Sunday, June 28, 2015

God's Love Stories - What a Week edition

OK, so it just won't be links on race relations, which has been a huge topic here in the United States, but there will be other interesting blog posts as well.

First, if you haven't yet watched President Obama speak at Clementa Pinckney's funeral, please do. It's 40 minutes, but it's 40 compelling minutes. Amazing grace indeed. (Start it at the 1:20 mark.)

Race relations:

"Afterwards, a black woman approached me and with far more grace than I deserved, reminded me that to African American listeners like her the image of God as a cosmic master is not only discomforting but frightening and oppressive." 
Spiritual Stuff:
"I often think of a story someone told me about her period of spiritual discernment. She was in her kitchen praying, and asked for a sign from Jesus. As she sat in silence, Jesus suddenly appeared before her. He stood there, looked at her, then shrugged his shoulders. I told her, “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

And for fun, "Extra Day", what happens when you run the lyrics of "One More Day" from Les Miserables through Google Translate a few times:

Oh, and I actually posted something of substance recently. You can find it here.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The role of relationships and community in my spiritual growth

What has been the role of relationships and/or community in your spiritual growth?

This question was recently posed on Facebook by Christianne Squires and I told her I could probably write an essay on it. So here it is.

The roles of relationships and communities have both helped and hindered my spiritual growth.

Community has hindered my spiritual growth by not teaching me.

I've been a Christian from the cradle. I would say I spent the first half (currently) of my life not really getting Christianity. When your Christian education consists of some Sunday School and a confirmation class (where I was taught things my current church teaches to pre-K and elementary school aged children), it shouldn't be a surprise that I didn't really get it. I'd never been educated beyond a kindergarten level and somehow I was expected to know why it was so important to worship God and what exactly that entailed. I was taught nothing beyond "come to Sunday worship" and "be nice to people". 

I went to church because I liked to sing and because I had to (not that Mum would've made me beyond Easter and Christmas but because I am a good girl who is ruled by oughts and shoulds.) I served on parish council and walked the streets of my suburb to hand-deliver parish newsletters to save on a bit of postage. I *did* church.

And yet I fell in love with liturgy. More importantly, I fell in love with Celtic Christian liturgy as it was being reimagined and the contemplative quiet of Taize. These were seeds waiting for the right time to grow.

Community hindered my spiritual growth by not seeing me.

I left home and stopped going to church. I did try two churches and neither of them acknowledged my existence so I never went back to them.

Relationships hugely helped my spiritual growth when I married a Catholic.

I was raised in the Anglican Communion and going to a Catholic church caused all sorts of issues for me, the main one being I was not permitted to take communion. All of a sudden, communion, which I hadn't been taking by choice as I hadn't been going to church, was hugely important. I had to work out why, and my husband and I had some very spirited discussions on Catholic theology and doctrine.

We ended up leaving the Catholic church (although the Catholic church doesn't leave you!) and went to an Episcopal church.

My current community has helped my spiritual growth in many ways.

By being welcoming and actually letting us rest after being burned out at our last church with "doing".

By getting us to Cursillo, a Christian renewal weekend, after ten years of it not happening at a convenient time.

By opening doors and opportunities to exploring my faith, such as:

(1) when I served on the vestry and we went on vestry retreat, where I discovered monasticism, Episcopal-style, and where I had a literal meeting with God on the mountain. (If I tell the story, I will cry because it's when I knew, in no uncertain terms, that God loved me, despite everything. Everything.)

(2) at that monastic community I became an associate of the order, and it is where I am learning about personal piety, a rule of life, and of striving to be with, near and present to God.  It's at this monastic community that I have found a haven to rest from the work of ministry.

(3) We learned about the Education for Ministry program happening at a different church, and I finally got the education I'd lacked all my life. Now I knew how to read the Bible in multiple ways, now I knew how the church doctrines were formed, now I knew the radical inclusion of Jesus, now I knew how God has acted and been present throughout my life (spiritual autobiography, of which this is a snippet), now I had a theology that had well and truly graduated from Kindergarten Sunday School. For four years, we belonged to a small community of students and we all helped each other through the faith crises that came with studying the Bible and our faith tradition. Out of that time, came a brand new friend, a soul friend. We share about each others lives, chant, and occasionally write icons together.

(4) When we first joined our current church, a Catholic community rented space. Now we share the space and share ministry. Through worshipping together and Advent, Ash Wednesday and Holy Week and by joining forces in helping others, we've become one community. (Who gets to take communion still separates us, much to everyone's frustration.) Remember those issues with going to a Catholic church? Overcome.

As you can see, it is not just one community that has helped form me, and that formation overlaps. For example, after being told at Cursillo I needed a spiritual director, years later, thanks to the monks, I understood why. Both of my spiritual directors, past and present, have been Catholic monastics. They have walked with me through my spiritual journey, providing a reflection.

Episcopalians waiting in line at a food truck at a Catholic conference.

It's at my church that I learn about what it means to be Christian who is beloved and who loves, to be a person of faith, who God is, was, and will be. Through adult education forums, through the wisdom of elders about praying, through going through stuff with each other.

There's also where I work, a Reform Jewish congregation. They have welcomed me to worship (which I love, once a sucker for good liturgy, always a sucker for good liturgy). I have learned so much about Torah that I know I've barely scratched the surface. I have fallen in love with Jewish prayers, like the Sh'ma and the recitation of the V'ahavta and examined why. My faith has expanded and continues to expand as a result. When I read Christian theology, I sometimes think to myself: "umm, Jewish context anyone?"

Even when I felt or realized my spiritual growth was being hindered or was stagnating because of community, some growth came out of it.

How about you? How has relationships or community played a part in your spiritual life?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Answer Me This: Summer time ...

I've never done this Q&A before, but it seemed a fun thing to do while waiting for paint to dry. (Golden's high flow acrylics are VERY high flow. I have artistic puddles drying. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.)

1. Any big plans for the summer?

A quiet summer this year. Am spending a long weekend in Santa Barbara at Mt. Calvary Monastery. It's my once a year trip. (Now that I work full time, it's once a year.) The rest of the summer, I will be working to prepare for my vacation later this year.

2. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

I believed many strange things. I was pretty sure there was a hungry dingo under my bed.

3. What is your favorite amusement park ride? (can be a specific one at a specific park or just a type of ride)

Fantasyland is my favorite part of Disneyland. I love the carousel and the Peter Pan ride there. My favorite in California Adventure is the Toy Story Mania and Grizzly River Run. I don't do the big rollercoasters or the super bumpy ones like the Indiana Jones ride.

That said, we never go to Disneyland in the summer. We prefer early January. When its raining. No waits on hardly any of the rides, so we don't have to plan, just go!

4. What's on your summer reading list?

Ummm.... my hubby and I are on an Ann Bishop glom. I am trailing behind but I hope to start on the next series we have with her. We started with her most recent series The Courtyards of the Others, and I just finished reading The Black Jewels trilogy in her Realms of the Blood series. Next will be The World of the Fae series although I see there are more RotB books on her website.

This might also be the summer I finish the N.T. Wright book ("The Resurrection of the Son of God") and I may get to Desmond Tutu's book on forgiveness that he wrote with his daughter.

5. Have you ever fallen asleep in public?

Dozing on epically long overseas flights don't count, right? Because usually everyone's trying to sleep.

6. What is your favorite smell?
Lavender, jasmine, rose.

Check out other people's answers at Catholic all Year.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A post about art ...

OK, so I have been somewhat distracted by this little, year-long class called Life Book 2015. I haven't had time to reflect on the week's Gospel passages or, well, anything beyond the occasional link of other people's content because I have been making art, and making it a habit.

And I confess that I have also been hooked on TV shows like Game of Thrones, Scandal and Ripper Street. I love how Shona Rimes speaks to the issues of the day

The best thing about Life Book 2015 for me has not just been learning new ways to draw faces, which was my main reason, but it has made art a habit. It was something I did maybe once a month, now it's almost every week, and if I can't make it to my art room, I am thinking about it.

I wanted to share my version of last week's lesson. It was taught by Tamara Laporte. It was the second male face I've drawn. I stuck pretty close to Tam's example: it's her composition, her method, her template for drawing a male face, her way of making backgrounds. I drew this, and I didn't love it and there was a new lesson coming in so I let it rest.

For all of 24 hours. I've decided to share the process with you.

I decided to fix the too boxy jaw, the weird lips. (I still haven't quite figured out how to do lips right yet.) I put white gesso over the top.

And then I realized that the blue of his overalls (that's what they were supposed to be) was a whole new color that didn't match anything else.

So I fixed the face, which required a lot of patience because it kept wanting to go down to the white and gave the overalls a different color. I darkened the eyes 'cause they felt a bit flat.

It's still Tam's composition, background, etc but I am happy with it now. Well, except for those lips, but I just need to spend some time practicing drawing nothing else.

It's halfway through the year for Life Book 2015, but you can still sign up and join because everything is downloadable and yours to keep. So you can go at your own pace. I haven't done all the lessons yet. I was supposed to catch up -- but found myself doing this instead.