Tuesday, March 31, 2009

desperately seeking

I need to lament.

I go through cycles; of being caught up in my life and experiencing the contentment it offers, and then of feeling the emptiness that exists because there are some essential things missing. I am in the grip of the latter these days.

In short I feel relationally isolated. In part this is a consequence of my vocation. There are peculiar and necessary boundaries that complicate clergy lives. Friends in my congregation cannot be friends in the fullest sense of that experience. I first knew that to be true in the theoretical sense and then fell on its sword in reality.

Quite apart from the issue of boundaries there is the paradox of the life of faith. To mediate the divine, which is what we are called to do in so many respects, the vulnerability of our own faith and journey must be somewhat transparent. That transparency opens us to wounding. Put yourself in the midst of other lives struggling with their own vulnerability and, well, shit happens. You get the brunt of human issues in all forms. It can be painful even as it is also a holy privilege.

This life can also limit friendships from forming. The public image of clergy serves to isolate. We are perceived as different and set apart. One of the reasons I love being a Pampered Chef consultant is because it has nothing to do with my professional life. It balances my experience of other people, and allows me to be "just one of the girls."

But there is something else at work here on which I cannot exactly put my finger. I suspect that the net affect of the above has caused me to withdraw and insulate myself, which makes me part of my own problem. I just don't seem to make friends, and among the friends I do have, I feel invisible. I fear I have created that. And if that is true, I want to find the means to reverse and undo what has taken place. I feel like, in most cases, I do all the seeking. I make comments on blogs and on facebook, and do not receive the same in kind. I have gone out of my way to acknowledge, appreciate and recognize others, and those efforts don't appear to matter. I try to do unto others (and yes, I could do more), but there are few who do unto me.

I am not feeling sorry for myself, but I am feeling.

The other day I got out for a walk, and enjoyed seeing the signs of spring through which we are moving in this part of the world. I love this time of year, and the metaphor of new life encourages me. If I could afford it I would go down to Publix and buy dozens of tulips. They were my grandfather's favorite flower (or at least one of them). Remembering him I feel held, safe, loved. He saw me, and his acknowledgement served as a blessing.

I think today I will go to the kennel and play with puppies. There are few things that give me as much joy as loving on them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

a very present help in time of need

I told you about the fabric. It filled the back of my car and occupied two plastic bags on the floor where passengers would place their feet. The week before we were scheduled to head to Gatlinburg Ken advised (in no uncertain terms) that perhaps the fabric might be relocated. In other words--get it out of the car.

I had determined that, much as there might be samples I would like to keep among the piles still resident in my car, it was time to part with the lot. The morning of our departure for our getaway I planned to do just that. But maybe before driving over to the senior center in town to drop them off I could take a quick pass at some of the more accessible samples to see if there were one or two that simply had to remain in my posession.

Rigel couldn't resist helping. With the back door open for access to the samples and space to sort through them, he wormed his way past me and insisted on inspecting the contents. I yielded. There are days when it's easier to turn his antics into photo opportunities than to battle his strength or his determination to be in the middle of whatever activity is taking place. So fetch the camera I did.

And yes, the fabric is now gone. I still have plenty to work with tucked back in the guest room. Now I simply have to determine what I will do with it.
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Sunday, March 29, 2009

wind

Whenever I hear the wind howling at the windows I immediately think of Pooh. "It's a blustery day," says he. And thinking of Pooh immediately puts me in mind of my grandmother, who was a first class A. A. Milne afficianado.

One of my favorite things about time with my grandmother was at bed time. She would "tickle" our backs as she tucked us in, reciting verses from Milne as she did so.

"They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace.
Christopher Robin went down with Alice..."

or

"James, James, Morrison, Morrison, Weatherbee George DuPree,
took great care of his mother, though he was only three..."

One of the things I miss about not having little ones to tuck into bed is repeating that ritual. But I can recite verses to myself and think of Pooh when the wind sweeps with gusto through the branches of the trees. I can remember with joy a grandmother who shaped me in more ways than she perhaps realized, and hope that somehow my life honors her. Perhaps the wind is one of the ways she checks in.

Here's to you, Boppy. You are loved and missed.
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Saturday, March 28, 2009

ouch

A cheerful email arrived in our mailboxes last night announcing the second pregnancy of my step-daughter. It was sent to us and 100 or so of their closest friends.

Ouch is an understatement. There are no words that describe adequately the hurt impaled on our hearts.

I want to say, "remember that commandment? the one about honoring your father and mother? How does this honor your father?"

I want to say, "how does excluding your father from your life model a loving Christian heart to your children?"

I want to say, "was it your intent to be cruel, or are you simply clueless?"

Somehow I will find a way to say, "I can't speak for your father, but I'm really hurt that you didn't call us to share your news. I want to feel excited and happy, but feeling wounded gets in the way of that. How can I encourage you to include us in your life? We are aching to know our grandson."

My prayers have not been enough. My patience has not been enough. My forgiveness has not been enough. And the wounds just keep on coming...
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Friday, March 27, 2009

friday five with a twist: confessions of a limited blogger

Mary Beth at Revgalblogpals writes:

On my blog sidebar is a list titled, "Blogs I Read Every Day." After my mother became a blogger, she asked me how I could possibly read that many blogs daily!? I had to confess it then: Okay, I don't read them all every day! I have over 100 on there! But I have favorites, and you do too.Some of you probably use feed readers to let you know when your favorite bloggers have posted...not me, not yet. I just have folks who are part of my day-to-day.

So for today's Friday Five, give us five blogs you visit regularly, and tell us briefly WHY you like them. These can be RevGal and Pal bloggers and others ... or news sites, knitting sites, etc. Who are you showing the love to on a pretty constant basis?

My “Internet life” began with a scrapbook message board in August, 2002. Through that board I came to know and love a diverse collection of women whose common interest was scrapbooking. A regular, daily thread posted each morning served to unite a group that came to be known as the Early Birds. Until that message board changed its format three years ago, eliminating the method of responding directly to a post within a thread and changing totally the nature of the online “conversation,” it was a life-line to me through some very difficult days.

The Early Birds became my sisterhood, and over time I have met most of them in person. Several of them have become very good friends, and three of them came to my wedding. Around the time when the message board changed one of our Early Birds began blogging. Eventually most of us turned to blogs as a place to continue to share daily news and pictures of what was taking place in our lives. It was for that reason that I began my blog four years ago. It wasn’t until recently that I began to expand my blog horizons, venturing out to read regularly the blogs of people I didn’t know. Blogging is still, for me, primarily about relationship, and it takes time for this introvert to experience a sense of that through this medium.

Through another online community, the Anglican/Episcopal message board at Beliefnet, I met my friend Jayne. Turns out she didn’t live all that far from me, and through her I met my husband. She also began blogging, and she is my first daily read every morning at Journey Through Grace.

I share all this a bit self-consciously, as so many others have logged more mouse-clicks and keystrokes than I probably ever will. With a couple of exceptions, sharing my blog-roll really is sharing my friends.

I DO want to say here how grateful I am to the revgals community for being a place for me to invest a part of myself, and in which I find nourishment as a priest/pastor, woman, and soul with a motley collection of longings. As soon as my economic situation permits, I will join you properly!

As for my blog roll:

Journey Through Grace, noted above. In addition to being a cherished friend, Jayne is also my source of getting linked up with other blogs! Like:

Telling Secrets, sister priest from New Jersey Elizabeth Kaeton’s blog. There are lots of reasons I read Telling Secrets—humor, the latest “news from the front” of the Episcopal Church, artwork and cartoons, insight… the list goes on. And from this blog I learned about:

Margaret and Helen, BFF’s for more than 60 years. What a riot! Helen writes most of the posts, and she doesn’t hold back with her left-leaning views on everything from Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh to family holiday celebrations. There are days I laugh so hard reading this blog that I need to leave the room for Kleenex.

Posting from Paradise. This is the blog of one of my Early Bird friends, Jules. She is a retired school teacher from the St. Louis area who relocated to Florida with her husband several years ago. Jules is among the best evidence that 60 is the new 40—full of energy, creativity, and a breath away from the next good laugh.

Search the Sea and Desert Year, both posted by one of the revgals. It’s hard to find words to describe how I am affected by these blogs. They are so very personal I sometimes feel that I am prying by reading them. She reveals a heart both strong and fragile, and I just want to reach out and hold her. Gannet Girl, if you read this know that my prayers and support are offered on your behalf daily.

There you have it. A slice of my blog life.

under construction

I'm feeling the urge to update the blog with a slightly different look--mostly layout related. Please excuse the mess in the meantime!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

getaway report

From top left... our room at the Buckhorn, which included a private balcony; the view from said balcony; the happy couple outside one of the historic homes of Cades Cove; a tolerant deer in CC (his proximity to the road and photo opps caused a serious traffic jam); the Methodist church and graveyard at CC; gingerbread pancakes for breakfast (delish!); blooms; a stop along the Little River.

We're back in the real world after our anniversary getaway, which was lovely. Once again the Buckhorn delighted us with fabulous food, excellent service, stellar accommodations and its beautiful grounds and stunning view. The swans were nesting, so we didn't get to visit them, and we didn't manage to get to any of the artisan shops. But that's one of the great things about a place to which you return--there's always the next time!

We had fabulous weather on Tuesday, our only full day, and spent most of it at Cades Cove, part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is an amazing piece of land nestled in a flat, broad, high-elevation valley in the Smokies, settled in the 1820's and bought by the Park system in the 1930's. The park includes historic buildings, an old mill that still functions, churches and lots of wildlife (the biggest wild turkeys I have ever seen!). It's not a place upon which you just happen, situated 25 miles from Gatlinburg via a two-lane road that winds through the crevices of the mountains along clear mountain streams. I had no idea when I mentioned to Ken that I would like to go that it would involve the better part of a day, but it was a wonderful discovery of a peaceful and plentiful habitat. I will gladly return in greener (or autumnal) times with camera and tripod in hand!

We returned through rain yesterday in time for our Lenten program at church. We had a disappointing turnout, three women who I dubbed the "faithful few," but our program time was blessed with some wonderful sharing that probably would not have taken place with a much larger group. I would even venture to say that our sharing included the seeds of transformation, and this morning I am thanking God for the fullness and grace of our time together. It was rich.

Today the rain continues, but the blooms of spring seem to glow through the gray, and the grass and trees are greening. I love this time of year! There are mundane details on today's "to do," like renewing my car registration, and picking up some paint for the church. Tonight I have GOT to make PC calls--I have no shows booked for April, and that is unacceptable. Anyone want to do a catalog party? Let me know and I'll pop some into the mail along with info about how to maximize your sales! The host special is bamboo!!

Enjoy your day!
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Monday, March 23, 2009

we're off!

We're off to Gatlinburg today for a two-day getaway to celebrate our anniversary, which is tomorrow. We first experienced the Buckhorn Inn last year when we booked our stay on the recommendation of some friends. It is an absolute treasure! Before we left we made reservations to return this year as well! The inn is so hospitable that we think we'll just tuck in there and enjoy the grounds for our visit this year (which include a labyrinth and a pond with resident swans). The food is fabulous so we don't even need to venture out to eat. Except maybe for lunch.

The timing of this celebration is ripe. Ken hasn't had a day off in three weeks, and I finally have a couple of books in which I'd like to immerse myself. Ah....

Happy Anniversary! Happy Spring!
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

savoring saturday

There aren't many Saturdays in my life born with a blank square on the calendar. Today, however, is just such a day. There are always things to do, but there is nothing that "must" be done at or by a particular time, or at a particular place. I can linger in my jammies, sip my coffee into the middle of the morning, and find a quiet spot to curl up with a book.

There are things that I want to do and hope to do, but the beauty of this day is that it is mine to claim as I wish. A candle is lit beside me, Juliet is at my feet, and music that I love plays in the background. It's a rare gift, and I'm savoring it.

May your day be one to savor, too.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

friday five: hope redux

On Revgalblogpals Songbird writes: In the late, late winter, as the snow begins to recede here in Maine, we begin to look almost desperately for signs of spring, signs of hope that the weather has turned and a new day is on the horizon. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, Easter and Spring twine inextricably, the crocuses and daffodils peeking through the Earth as we await the risen Christ.Share with us five signs of hope that you can see today or have experienced in the past.

(I posted this yesterday, but have kicked it up a notch with some photos)

A friend posted an entry on facebook encouraging those battling the bulge (and other dietary issues) to participate in "spring training." No, not baseball, but the timely stepping up of trading bad habits for good ones in the world of--sigh--diet and exercise. The spirit is willing, truly it is, but this flesh is so weak! Even so...

I find hope in the fact that I voluntarily got out of the house the other day to walk through the neighborhood and enjoy fabulous weather...

hope in the increasing availability of fresh vegetables and fruits locally grown...
hope in the blooms that have emerged day by day or overnight on the street and around town...

hope in looking forward to the spiritual renewal that writhes through Holy Week and surprises us on Easter...
Mary Magdalene Discovering the Empty Tomb by H.N. Pollard
hope in the anticipation of seeing family and friends in another month when we go to Melrose...
hope in the signs of renewal within me made manifest by making decisions rather than simply weighing options. If hope persists in such wonderful ways then surely I can manage to cut my portions and increase my exercise. It isn't so hard. It isn't. It's one minute, one hour, one day at a time. It's about choosing life and hope. It's about living into the best life has to offer. It's about joining the renewal of spring.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

celebrating the saint

And a fine celebration it was!

Thirteen of us gathered at O'Charley's to drink things green and make merry. We began with a non-redemptive appetizer of loaded curly chips (that globby looking mess in the picture) and a round of green drinks. We also berated the staff for not taking shameless advantage of the holiday. There were no decorations (even in the bar), no green adornments on the uniforms with the exception of a few beads leftover from Mardi Gras, and no Irish specials on the menu. The only tip of the hat was the green drinks. We were appalled. Each member of our party, upon arrival and the discovery of this crime, said to the waitress, "What do you mean there aren't any specials for St. Patrick's Day? This is O'Charley's! You know--'O' Charley's!" And the poor woman would shrug and make a "don't shoot me!" expression.

In the end the evening was saved by having a good time in spite of the poor promotional lack-of-thinking on the part of the restaurant, and the very good care of us provided by the waitress. We also enjoyed the novelty of the beer tube, holding 100 ounces of said beverage, and Ken managed to get some green on his salmon in the way of peppers (see photo).

A toast to Patrick, long may he reign over celebrations like these!
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ah, you're lookin' a bit green today!

A happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all!

I have just a wee drop o' the Irish in me blood--near as I can make out, 1/128th! But then there's that part of the family tree where an adoption slips in. (A great-great-grandmother, I believe. She and her brother appear to have been orphaned, and I think her birth name was Hannon. That could be Irish! The void of her past on the ancestral chart looks like a gash amidst all the data from the other branches of the tree. But I digress.) So I may be a bit more Irish than presumed. Never fear, the Scottish part of me dominates.

In fact, I've never really had a hankering to visit Ireland, beautiful as it is, though I must admit that while searching for the above photo I came across a web site for lodging that has me thinking otherwise. Check out Delphi House. The accommodation itself doesn't rank up there with the most alluring, but the scenery does. Maybe that's because it looks so much like Scotland! But I suspect that the fishing would appeal to Ken, and you've got to love a place where the dogs aren't kept out of sight. Well, if you're a dog-lover that has great appeal.

Time to step up paying off the bills so we can travel!

In the meantime may God give you...

For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

Monday, March 16, 2009

desperately seeking discipline

I wonder if it's something that you have or you don't. Discipline, that is. In searching for images for this post the word "discipline" brought up one of three types: the repetition or practice of a skill (as in playing the piano); consequences imposed on a child by a parent in response to the child's behavior; and religious images that reflect discipline as it relates, theologically, to obedience. The discipline I seek pertains to regulating my own behavior, and upon reflection is really a blend of the three. In my experience self-discipline is an elusive beast.

I wonder why it is that I am unable to exert self-discipline, and I am unclear about how motivation factors into the equation. For instance, I am strongly motivated to sell a lot of Pampered Chef for at least three reasons: income (needed badly), the achievement of a particular goal (earn a free trip to Disneyworld), and the satisfaction of doing well. And yet, I just can't get myself to the phone to make calls to schedule shows. There's a discomfort in making those calls, even though I know in my head that there shouldn't be. Some old experience or perception seems to loom so large that motivation shrinks in its presence. I can sometimes manage bursts of discipline when energy and attitude align, but such moments don't last.

The coach of a basketball team that lost a tournament round by a game-ending-buzzer basket commented that her team lost because they hadn't wanted the win badly enough. Bugger-all, what an insult to the team. In any game there will be a winner and at least one loser. There ARE times when a team or an individual doesn't give their all in their performance, and in such cases the loss can't be mourned. Giving our all doesn't guarantee results, and motivation (or the lack thereof) is not necessarily the culpit. I'm not suggesting that I am giving my all (I know I'm not)--just raising the question about how the two are connected.

Am I looking at this the wrong way? My friend Kathy always talked about "completing the transaction," a practice she internalized through her father's mantra. It worked for her, she completed tasks. But as many times as I heard her say it, and even as I hear her voice in my head, the phrase and her example aren't sufficient to affect my behavior. Perhaps she had the discipline gene, and mine is somehow impaired.

What do you think? This inquiring mind wants to know.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

mind-clog

The revamped home page of facebook no longer offers the "Anne is..." fill-in-the blank status box. It now invites participants to respond to the question, "what's on your mind?" Oddly enough I find this more challenging, perhaps because my mind is often a blank slate when I head to facebook. That should be a clue. The "what's on your mind?" question most certainly applies when I face the empty page of this blog each day.

Often on Sunday mornings I'm scrambling to stay still. Check out the headlines, view emails, visit blogs, read the editorials at the Times, and somewhere in that mix get ready for church. Sunday mornings generally don't allow the kind of thoughtful time to write anything useful here. But thanks to facebook I am aware of what is on my mind. The real question is, who cares? Nonetheless...

This is not my desk, though truth be told, it could be. Like rabbits, the clutter multiplies and begins to take over. It seems that at least once a month I do a full-force intervention by clearing everything out of the room to sort through the chaos and attempt to bring order by purging, putting away or setting aside for action.

A very large problem is that there isn't much space to put things away, and so a neat, deliberate pile is placed somewhere out of the way. Another very real problem is that life is full of what I call "minutiae varietals:" things like church business, Pampered Chef, bills and other items all compete for attention and space "within reach" of where I sit at the computer, a vital nerve center of my life. I used to be an organized person. Really, I was.

Back in the days of corporate life no matter how obscured my desk became in the course of the work day I left a tidy desk before heading home. Papers were put back in folders, computer printouts were stacked in a neat pile, and project notebooks were closed and returned to their slot in the cabinet above the desk. The inbox captured miscellaneous memos, notes for reference were tacked to the cubicle wall, and if a stray scrap with a phone number or short-term "to do" list had no place to go it sat out of the way next to the phone. There was plenty of room for a photo or two to add color and personalize the space. Simple. Expedient. Productive.

Maybe that's the answer. Divide the desk. Pampered Chef at one end, church at the other. Somewhere in the middle the essentials of "high finance" can claim prominence so that bill due dates don't get buried under the latest alumni newsletter or a request to update a professional profile. Maybe I will finally implement with regularity the daily, timer-regulated regimen of "the dreaded filing" that will remove a pile, singularly stacked as it is, from its present place of limbo. Maybe I can reclaim the inner organizer. Maybe.

What's on your mind today?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

stuff

How about some light-hearted and modest levity amidst the incessant hour-by-hour update on the economy? Here's a fun, nonpartisan look at essentially unnewsworthy, um, stuff.

Enjoy your day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

friday five: mid-Lent check-in

From the Revgals: an invitation to check in on the state of your spirit midway through "this joyful season where we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed" (Roman Missal).

1. Did you give up, or take on, anything special for Lent this year?
I have a deep yearning to engage my creative side, and on most days I deny that yearning, believing that my time and efforts will bear no fruit. For Lent, I chose to give up listening to the voice that convinces me of that falsehood.

2. Have you been able to stay with your original plans, or has life gotten in the way?
I’ve actually managed to stay with my original plan, even though at times I have not been conscious of it. Since my discipline has been more of a strategy than a task it doesn’t look the same every day. But I have been reading more, knitting, spent an entire week engaged in creating (see next item), planning projects, and listening to an idea that has emerged in my heart. The Holy Spirit has made her presence manifest in both subtle and unmistakable ways this Lent.
3. Has God had any surprising blessings for you during this Lent?
OMG, beyond my imaginings! Read last week’s posts, I have written about that blessing there. The opportunity to spend last week at an icon-writing workshop was an incredible gift of renewal and transformation. Most amazing of all was the emergence of a deep, spiritual relationship with Mary. Who’d have thunk?
4. What is on your inner and/or outer agenda for the remainder of Lent and Holy Week?
I suspect that my changed relationship with Mary will have an impact on my experience of Holy Week. I can’t predict, of course, but I can imagine that our companionship during that week might bring me face to face with parts of that journey that I have never seen or confronted before.
5. Where do you most long to see resurrection, in your life and/or in the world, this Easter?
For one engaged in an ostensibly spiritual vocation, my work (and somehow my personal life) is more task-oriented and less soul-feeding than I would like. My deepest longing is for my life to include the kind of soul-feasting that I enjoyed “BS,” Before Seminary. What does that look like? Entertaining, quilting, gardening, calligraphy, photography…
My longing for resurrection in the world finds hope in Barack Obama’s leadership. In my opinion his “agenda” reflects the closest thing to a gospel presidency that has ever occupied the oval office. He can only begin a process of transformation, but I want to be part of and do my part to assist it.

Bonus: Share a favorite scripture, prayer, poem, artwork, or musical selection that speaks Lenten spring to your heart.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

another world

It's a messy day here--a gray, sleeting and rainy day. A day to think about sunnier skies and beautiful surroundings. Like this place in Argentina, courtesy of my friend Pam who traveled there recently with her husband. This is Iguazu Falls. I don't know about you but I could sit at this vantage point and stare at and listen to those magnificent falls for hours on end. Watch the light and shadows change. Hear the birds in the trees around me. Close my eyes and be lulled to a peaceful rest by the lullaby of creation that surrounds me. Natural beauty like this is like a balm to my soul. Stress subsides, anxiety is quelled, and the rhythm of this world retunes what has become a discordant jumble in my own.

This is bliss.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

taking a second look

I mentioned in one of my posts last week that I learned for the first time that the apostle Luke was not only a physician but an artist, and the first iconographer. That new piece of information broke open another world for me in many ways. One of the things my mind first started to chew on is that the Church doesn't do an adequate job of honoring that aspect of Luke's gift to the Church, nor does it do much to incorporate that gift in the most literal sense.

I am reminded of this again this morning as I get ready for today's Bible study class at church. In response to many statements of "I don't know anything about the Bible," it was clear that beginning at the beginning was not a bad idea. Bible 101, here we come.

For my preparation I am using a commentary from the Jewish Publication Society, a favorite source for study when I was in seminary. And frankly, when studying a book written for the Jewish faith it makes good sense not to complicate its study by using Christian sources whose interpretive lens has a very distinct agenda.

Holy Cow. Literally. There is so much more to Genesis than the fall from grace, pretty rainbows and musical storytelling about Joseph's couture coat. For instance. God created man. The hebrew word (adam, accent on the second syllable) that is translated into man does not refer to gender, it refers to the human race. Let's put that one in our pipe to smoke for a while and see what sorts of implications emerge.

And here's another tidbit. When God is creating the world we don't tend to take notice of what God isn't creating. Like angels. It is to them that the text refers when it says that man is made, "in our image." The Christian faith points to the use of the plural as refering to Jesus. Hmmm. Makes you stop and think, eh? What else is the Church messing with in the story it tells? More than we want to know is my guess.

So what do we do with insights like these? Chew on them. Ask questions. Consider the implications. If in doing so it changes the way we look at the Christian Story, so be it. That is not a bad thing. My early notions of the Story have undergone all sorts of permutations, and rather than push me away revelations like these serve to draw me in. The Story has power because and in spite of the details, and if I have learned anything in the 20 years that I have been on this journey it is that faith doesn't lie in the details--the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The more I learn the more mysterious it becomes, and I have always loved a mystery.

As I have heard at least one giant in the faith say, the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty. Here's to mystery.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

on the lighter side...

And you thought I was kidding about the fabric in the car.

Let me explain. These are decorator samples of fabric, the kind that hang in neat, color coordinated rows in upholstery and decorating shops. The fabric these samples represent have all been discontinued, so the samples were slated for the trash. "Not so fast!" or perhaps sentiments to that effect, were how they ended up with me through my friend Yolande. I never got to the sorting task on Sunday but began to tackle it yestesrday without the detriment of wind that plagued us the day before. But then, I forgot about the detriment of Rigel! With the back of the car open he just couldn't resist checking it out and doing his part to, ahem, help. You have to understand that one of his greatest joys is romping around the yard with something in his mouth. Even better if it doesn't belong to him, if you get my drift. Fortunately the swatch of fabric that he got was not one I was interested in keeping.

Alas, I was struggling with a nasty headache, and standing in the blaring sun on a warm day meant that I didn't get very far in my efforts. But the process has begun and I will deal with it a section at a time (it is a LOT of fabric). What will I do with it, you ask? Small purses and snazzy tote bags are my thoughts, but to tell you the truth, who knows? Ken thinks I'm nuts. You may too, but we're talking fabric, friends!
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Monday, March 09, 2009

waking up


This morning I find myself in an internal swirl of more things than I can grasp.

It began last night as I went to bed, with tears of grief for Dooley flowing from a place deep within me that in turn merged with older tears and mummified memories. I sought out Mary, my new best friend. As I tried to quiet my tears I turned to her, and she offered her lap for my weary head. I understood in an instant why she has such broad appeal as a source of comfort. She understands. She has faced hope, despair, anticipation, joy, sorrow, disappointment, loss and surprise. She knows the cost and promise of saying yes. She knows. She is the Eternal Mother.

Dreams poked at uncomfortable realities and shook loose enough layers of debris that my consciousness was cluttered with them when I woke. I lingered in the safe cocoon of bedding long enough to identify a single culprit of disquiet and turned it over and over, as though the action of doing so would polish the sting from its presence. Oddly enough this was the answer to a prayer. I recognized the signs of God's activity and asked what he was up to. He usually doesn't answer my questions directly, but this time it was a simple, clear message: he was assuring me of his love.

The prayer being answered is for transformation. I thought I had been healing from the collective wounds inflicted by the Church over the years, but in fact the scar tissue has built up like layers around my soul. They protected and numbed me, and clogged the arteries of my spirituality. I was shriveling up. Time for preemptive CPR.

It occured to me that the years' accummulated layers needed to be scraped off to free and breathe life back into what is buried within. And it struck me. How ironic that a week spent applying layers to what began as a blank slate should lead to the revelation that another set of layers holds the key to the next step in this journey. And there is more. So much more that awaits me.

As I keep company with Mary today and yield to the work of transformation I give thanks for the opportunities that break through barriers and point us to paths previously obscured by all manner of good and well-deliberated intentions. The grace of this day is that there is One wiser than I who knew it was time for me to be here.
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Sunday, March 08, 2009

now what?

I have to admit that it was great last week to have something to say everyday! Now life is returning to the familiar pattern of the daily grind, and as they say, that's really nothing to write home about.

Today, the Sunday routine: church, preaching, monthly potluck, home and eventually succumbing to fatigue and a nap. Unless Tiger is playing golf.

I will try to take advantage of the post-church energy to get some tidying done around the house. Let's just say that last week evaporated into the ether but the clutter didn't do likewise. I have a pile of fabric loaded in the back of my car that has been there, unbelievably, for about a month. It literally fills the back of my car. I've been waiting for good weather to tackle sorting it and dealing with, and perhaps today is that day.

I am energized by yesterday's PC show and a new recruit! She is a delightful woman from Columbia, and attended yestesrday's party with her husband and daughter. She will host a party next weekend and use some of her host credit toward the purchase of her starter kit. This month consultants who sign get a rebate of half of the cost when they submit their first $1250 in sales, which can typically happen in two to three shows. A nice incentive! If I can stay awake this afternoon, maybe after sorting fabric I can do some organizing of PC info to help me identify and contact other potential recruits to take advantage of this special. I will happily receive any leads from others out there in my reading audience!

In honor of springing forward I am posting the picture of daffodils from a fellow iconographer's garden. Happy day, and happy light!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

here she is!

i
Mary is my new best friend. Through this past week I have become very attached to her as she emerged from my board and yes, as she guided my hand with the brush. I swear to you about that last part. As I was outlining portions of the icon I knew I could be in trouble easily. Imagine tracing the lines of her eyes, her chin, around her face... oh, the prospect for error! But the words came to me without looking for them: Holy Mother, guide my hand. And she did. As soon as I am able I plan to make a space for the icon somewhere near, or on, my desk, she will have a place of honor. I have always held Mary in high regard (who wouldn't, look what she went through?), but my relationship with her has been transformed through this week of immersion in prayerful community and creation. I also know that before I write another icon I need to learn how to paint.

fellow journeyers at the chapel of the cathedral following our closing eucharist

We did learn why an icon is referred to as written rather than painted. In Russian and Greek the word for both is the same; the Word of God is written in line and color; and the strokes of the iconographer are much like those of the caligrapher. Whatever it is called, the experience is mystical and transforming, and it is hard to find words adequate enough to describe it.

Friday, March 06, 2009

day last

The gold leaf is on, and the wee angels carrying cross, vinegar and hysop (I think) are close to being complete. Final touches remain today, and I still have several of those to do. I think I will finish my Icon just under the wire. I have discovered through the week that my eyes are getting worse. I have taken every pair of glasses from home to aid me in seeing the fine detail, but they aren't quite good enough. Time to go to the next grade of magnification (she says with a sigh). The picture above is of Susan, who sits on the arts and culture committee of the cathedral and who coordinated and took care of the logistics of this week. Can you see her brush? No? I rest my case!

Though I am eager to finish my Icon and bring it home, I do not want this day to come to its inevitable conclusion when we all bid farewell and head our separate ways. I have so enjoyed this company of journeyers and have been reminded, yet again, of the pleasures and gifts that come in community.

More tomorrow. Right now I'm in a mad dash to get ready to head out the door. Blessings on your day...
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Thursday, March 05, 2009

down the home stretch

I am pleasantly tired.

Each day we begin with Eucharist, followed by a time of sharing reflections and responses/reactions to the day before. It was interesting that essentially all of us ran into frustrations on the second day. The writing has a subtle intensity about it, and as we each sighed with relief with every piece of shared frustration the laughter in the circle grew. As one person related, the laughter served as therapy for her, who left a difficult situation at home that morning. The adult son of our teacher, Teresa, deployed yesterday to Afghanistan, so there are any number of us who carry burdens that are eased by the balm of this holy time of creation in creation. I wish there was more time to spend in conversation with each other because it is clear that some wonderful things would grow from this collection of journeyers.

Yesterday we also added a new element to the week's experience--the blessing of hands. After our time of sharing a single votive was lit and placed in the center of our circle, and the lights were shut off. We are in a basement room, so this was it for light! But gradually our eyes adjusted, and out of the darkness one of our members sang the chant from the opening of the Easter Vigil, "The Light of Christ," to which we responded, "Thanks be to God." The veriscle and response is sung three times, raised in pitch a bit each time, followed by a period of silence and then another repetition. We were bathed in the mystery of that powerful chant, the light overcoming darkness and the grace of silence penetrating our souls. At last the silence was broken with a prayer, and the lights came back on. From there I blessed a bowl of water that would be used to rinse each other's hands. We returned to our work following that exchange.

Mary and Jesus now have faces and hands that actually resemble faces and hands. It took the day to apply those layers carefully, and this morning I will need to return to Jesus' face for some remedial work. His small features don't take well to a brush not skillfully guided by my hands! I think today we will also apply the gold leaf, and our work will begin to resemble a finished product. I have plenty to do to tweak some areas that need attention in the meantime.

I am already feeling sad that this week is coming to a close, but there's no sense borrowing from future grief while I can still enjoy this present time. I wish you all could share this experience--it is extraordinary.
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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

after two days...


The image on the left is a completed version of the Icon we are writing. After two days, mine is on the right. There's a long way to go, but can you see how far we've already come? Ignore the bright red background, that will be covered by gold leaf, as will the blue halos. The backgrounds are painted so that in the event that any of the leaf comes off, there will be color beneath it, rather than the white canvas on which we began.

Yesterday's lesson had to do with the sublety of applying color, as well as learning the trick of mastering paint. I confess I didn't do so well on the mastering part. Blending color isn't the challenge, but thinning it sufficiently and having the right amount of paint loaded on the brush is where I am doing my own version of crash and burn. I've never really learned how to paint (except for the interior kind on houses--this is waaaayyyy different) and it shows. I also confess that I was a bit distracted by the need to take care of a personal errand. Tsk, tsk! Focus is key, as is prayer.

We begin each day reading a prayer together that is addressed to the apostle Luke, as well as to Mary and Jesus. Did you know that Luke was the first iconographer? He was both a physician and an artist (and Mom, I most certainly thought of Jara!). Well, heck, why doesn't the church make more of a deal about that latter part? Just think of the artistry that would be welcomed and celebrated if that little tidbit was embraced by the institution! That's a post for another time...

Anyway, I've never been a "Mary person" in my devotional life, but yesterday I found myself praying to her for guidance as I painted. Funny how this stuff works on you. It is truly a holy endeavor, and I am so incredibly grateful for the gift of this workshop. I can't wait to get there today and begin work on the next segment of this creation.

And here's another little Icon tidbit to leave with you before I dash to my breakfast and head out the door. What we think of as "perspective" in art, lines vanishing to a point in the distance, is reversed in iconography. The idea is for the perspective to point to the viewer, so that as you look through the pane of the icon to the divine, the divine is directed toward you. Is that cool, or what?

Have a great hump day.
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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

into the icon zone


from the first day: the Icon we are writing, The Virgin of the Passion; my work-table neighbor applying color; fresh daffodils from a fellow student's yard (a cup was on each table!); our instructor Teresa Harrison demonstrating brush strokes
I really knew nothing about Icons before yesterday. And though today I don't know a lot more I have learned this:
~Writing an icon is not unlike paint-by-numbers: you begin by tracing a pattern of the Icon and you paint/write within the lines.
~You start with the dark colors and work toward the light (think theology here).
~When applying paint you want to strive for a flat look. There is intent behind the two-dimensional look, so that the Icon serves as a window (like a pane of glass) through which you look seeking the divine.

Two of our class are from the orthodox tradition (one is second generation Serbian), one is Roman Catholic, three are Presbyterian, the rest Episcopalian. One student came from Florida, two others from South Carolina. There are two men, the rest are women.

We worked in silence, which is an amazing thing when 17 people are gathered and about a task. The silence is not about concentration, but about holiness. It was rather extraordinary.

This is very much a spiritual endeavor. One begin's with a prayer, and making the sign of the cross. I found myself at various points during the day repeating what is called the trisagion: "Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One," and I threw in a response, "Have mercy on me," (this is Lent, after all). There were times when I couldn't manage the paint brush, and times when the paint glided precisely where it needed to be. It is exciting and humbling to watch the Icon take shape, and to have a hand (be the hand) that brings the features of Mary and Jesus into focus--she holding her child, he holding her hand and looking to the angels.

Today I know only that our work moves from the broad strokes of base color to the finer lines of detail. I can't wait.
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Monday, March 02, 2009

a week away

Posting may be a challenge this week, though we'll see. I was asked to serve as chaplain to an Icon-writing workshop being held at our cathedral. My duties are limited--worship each morning--but the perks are wonderful: I will be participating in the workshop free of charge!

So off I go this week to learn about the art and spirituality of the Icon. Though one actually does paint them, the process is referred to as writing. I learned long ago why that was the case, but I'll be darned if I can remember any more. I imagine that it's one of the first things we will learn today!

All of us in the workshop will be writing the same Icon (not the one here), and beyond that I know that I need to take a desk lamp. I'm looking forward to this time of immersion in this ancient art, and being with others engaged in the same.

Stay tuned for further illumination--the biggest challenge this week will be getting up earlier than usual to make the trek downtown during rush hour!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

it's a conspiracy!

25 miles south of us there is 4 inches of snow. 100 miles southeast of us there is 8 inches of snow. Out our window? Barely a dusting that clings only to those things cold enough to hold the poor excuse for precipitation that passed through during the night. And this is hardly the first time!

I WANT REAL SNOW!

I'm a Yankee, after all. I have memories of sledding, buildilng snow forts, watching the dog leap from the shoveled driveway into the yard-covered snow and not being able to move because she was up to her chin in the stuff (that was really pretty funny, and she was a good sport about it all). I remember being in New Hampshire visiting friends during a snowfall and digging out the mailbox so that the door could be opened. When I was in college in Indiana country roads nearly became single lanes because there was no place left for the snow to be plowed but on top of the pile already created by the previous passes of the plow. You couldn't see over the piles that were created (which really made driving an adventure).

Is it too much to ask? I mean, really!
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