Monday, July 30, 2007

Sea Lions and redwoods here I come!

I'm off for 10 days to northern California, to my favorite place on earth. My grandmother used to live there and I grew up visiting her...dramatic sea cliffs, gorgeous ocean vistas, and the best smell in the air EVER...I wish I could bottle it up and bring it home with me. Husband and Center of Attention are camping out for two nights on their way up there and I'm going on an airplane with The Two Year Old...she's horrible in the car and it's a 10 hour drive, so airplane it is! I'll be blogging from up there. I plan to spend good time with my crazy family (parents and brother) as well as reading and journaling. Because this is the beginning of the trip, I'm romanticizing it...but sure enough, it will spiral...there's just a bit too much wine drinking at night (mostly my dad and brother) and Husband likes to stir the pot with inflammatory questions and topics of conversation and then I add to the drama with being over-sensitive....hmmm...will I be able to survive 10 days? Luckily there is space...and everyone does tend to mellow out up's just a lot of family time, if you know what I mean. But oh, the beaches and the tidepools! The squishy sea anemones! The wild windswept meadows and fields of llamas and geese....deep breath. I can't wait.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Five

First of all, can someone kindly tell me how to get pictures as part of the blog post, and not just above the post? How do I incorporate pictures within the individual post??

1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event- what was it and how did you cope?
Okay, so I was born and raised in Southern California, so not much extreme weather events there. BUT despite that, my biggest fear as a child was a tornado. I was utterly terrified. Not make much sense, huh? Since we NEVER get tornadoes in southern Cali. But what can I say? I was a sensitive child with a wild imagination. Just the image in my mind of a funnel cloud still sends shivers down my spine. We had very windy hot winds, called the Santa Anas. They're kind of spooky and people associate them with "earthquake weather." Was I afraid of earthquakes like I should have been? Nope. Tornadoes. And a close second was tidal waves. BUT just this summer I experienced a crazy storm on a teeny lake in the north tip of Idaho and I was so brave. Even though it really was like a cyclone, I remained calm. Because my girls were watching me and so I had to be. And we lost power for 6 days. Cool. Glad to be home.

2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming?

Very important. very. What will it take for us to wake up? An inconvenient truth definitely made an impact. It did on me. And I find myself asking the question, what will it take to make real changes in how we live? I fear as long as there is the option to ignore it, we will. As long as the threat isn't imminent, we don't really change. I make an effort. But I could make a bigger one. Convenience and habit are nasty little powerful things.

3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree?

Agree. God gave us this creation for us. There is so much of God in the creation. The church should be spending more time and energy on this message.

And because it is summer- on a brighter note....

4. What is your favourite season and why?

Hmmm...the Fall. Even though I live somewhere where "the Fall" might as well be summer winter or Spring, I have become attuned to the difference in this season...the air is drier and cooler and the sky is bluer. The few deciduous trees in my city lose their leaves and I seek out those crunchy sycamore leaves on the sidewalks. I pretend it's more fall-like than it appears and it does wonders...I feel like baking and sipping apple cider and going apple picking. I think there's also something so poetic in Autumn...something so melancholy and bittersweet and metaphorical. Just love it.

5. Describe your perfect vacation weather....

A little humid (because that feels "other" and romantic to me), mostly sunny, but weather coming in and Kauai where the day starts out a little humid and warm, then out of nowhere a thunderstorm comes and dumps crazy rain for 10 minutes, then leaves with just the trace of freshness and then a rainbow appears and more hot sun. Or like the skies in Minnesota in the summer...kind of the same thing...

Discernment Panic

Okay, just had a sobering conversation with someone else from my church going through the discernment process. Jeez! I need to get my stuff together. I have this trust in the process, because without that trust I'd be in a complete panic frenzy. I just keep clinging to the strong sense of call I have and that God is leading me. But got to be realistic...I am going to be TESTED and grilled and I'm still so unsure about the nature of my vocational calling...I'm so unsure and I like to envision discernment as DISCERNMENT and not PROOF and DEFENDING but exploring and envisioning in community. But I need to be able to articulate and claim my sense of call. My biggest fear is that I won't be able to articulate my feelings and my sense. It still feels blurry and so very slowly coming into focus. Does this mean that it's too early to do the official discernment committee? I've been waiting for a while now, in the hope that my vision would sharpen, but finally I decided the only way for it to sharpen is to allow the committee to help me. But I'm afraid it will be the third degree and that I'll crumble under the pressure. I am not convinced I should become ordained. I just have this very strong pull and yearning and dream that I've had since I was a little girl. I have gifts that could be used as a priest. But they can be used elsewhere. Do I HAVE to become ordained? No. Do I have to pretend I'm more sure than I am? In a sense, I AM more sure than I let on, even to myself. It's just hard for me to say it out loud to others. To "sell" myself as an obvious choice for the priesthood. I have so many misgivings, how honest can I be? Really, as I strive for authenticity and forthrightnes and honesty in my life, I have to be honest with the committee. It's my only way forward, but I have to have the guts to say that I'd be a damn good priest. Just feeling nervous as the first meeting approaches (in September, I think). It feels like this is my one shot and what if I mess it up? I can get in my own way, and in the Spirit's way, sometimes.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

This I Believe, Too

Well, I shared my "This I Believe" with my small group today. I'm including it here because I changed quite a bit since the last time I posted it. What a great experience to share that. Someone else read it out loud a second time and that was wonderful and hard to hear someone else reading my personal words.

btw - I just read ReverendMother's Harry Potter is amazing! Check it out. I feel too lazy tonight to create a link...just go to my link list and click on that and go to her archives till you find it.

This I Believe

I believe in faith. I have faith in faith. I have since I was a little girl. As far back as I can remember I have been aware of a loving presence inside me, in the eyes and words of other people, and in the hugeness and beauty of nature. I haven’t always been able to describe or articulate this faith. It seems I struggle to now more than ever. But it’s always been there, like a steady current running deep under a sometimes stormy ocean. If I had to describe who God feels like to me in a stream of consciousness sort of way, I’d use words like infinitely and agonizingly patient, ridiculously lavishly loving, terrifying in scope and power, amused at human silliness, heartbroken over human pain, absurdly funny, profoundly, beautifully, agonizingly mysterious and incomprehensible, ever ever ever present, ever approachable, always offering an invitation, and eager for intimacy with us.

When I was 10 years old, my grandfather died. It was that week that I was supposed to go to my first sleep-away camp in the mountains. I can’t remember if I wanted to go. I know that I had to miss the funeral. But I went. I’m not sure if my parents agonized over this decision, but there I was, up in the mountains for one week with lots of other 4th graders. I was sad and lonely and confused. But it was the first time I slept under the stars. I remember staring up at the pine-infused black night sky, covered with stars – such a contrast to the sky of my city childhood. I was awe-struck and full of wonder and questions. We sat around a campfire every night and sang cheesy Christian songs. But I loved it. “Spirit of the Living God, fall a-fresh on me. Meld me, Mold me, fill me, use me”. I so remember this song, and the Sunday school sign language that went along with it. I felt the Holy Spirit with me those nights...present in the night air, in the gathering around the campfire, in the sweet off-key lilt of the children’s voices. And at the end of one of these evenings, the head camp counselor invited anyone who wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts to stay after. Writing this now, I cringe. This theology freaks me out. But I felt a pull and a curiosity and something kept me seated on that log bench, even though it drew snickers from my friends. I remember my counselor leading me to a large flat rock in the shadows, under the stars and we prayed for Jesus to enter my heart. I think I hoped something big would happen, or that I’d at least feel some kind of flicker inside me. But nothing. Just the prayer and then off to bed. I remember being confused that I had to ask Jesus. Wasn’t he there already? What would keep him away? Well...I no longer believe in the need to say the right words for God to be with me. But I do believe something shifted in me that night...if for no other reason than that night has always stayed in my memory in a very potent way. I do believe in Jesus as a living present reality active in our world. I believe something cosmic shifted with his birth, death and resurrection. I pretty much believe in the Nicene Creed, as it attempts to put words to great mysteries that can never be explained by words. I believe that all matter is inherently good. I believe in the achingly beautiful stuff of the physical world: the way my baby smelled behind her ears, the pudgy pudge of her baby feet, the feeling of my milk letting down, the smell of the air in northern California – salt and pine and cedar and sweet grass, the shock of diving into a mountain lake, my husband’s warm body under the sheets, the sound and smell of rain, a cat’s purr. It’s all so damn gorgeous and it all points to a creator so in love with us. I believe in the its ability to do great good and healing and exploring and reconciling and storytelling and feeding and encouraging. I believe in church bells. Every time I hear them it feels like a voice from another time and place, calling to me, reminding me that time is passing, reminding me that another time exists super-imposed on this one, reminding me how insignificant I am but also how very significant. I also believe in you, my fellow women at the well. I believe in your stories and in your dreams. I believe in the pilgrim heart that lives within each of you. Besides all this, I believe that the most important thing we can do as parents is to stay in love with our kids. I believe that guacamole is the best food on the planet. A close second is linguine with melted brie, basil, garlic and tomatoes. A close third is warm sour dough bread fresh out of the oven smeared with butter. I believe in the light and hope I see in my two daughters’ eyes. And at the end of the day, I believe that all will be well... that all is not well, but that all will be well. That it really is all right. And even though I’m trying to claim my own thoughts and express them without fear, I must end with a quote from my love Madeleine L’Engle: “I mean these words. I do not understand them, but I mean them. Perhaps one day I will find out what I mean. They are behind everything, the cooking of meals, walking the dogs, talking with the girls. I may never find out with my intellectual self what I mean, but if I am given enough glimpses perhaps these will add up to enough so that my heart will understand. It does not; not yet.”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hospital Monday

Just some thoughts/questions from my morning at the hospital.

One kind older gentleman said, "I guess my faith just faded away. It shouldn't have, but it did. Maybe it will fade back someday." I like his wording...that faith can fade back. How does a chaplain respond to this comment? I nodded and told him I liked how he put that. I just listened and was present. He went on to describe his Calvary Chapel experience, where he and his wife attend. He loves the energy there. He clearly is uplifted by the music and the services. What more could I have said? My role at the hospital doesn't seem to be necessarily one of guiding people back to faith, but to be present to where they are at the moment. And that's what I did. But I wonder if I could have gently said something else...

I meet so many people who have left the church because they couldn't stand the hypocrisy they saw there. What is this? I hear it all the time. Is this a failure of the church? The notion that the leaders have to be perfect pure holy people, and not in fact human? What I like about my church is that the leaders are human and they bring their wholeness into their leadership and they encourage us to bring our whole selves into the pews and up to the altar for Communion. So often I hear of churches that only accept our Sunday bonnet perfect happy stable selves. And yet, and yet...leaders must really try to lead Christ-like lives. And I suppose this is the trouble...they so often fail and they are such public figures. I wish my church challenged us more regarding how we live our lives. The emphasis is on challenging us regarding social justice. We are challenged about how we spend our time, talent and treasure. Very very important. But I never hear about the importance of trying to be holy or pure for God and for others. I struggle with this holy pure expectation of clergy and of Christians in general. I think it has done a lot of harm. But Paul asks us to seek purity. How do we navigate this? How do we balance this?

I met a woman this morning whose faith was alive. But it was SO different than mine. She called herself "born again" and shared that she left the "corrupt Episcopal Church" because it was full of hypocrisy. (There we go again.) She told me she's sure the endtimes are near. I prayed with her and it touched her and we shared a sweet connection. But I felt a little false. As a volunteer hospital chaplain I meet many people from many different expressions of Christianity. But I struggled with this one...I did a lot of empathetic head nodding...again, where do I just listen and when do I gently nudge? It seems wrong to try to bring people to my personal faith, when there's is working just fine for them....

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Well...I just got back from 10 days in the Northwest. Visiting family. I missed blogging and reading your wonderful blogs and feel quite out of sync. But it was a good trip. Glad to be home. Just to catch up, I think I'll transcribe a few journal entries because they belong here.

From my journal on retreat, 6/16/07:
So it's 1:30pm. I've been here for 4 hours. Wow. I find it hard to be in the present. As I discover beautiful benches and holy nooks, I find myself trying to plan when I'll return to that spot with what book instead of just enjoying it in the moment. But I've found a bench overlooking a dramatic mountain view and I am swiftly transported back in time one year ago exactly when I was on a different retreat; when I bravely blurted out my dream of priesthood; when I walked around the grounds feeling right in my skin as if my true essence had finally oozed its way to the surface. One year later, I'm about to finally meet with my priest to tell him I'm ready to begin formal discernment. One year. A year of endless reading, some praying, stumbling through parenthood and marriage amidst a crisis of identity shifting, reorientation and disorientation (not in that order, or maybe not?), speaking in code and generalities in my small groups, and finally here. O yeah, and groping my way through the darkness of hospital rooms in my chaplaincy. And tomorrow I tell my priest I'm ready. I'm ready to let-be-known my sense of call. I'm ready to seriously explore it in a discernment committee. If I wait any longer, I'll be 80 before the time I get ordained, if ever. Still so scared and full of doubt, but got to jump forward anyway. I have a safety net in God who loves this attempt, even if She's shaking her head and rolling her eyes. Or maybe, just maybe, she's the one taking my heart and lovingly, skillfully pulling it through my ribs and out into somewhere else and I must follow.

From later that day:
I am now sitting under this beautiful palm tree. It's short and thick with a huge trunk and an enormous umbrella of fronds creating gorgeous shade. I'm sitting in an adirondack chair under its branches. And I feel so protected. And suddenly this tree feels like God saying, "I want to protect you." From what? This is quite a strong feeling. I just notice one empty chair beside me.

From later on still:
I just walked the stone labyrinth. Rugged. Messy. Beautiful in its chunky ragged order. I loved the printed sheet that guided the walk, especially:
Discard our many roles and simply say "I am."

Choose to ignore all our ideas about God and other theological concepts and any spiritual skills and seek to become a child.

These two resonated with me the most. When I got to the center I noticed offerings of fellow pilgrims: rocks, money, photos, bracelets, notes. My first thought was a reprimand to myself, that I didn't do it right. Then, a smile, loving my silly rule-following self. Then I really took in all the little rocks and burdens, wishes and sorrows, hopes and dreams, fears and pain and I reached out and touched them with an outpouring of compassion. And in that moment I felt like a priest - loving, touching, honoring but not disturbing the stuff of my fellow pilgrims. I wanted to gather them up and do something with them, but instead I offered a prayer - a general prayer of lifting them into God, and I blessed them.

Back to the guidelines for the center of the labyrinth- the ones that stood out were:

Take the risk of recognizing an emptiness in myself that only love can fill.

Contemplate the blessing of the hidden nature of God who cannot be fully known, cannot be manipulated, cannot be made into an idol, cannot be pinned down, contained or tamed.

This came as such a relief to me. I breathed a deep releasing satisfying breath. I've been spending so much energy on trying to figure out who God is, who Jesus is and this seeking is essential but there must be the balance which holds the reality that the HOLY is unfathomable.

I was a rebel and picked up one of the little rocks in the center and carried it with me out into the world. I now feel the responsibility to pray for this rock and for the pilgrim who has unwittingly entrusted it to me. I hesitated before I did this, then decided that I would love it if someone did that for me.

On my journey out of the labyrinth:

Move away from anxiety toward peace and faith.

Yes. Away from anxiety. So I bowed to the labyrinth and bounced away, centered and free, to explore more of the grounds. I found a sitting rock I must return to at sunset. I traipsed along, then stepped into a huge pile of shit. God has a sense of humor. He likes taking me from the clouds down to earth. So much for letting go of anxiety. I decided it must be mountain lion poop because it was huge and also very fresh. I tried to scrape it into a nearby tuft of grass and started seeing huge buzzards soaring over me. Okay, time to get back inside the cloister. Was this the Fragmenter, the One who tries to keep us away from God? Or just the absurdity of life?

more later...