Monday, September 1, 2014

What I Learned in August

Given that I've missed two weeks of blogging the lectionary (sometimes the questions raised take more than a week to untangle--presumably ordained priests work this out in seminary, or before they get there or something), here's something a little light-hearted.

Things I Learned in August:

1) Scones in Australia are biscuits in the U.S. (biscuits in Australia are cookies in the U.S.; scones in the U.S. are pretty close to rock cakes in Australia). How long have I been living in this country before I figured this out?

2) I experimented with not liking any post on Facebook for a couple of weeks. My newsfeed reduced the appearance of Pages that I follow (but didn't "like") although there was still sufficient past likeage, I guess that they didn't disappear. So if I wanted to "like" something, I would comment. I would not have said this resulted in deeper conversations, but it felt more connected. If I didn't like anyone's post who likes to count likes, I'm, um, not that sorry. :)

3) Babies aren't as terrified of me as I thought -- and I'm not scared that they'll scream or cry or puke. Witness:

4) I am very patient hand-feeding a dog, more patient than I thought I'd be. Ours is recovering from vestibular syndrome, which means he walks about drunk and has difficulties getting about, etc

5) "The Hebrew letters that comprise the word Elul – aleph, lamed, vav, lamed – are an acronym for “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li,” a verse from Song of Songs that means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (from here)

I am participating in chatting at the sky's What I Learned in August.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

God's Love Stories: Inspiration and Reflections on Current Issues

The links collected since last month's link up are many and varied. So much so, that I've divided them into two groups, although it's kind of a fine line.

Reflections on current issues:
My own two posts on current issues:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

I am NOT the Canaanite Woman (Blogging the Lectionary)

I wasn’t going to blog the lectionary this week. I declared to my husband last night that it was too hard and I couldn’t find a handle on it. We talked about the events in Ferguson and the first line came. The story is found in this week's gospel, Matthew: 15:21-28.

I am NOT the Canaanite woman
although I roar
with approbation
when she made Jesus see
her humanity.

I am NOT the Canaanite woman
with my skin
the color of privilege.
I do not comprehend 
the depth of her pain.
In the face of it,
I do not know what I can do.

I am NOT the Canaanite woman
who broke centuries
of animosity between two nations
between two genders
between two faiths
who broke ALL the rules
to save her daughter.

I am NOT the Canaanite woman
but I am Jesus (in this story),
and I am sorry I ignored you
and I am sorry your pain
wasn’t as important as mine
and I want you to know
I am with you now,
ask and you shall receive.
You are not alone.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When You're At Loose Ends

Towards the end of my retreat, I started feeling antsy, at loose ends, that perhaps I had done all I could do for this retreat and I still had two nights left.

Of course, I was wrong.

I picked up a couple of books and started reading them and put them back down again. I picked up a "Henri Nouwen Reader" (not the correct title) and within pages came across this quote:
"When we are not afraid to enter into our own center and to concentrate on the stirrings of our own soul, we come to  know that being alive means being loved. this experience tells us that we can love only because we are born out of love, that we can give only because our life is a gift, and that we can make others free only because we are set free by God whose heart is greater than ours." - (Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer)
I read that and realized my loose ends meant I was dodging the gift of acknowledging the presence of God, of sitting with Jesus, like I would with a loved one, close together. I spent some time imagining this.

It was a powerful image, a powerful longing. I asked God that I remember this in everything and in every time. Not just at prayer but almost with every footstep that I take, a new (to me) kind of unceasing prayer.

Now, a few weeks later, after a day of rest, and I realize that I already had forgotten this: that I just have to remember to sit with God. With words or without words, as God knows my innermost self.

Someone remind me of this again sometime?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blogging the Lectionary: Let's Walk on Water

This Sunday's gospel reading (Matthew 14:22-33) is the familiar story of Jesus walking on the water and Peter jumping out of the boat to join him, getting freaked out and Jesus rescues him.

Since I started to blog the lectionary, I've been reading a lot of commentaries and they almost all focus on Peter (in one way or another) or even the disciples in the boat, but not Jesus.

The miracle of walking on water seems to be off limits. Is it because the divinity shines too bright?

My bible study group recently finished a Mark study written by Marcus Borg. His focus was how Jesus illustrates the Way and how He calls us to follow in that Way.

It's probably a huge mistake to take the theme of one Gospel and apply it to another, but why not?

somewhere between Carpenteria and Ventura
If we are called to follow the Way and use Jesus' actions and words as examples, what does this passage tell us? What does Jesus say and do here?

First, that solitary prayer is important, which no doubt delights every introvert I know (including me).

Second, that this alone time with God is transformative, as anyone who was been on a quiet or silent retreat could attest. The time alone gives God space to work on us, free of distractions, like crowds and disciples.

The transformation is illustrated in this passage by Jesus appearing like a ghost to those who knew him.

Imagine yourself in Jesus' place. You've just spent time refilling the well with God in prayer and holy listening. Struggle is followed by epiphany followed by a renewed sense of purpose followed by a deep peace. More or less. You might even receive comments from family, friends or coworkers that you seem a bit different.

Like Moses, like the transfigured Jesus, we too become shining lights. God within us is allowed to shine.

Third, when I imagine this scene I see chaos all around Jesus--in the rough waves and battering wind--but Jesus himself is all calm, an oasis.

When our world is chaotic, don't we, like the disciples, like Peter, want a little bit of that peace and calm that Jesus has in this scene? 

Don’t we really want to believe we can have that calm? And yet have that little bit of doubt? “Lord, if that is you…”

Fourth, imagine having that calm and seeing another claim it too, and then start to lose that peaceful center? Wouldn’t you reach out before they were lost to the chaos again? Jesus shows us the way again. We reach out and rescue.

And when Jesus and Peter gets back into the boat, that calm spreads to the disciples, to the entire Sea. All is peace.

Anxiety is contagious. It can spread like wildfire and everything seems out-of-control and chaotic. My Lamentations earlier this week is a good illustration of that. My freaking out about the High Holy Days in 9 weeks would be another. (Despite folks, including my husband, telling me to breathe and that I’ve got this.) 

What if the meaning of this passage is that deep peace can be just as contagious? That it can start with one person, maybe you or me, then spread to another? 

It might seem perilous to hang onto that calm, but we can encourage each other to keep anxious chaos at bay so that ultimately the entire world would be at peace too, just as the Sea is calmed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

in everything (poem)

in everything
remember to breathe
remember God.
all, all is holy.
be earthed in God,
rooted and recall
God's love,
God is love,
God is present with me.
breathe in love,
transform cells into compassion.
breathe out and begin.
this is for any task,
at work or at home.
an act of love
is in everything.

(Written while on retreat, using a prompt from Christine Valters-Paintner's "The Artist's Rule")

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Lamentations for today

Tisha B’Av is the day in the Jewish calendar when Jews remember the day the First and Second Temple fell (655 years apart, the same day). It has become the day that the deaths resulting from pogroms and Crusades and the Holocaust are remembered.  To observe this day, many Jews read the Book of Lamentations, among other things. 

I pondered this on the way home yesterday, read the entire Book of Lamentations and cried. Yes, cried. Between pondering and reading, here’s my take of what Lamentations might be written today (quotes are from the original Lamentations):

“My eyes are spent with weeping;
my stomach churns;
my bile is poured out on the ground…”

Anxiety twists a hard knot in my chest,
for we’ve lost our center,
spinning out to the polarized fringes,
convinced we’re right
and the Other is dead wrong,
and needs to pay for it,
so we use word-daggers to shame,
steel to silence.

God, aren’t you disgusted with us yet?
We deny You are Love,
we fail to see You in each other.
Will we not recognize your beloved 
until we are nothing but dust that chokes?

Weeks ago I prayed for a fire in my bones,
like Jeremiah,
and now I am drenched with weeping,
so drowned that no spark could catch,
because hatred is everywhere,
and worse,

Why does my church
wrap itself up in its own little hurt?
Why do we plan festivals and fairs
when Christians are executed in Iraq?
when girls are kidnapped in Nigeria?
Where rockets fall upon two peoples
in a tiny corner of the Middle East?

Why do we not give a f$%*?
Why do we stand at a distance
And shake our heads and wag our fingers
As if we have no part to play in this?

Why oh why have we forsaken you, O Eternal?
We have even forgotten how to love.
How to grant dignity to a precious child,
to a woman who is poor, or
to a man whose skin color is different.
We don’t have to be extremists
to mark them as Other.

I despair that we will ever find a way out
of fear built upon hatred
built upon fear
built upon hatred
built upon fear of the Other.
Will this cycle of madness never end?

We kill each other,
Our souls are destroyed by our hatreds,
Our compasses are lost.
We breathe in shattered concrete,
block our ears to the wailing,
and we kill (or we don’t care) 
and we justify that with:

they are the wrong faith
they are the wrong gender
they are the wrong color
they are the ones who hate

So we cannot live and let live,
We cannot intervene or save,
We cannot see a way other than death.

Yet with that response we fail to see
it is our own child we kill,
our own bones we break,
our own souls we crush.

How can we end this insanity, O Lord?
Will we ever be filled with your lovingkindness?
Will we ever act with your grace and unending mercy?
Will we ever know peace?

“But you, O Eternal, reign forever;
your throne endures to all generations.
Why have you forgotten us completely?
Why have you forsaken us these many days?
Restore us to yourself, O Eternal, that we may be restored;
renew our days as of old—
unless you have utterly rejected us,
and are angry with us beyond measure.”