so we worship this God by living fully. And the more we do this, the more people will see God in us. He experiences God as the source of love and the only way we can worship God is to love wastefully and fully. And to quote Paul Tillich, Spong experiences God as the ground of all being, so the only way to worship God is by being all that we were created to be, and the more we do this, the more visible we make God. If he could capture the message of Jesus in one line, he'd say there is nothing you could ever do or be that could separate you from the love of God. Good quote: "You don't give your life away unless you possess it." So all this is cool. A new way to view what I already believe...just different and fresh language. But when he talks about Jesus I kind of freak out. He doesn't believe Jesus was God. He wasn't divine. But he was fully human...and example of how we could be fully human. This just doesn't ring true to me. Or maybe I don't want to let go of the notion of Jesus as fully divine and fully human. As God incarnate. But there again, it could be a language thing. He sees Jesus as the reconciling person drawing humanity to a new level of humanity. And that is a very different notion of salvation. Spong's favorite text in the Bible is from John 10: "I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it abundantly." He calls us to be life-givers, not converters. He said, "The Bible is not the Word of God." And even though I have major issues with the Bible, that sentence gave me a little heart attack. Because he's just so incredibly unorthodox. I'm way too afraid to reject all that he rejects. He rejects all that I was raised to believe. And though I'm consciously shedding some of my narrow notions, there is much I'm still holding onto. He ended the evening by stating that we are the most spiritually hungry generation and the generation most suspicious of the church. So fellow seekers, I'm basically confused. He's just so far to one extreme. How do we navigate the middle waters? Is this why I'm an Episcopalian? Because I love the middle way? Because I choose to live in the tension between the more extreme versions of Christianity? Or is it a cop-out? An excuse to never make my mind up about what I do believe? But most of us are neither Falwells nor Spongs...what do YOU think, dear readers?