Monday, April 6, 2015

Being Present: the 50 Days of Easter

After announcing I was giving up other people’s approval for Lent, you might have noticed I didn’t do much blogging. Much was going on, much processing, and I thought I would unpack all that, but today, just a little bit and a looking ahead.

Yesterday started the 50 Days of Easter. Easter is not just one day, but a season of rejoicing. And it’s more than that too, I’ve come to realize. I think as a child I intuitively knew this because I was that child who hoarded her Easter eggs until May.

But Easter is not about hoarding. It’s not about ekeing out the chocolate, the love and grace given to us on that day two thousand years ago and every day since.

It's an abundant gift that always is renewing.

I spent Lent giving up people's approval for Lent. There were some spectacular failures in that, but without them, I would not have been open to realizing what comes next.

It was the Maundy Thursday service, and Monica gave a sermon inspired by the Holy Spirit. It was so perfectly paced, I thought for sure it was written down but I found out that it wasn't how she planned it.

She talked about how often we fail to be present to each other. Whether our heads are buried in our phones, or thinking about our extensive to do lists. When I wrote novels, it was the stories that took me away from the present. Even after hearing this sermon, I found myself in times of “not being present”.

And times of being present too, like last night, cross-legged on the kitchen floor with a skunked dog in my lap drying him off after his de-skunking treatment. We had to wait for the treatment to dry, then rinse, then apply carefully by hand again because the skunk had got him square in the eye. Not exactly a speedy process at 10 o’clock at night. And yes, I mourned that I was wearing my favorite t-shirt and jeans, but when you’ve a shivering pup (of 16 years of age), you don’t think about that until it’s too late.

Back to the sermon. Monica spoke of how foot washing was Jesus being incredibly present to his disciples in this humble, awkward, messy act, and she invited us to see each other as we washed and were washed. To get beyond the awkwardness and the giggling and to look into each other’s eyes and acknowledge that we are here in this time together. To say “I see you.” So powerful in a world where we rush and don’t take the time to see anyone but our own reflection.

Now I find the whole foot-washing thing as something I would much rather not do, and I have been known to skip it, even though my husband considers it a sacrament, but Thursday night I took the challenge. I looked up at my companion as I washed her feet and she looked down at me, confessing she always cries when she gets her feet washed.

We switched and as she looked up at me and I at her, she softly started thanking me for being who I am, for all that I do, and it was so beautiful that I was moved to tears also.

There are 50 days to the season of Easter, and my intention is to spend that time being present to others: whether its to my dog who saw a butt being presented to sniff and got a nasty surprise, to the bus driver, the check out clerk, my co-workers and last, but not least, my husband. Sometimes its those you’re most familiar with that you forget to always see.

Being present to others is an abundant gift that requires no fanfare at all, but the tomb is empty and presence is a gift of ourselves and of God to another.

What are you doing for the 50 Days of Easter?

PS. The Life Book 2015 art class I am taking has a theme every month. This month: Honouring the Here and Now. Coincidence, or god-incidence?

Friday, March 20, 2015

God's Love Stories -- Lenten edition

Apparently, not seeking your approval means never posting on my blog. Actually, it means that it's been a super-busy month where if I'm not working I've been playing with art, thanks to LifeBook 2015, or busy with the lead-up to Holy Week/Easter as Chair of the Worship Ministry.

Here are the stories, blog posts, and otherwise, that I've read over the past month or so and are worthy of keeping track of in some form (for me) and may be of interest to you. (Sad to say, I also lost a bunch when our WiFi went haywire.)

And then you may or may not have heard about the Catholic cathedral in San Francisco and how they were dealing with the homeless taking shelter there by intentionally drenching them with water. The diocese turned it off the next day. Here are two ways churches are doing a better job dealing with the homeless:
What've you been reading lately?

Friday, February 20, 2015

I am giving up your approval for Lent

I am giving up your approval for Lent.

To which my husband said, when I told him, "I approve of that."

"Dear, you may support me and hold me accountable, but not approve."

This realization came to me Ash Wednesday night, after I was unexpectedly enlisted to impose ashes at our combined Episcopal/Catholic service.

not my handiwortk

I was talking to my husband how this all came about and he declared I was "overthinking" which got me really mad. (So you know he was right.)

And then I asked: did I read the prayers slow enough? Was the silence too short? Too long?

Who IS this crazy person?!?!

And that's when I realized that just when I thought I had the "needing others' approval" thing under control, I don't. It doesn't matter why it's back but let's just call it increased uncertainty.

It's insidious this seeking of approval so this is going to be a tricky one. 

Your mishegas is not my mishegas because my own mishegas is enough. (It may be official: I love Yiddish.)

I don't seek your approval by putting this out there either. It's here for accountability purposes only and if anyone else needs to deal with and wants to walk along, you're welcome to let me know.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

God's Love Stories ....interesting blog posts

Here's a selection of blog posts and articles that struck me this past month:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

A Prayer for Nigeria

We're trying out this new thing in church that in addition to one of the standard forms of prayer found in the BCP (Book of Common Prayer), we write an additional prayer that reflects specific concerns. Last week, we prayed for the people of France.

This week, it was my turn to write one:

We especially pray for the nation of Nigeria, for the souls of over 2,000 dead in their northern villages and we mourn those who have no one left alive to mourn them. We pray for the 200 kidnapped girls, still not returned home, that they may feel Your comforting presence and may yet find freedom. We ask You, Loving God, to guide us in a way of ending hatred, that is more than hashtag BringBackOurGirls, hashtag IAmNigeria, and bring peace to this broken world. Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
You'll note I spelt out the hashtag # as I had no idea who would be reading it.

I don't have any answers for that prayer. Sarah Bessey posted something beautiful this past week: A Lament for Nigeria, ultimately about mourning and paying attention.

Maybe it's also about writing letters to your government representatives and seeing what can be done for the Nigerian people. Is there a way to protect the innocent from violence in a non-violent way?

Like I said, I don't have answers. How about you?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Counting Gifts Again...

I stopped counting gifts (God's blessings) in June 2013. I was pretty overwhelmed with a brand new job and I didn't feel like I needed to any more.

Wednesday I decided to start again. It was time to remember in joy instead of worry about the future. It's a great way to be present to the here and now. Of course, it takes a bit of practice to get back into the habit.

(Want to learn more about counting God's gifts, in fact, a thousand gifts a year? Visit Ann Voskamp's website.)

1. deciding to keep track of gifts again

2. red sky at dusk (and that's my bus pulling up in the bottom right corner)

3. red kabbalistic bracelet (with Sh'ma medallian) a gift from Israel

4. the light is all different kinds of fantastic this morning

5. double rainbow

6. golden clouds at sunset

7. fluorescent orange highlighted clouds

8. great Worship ministry meeting

9. a mistake on an art journal page is just an extra layer

It's a beginning ... It's not quite up to the keeping of three gifts a day, but the important thing is that I'm counting again. Do you count gifts/blessings?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Lectio Divina for January

So I'm just making this up as I go along, and don't know if anyone out there is interested, but I decided for this month, after catching up on the handful of days I missed in December, to start reading through Romans.

We'll see how it goes! Anyone else out there doing lectio divina regularly? (Doesn't have to be daily.)