Tuesday, June 30, 2009

a taste of yesterday

My friend Yolande was heading to a family reunion Sunday afternoon and had whipped up four batches of scrummy Mississippi Mud Brownies. She brought a batch to church for coffee hour that morning, and I just couldn't resist! When it was time to head home she handed me a plate full of the yummy morsels so that I could indulge in a little guilty pleasure once I was home.

This adulteration of the brownie is about the best choice there is when it comes to improving on perfection (I consider the brownie to be one of God's perfect foods). It also takes me down memory lane.

Back in the day when my grandmother was still alive and we were at Melrose, we would work in a visit to her cousin Alden, who lived about an hour away on an old family homestead (I'm talking old, here. A land grant from George III old). Alden was a wonderful cook, and she frequently made a batch of Mississippi Mud brownies for us to take home. They weren't called that at the time, we simply knew them as Alden's Brownies. But it didn't matter what they were called, because they were fabulous. Always.

Whenever I see these brownies I think of Alden, who died a few years ago. I remember meals in her kitchen, tea on her porch, and the day I married her granddaughter in the backyard (I do so enjoy family weddings). I think of her devotion to family, to God (she taught Sunday school until she was 95 at the local Presbyterian church), and to her heritage. She had a quick wit and wry smile, and I loved the sound of her laughter. She is missed, but through her brownies, as with so much more, she lives on.

Thanks, Yolande, for the memories.
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Monday, June 29, 2009

high five ministry

One of the stories the PB shared in her sermon the other evening was about a youth group from South Carolina that had come to NYC to engage in some urban mission work. I will probably get some of the details wrong in sharing this, but the gist is here. An idea emerged from their experiences in the city when they were confronted by the enormity of the many needs of people they observed and encountered. They knew that each of them had the power to impact at least one person's day in a positive way, and they determined that they should invest some of their time in doing just that.

They positioned themselves at subway entrances/exits, and met workers arising from the morning commute by greeting them with high fives. For the most part their efforts were met with positive responses, smiles and an occasional exchange. The commuters had begun their day in the city with an uplifting interruption. It was this event to which the PB referred as the ministry of interruption. She likened it to the notion of how we, as we go about our business and keep our noses to the familiar and predictable, are caught off guard by interruptions of the Holy Spirit. The interruption is a pause to consider the gift of what is brought to our attention, even if the recognition is fleeting.

We tend to see interruption as an annoyance, an intrusion into our time, concentration, or effort. It often appears thoughtless, and we presume that the interrupter isn't concerned about our interests or the Very Important Task in which we are engaged. Though at times this may be true, more often than not the interruption is to gain our participation and to include us. Whatever prompts the moment of distraction it is always an opportunity. How we respond to it is the key.
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

when PB doesn't mean peanut butter

Somehow or other I didn't get to mentioning this earlier in the week (guess it didn't quite fit in with the posts), but our Presiding Bishop is in town this weekend! Katharine Jefferts Schori is a remarkable woman and bishop. Called to the vocation of priest several years after receiving her PhD in oceanography, she served as priest in Oregon before being elected bishop of Nevada in 2001. She was elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 2006 at our last General Convention. She speaks Spanish fluently and is an instrument rated pilot. Does all of that seem a bit right-brained? She has an incredible gift for pastoral leadership, is an astute listener, gentle in speech, full of compassion and mercy. She knows her bible and grasps fully the nuances and complexities of faith. And she doesn't flinch. Did I mention that she is amazing?

She is in town this weekend at the invitation of our bishop to help one of our congregations, St. Ann's, celebrate it's 150th anniversary year. The diocese gathered last night for Eucharist and a reception to honor the PB, and she spent a couple of hours with the clergy beforehand as a way for us to have access to her, to ask questions and speak our minds.


There was a good turnout of clergy, but I confess that I was disappointed with my colleagues. Do they not pay any attention? Do they not listen or read? Most of the questions asked were the obvious, well-worn (nay, exhausted!) questions of interviewers. The same stuff that appears in every article: being the first female PB and Primate in the Anglican Communion; the intersection of science and faith; her "liberal" theology, blah blah blah. To her credit Bishop Katharine (as she is called) replied to each question as though it were new to her, and honored each person's question with patience and directness. But oh, what a lost opportunity! I confess I had no questions prepared. Of late my own life has been so consuming that I haven't given much thought to the quandaries of the Church. Fortunately a handful of questions did offer the opportunity for her to head in new directions, directions that weren't about her but about the Church, faith, and mission. She has a heart for mission, and in her sermon last evening she invited and challenged us to be more attentive to that aspect of the Church's life. (She used a great phrase: the ministry of interruption, noting that we, as humans, could take a cue from the Holy Spirit's practice of interrupting us!)

As a Church, nationally, we are blessed beyond measure with Bishop Katharine's leadership. It saddens me at the same time that her extraordinary gifts can't be experienced more directly--a reflection of the paucity of those gifts among our leadership in the Church and in the world. I can only pray that as she leads us during her tenure as PB those who do come in contact with her will take note and make an effort to listen, to watch, to be moved to action so that we might, as she suggests we are able, change the world.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Five: talkin' 'bout music

Mary Beth at Revgals writes:
The sad news of Michael Jackson's untimely death has me thinking about music and its effects on us - individually, as cultures, as generations. Let's think about the soundtracks of our lives...

1) What sort of music did you listen to as a child?
We had an assortment of music that was for us—children’s songs and such, I specifically remember Peter and the Wolf, and someone’s Child’s Guide to the Orchestra—and then a varied collection of other music. I specifically remember The Singing Nun; Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass; Pete Seeger; Tom Lehrer (LOVED him!); and at Christmas some albums with songs from Italy and Sweden, and some other collections that had nontraditional music (as well as traditional). My parents also listened to classical music, and I can remember asking my father to play it when I was going to bed so that it would serenade me to sleep.

2) Going ahead to teenage years, is there a song that says "high school" to you?
My taste in music was heavily folk, but I slipped in a little “Yes,” to my collection. Steve Miller Band, Michael Murphy, John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot and Dan Fogelberg were my favorites. I also developed a taste for Celtic music, listening to Steeleye Span, Twisted Sister, Boys of the Lough, and others. In college (more memorable, musically), it was discomania, so there are lots of rhythmic tunes I can remember dancing to!

3) What is your favorite music for a lift on a down day?
Celtic music! I love Alasdair Fraser, but for a twist on Celtic I also enjoy The Secret Garden.

4) Who is your favorite performer of all time?
I’ve seen Gordon Lightfoot the most in concert, which says something, and I also loved seeing The Secret Garden. I had the distinct pleasure of traveling with Alasdair Fraser on a dancing tour of Scottish Castles, and he is amazing to watch. I don’t think I can narrow this down to one choice.

5) What is your favorite style of music for worship?
I’m a traditional girl—give me those old chestnuts from the hymnal any day!

Bonus if you include a video of any of the above!
I couldn’t find any good video with adequate recordings of Alasdair Fraser, but there is a recording of his here:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

one definition of stupid

Ken closed his business a couple of months ago. Financial misfortune--like my loss of income last year, an unpaid debt from a client in the neighborhood of $19,000, and the economic slowdown--led to a bleak outlook toward keeping ahead of legal obligations and the very real financial responsibilities of owning a business. Making that decision was agonizing for him, but he felt it was necessary to prevent digging a deeper hole of debt from which he couldn't emerge. He is doing his best to meet persistent obligations (monthly payment on his van, purchased for the business, and taxes), but other things he simply has to let go.

One of those things is a payment his insurance company is charging him. In his first year in business he anticipated a certain volume of business, number of employees on his crew, and so on, and his premium was based upon that estimation. An audit done after that period was completed showed that his risks had in fact been greater than anticipated because of the success he was having with his business. They are charging him an additional $1900 for the risk he actually incurred, even though there were no claims against the policy during that time.

From where I sit this is completely wrong. The whole purpose of insurance underwriting is to evaluate anticipated risk and rate premiums based on experience. That's why an audit is done, to correct the information used to evaluate risk so that premiums can be adjusted. The insurance company takes a risk and the insured takes a risk. That's the nature of the insurance business. To come back to the client after the fact and say, "we should have charged you more so we're going to do that now," is absurd. Would they have issued a refund if for some reason he had actually incurred less risk? I don't think so!

What's even more absurd? The *&$(*# insurance company is expending time and resources hounding him for payment. He has explained to two attorneys that the business has closed because he can't meet his obligations. He has explained that he lacks sufficient funds for tax payments. This morning he received a subpoena to appear in court at the end of July. Give me a break! They've already spent more money to pursue this than they can recover. Have they not heard of cutting losses? Cost-benefit? Did someone have a bad experience with a contractor and decide to take it out on the next one they encountered? This is just plain stupid.

Unfortunately this is all eating at Ken while he is trying to set his sights on finding work to help keep our heads above water. (After that we'd really like to ski on top of it --metaphorically speaking!) For now I'm doing my very best imitation of a motivational speaker, complete with breakfast pep talks (which this morning elicited from him a very hearty chuckle!) and reminders that there is no room for negative thinking. (His moon must be in gemini--he's either a happy camper or feeling that he's teetering on the edge of an abyss, but not in a bi-polar kind of way.)

Anyway, all positive thoughts, energy and prayers sent this direction would be greatly appreciated. He needs some raising up!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

daring to hope

There's a situation here at home to which I've alluded, but upon which I have not elaborated. It's a fairly private matter (and no, it's not scandalous, simply private), so I don't feel that sharing details are appropriate, at least not now. That said, it is something very much on our minds, in our prayers, and weighing on our hearts. Since I tend to blog about my life it is difficult to avoid referring to it here. For one thing, it consumes a fair amount of time and energy. For another, it is something that requires thoughtfulness and reflection. There are decisions: do I speak or not? How carefully must I weight my words? From whom might I receive counsel? Is it appropriate for me to act? This is also a situation from which I am learning, and so once again reflection leads the way.

One thing upon which I am reflecting is prayer. In my thinking a desired result is the object of prayer. The journey toward that result is at God's discretion and in his/her hands, and not for me to suggest. For instance: someone I know is job hunting. My prayer for her is that she find a job that is satisfying and that challenges her toward growth into the fullness of her potential. I don't pray that she gets a specific job in a specific place. In my thinking attaching specifics to the prayer binds it and limits the possibilities for its fulfillment.

So I'm experiencing a little bit of a dilemma. I've been asked to pray for someone to be led to a deeper relationship with Christ through which transformation and healing would take place. The desire is that the resulting inner transformation would lead to the resolution of a difficult situation. Hmmm. On the one hand there is nothing wrong with this prayer. Its intentions are good and the desired result is definitely worthy. But I am balking. I am resisting the idea that I, or anyone else, should try to direct how another person experiences transformation or healing. It may be that this person's relationship with Christ (which already exists) is the best vehicle through which transformation can take place. But isn't that up to God? To me the prayer is best expressed in "end terms." By that I mean that I would pray that God would help the people involved in this particular situation to resolve their conflict, experience reconciliation and healing, and find transformation in the relationship. I'm uncomfortable suggesting how that result would come to pass. I suppose I am also troubled about this prayer request because it places the burden of change on one party, when both parties involved in this matter would benefit from transformation. That's a different matter, but it's connected.

In spite of this prayer puzzle I am singing praises this morning because apart from the prayer request, a door that had been closed has now opened. It is a step in the process of resolution and reconciliation that is necessary, and this movement is inspiring hope within me that progress can, in fact, be made. I am grateful for the grace God has given me for my part in this thus far, and will pray that I continue to make thoughtful and, yes, prayerful decisions on this journey. I am also crossing my fingers, because God is full of surprises.
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

inside my box

Some years ago I finished a round of shopping and returned to my car to find a note stuck under the windshield. It was from a friend and former neighbor, and read: "when I saw the window decals and bumper stickers I knew this had to be your car." Lest you think I decorate my vehicles to excess, let me just say that there were a total of four items to which she referred. But it was interesting how quickly the right combination of references can be used to identify us.

That said, my friend Jayne posted this meme on her blog a few days ago. Unlike some others which refer to minutiae at a broad level (no, that's not a contradiction in terms), this one is more like the items on my car. If you didn't know this was my list, would you be able to identify me?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So, say you were meeting a new person, a new friend. And you wanted them to have some idea of what kind of person you are, and who you are. But you can’t actually tell them in so many words.

Instead, you have to give them a box, with 15 things in it for them to look at/read/listen to/taste/whatever. What would you put in the box?

In my box you would find:

1. a Patricia Cornwell mystery
2. my clergy dickey
3. a collection of favorite recipes
4. a Celtic cross
5. my Virgin of the Passion icon (see left sidebar)
6. a collage of photos of favorite people, places, and dogs
7. pajamas with sheep on them
8. Nikon DS70 with wide angle/zoom lens
9. the latest Pampered Chef catalog
10. a book of crossword and Sudoku puzzles
11. a stash of fabric
12. a few favorite scrapbook layouts
13. Any/all Alasdair Fraser CDs
14. a handcrafted journal and pen
15. my Early Bird coffee mug
bonus: a postcard from Cape Cod and a pair of ghillies

Feel free to play along and post this on your own blog!



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Monday, June 22, 2009

with a little help from my friends...

Here is the "project" for which I solicited input from my readers with help choosing a picture of Rigel. This commuter mug features the three dogs, the two kids (with partners and one and a half grandchildren), his nibs and myself. It was a hit! We had a coffee theme going with gifts for this occasion, with a fishing mug from me. Both are being used this morning!

Thanks for your help. The recipient is well pleased!
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

savoring accomplishment

My day didn't start well yesterday, but once I recovered from a frustrating morning I found some time to wrap up work on a digital photobook. Ken and I have been married three years and I simply hadn't gotten around to putting together any kind of wedding album. It's one of those things that I'd been meaning to do, and when the offers from Shutterfly come and there are three days to take advantage of the discounts and (often) free shipping, I haven't had the time to assemble the photos I want to use, organize them, choose layouts, write text, blah blah blah...

The latest Shutterfly offer, however, gave me an entire week to put together my project, so I plunged in. It was fun to review all the pictures, to remember bits and pieces of that evening, and to get the event documented at last.

This may seem like a small thing, but it is significant for me for a number of reasons. The first is that it honors the event, a Big Deal for me after so many years of singlehood. The second is that I exercised some creativity, one of those soul muscles that had been yearning for a workout. The third is that it got me back in a groove of scrapping. Sort of. Those who scrap know that this is a poor cousin to the Real Thing, but hey, it's a start and I'll snag it gladly and do the happy dance! Can you feel the joy?

Other accomplishments today were painting projects at the church. The men's and women's bathrooms are now painted something other than sterile white, with contrasting colors on stalls and dividers. I'm very happy with the women's bathroom--the jury is still out on the men's. But it's progress, a fresh look and a cheerier space in which to be or pee. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Sunday we are celebrating Father's Day with a cookout following our morning worship service, and praying for a dry day with cooler temps than we've had this week. Coming within pecking distance of 100 is not my idea of a nice day. After that? It remains to be seen.

Stay cool, enjoy a cold drink and happy solstice!
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Friday, June 19, 2009

friday five: life is a verb

(All sorts of situations at home have delayed today's post, including no internet access!)

Jan at RevGals writes:
Jennifer recommended this book, which I got because I always value Jennifer's reading suggestions. The author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh, worked her book around these topics concerning life is a verb:
Say yes
Be generous.
Speak up.
Love more.
Trust yourself.
Slow down.
As I read and pondered abaout living more intentionally, I also have wondered what this Friday Five should be. This book has been the jumping off point for this Friday.

1. What awakens you to the present moment?
Two things, which at first glance seem diametrically opposed: tension, and the Holy Spirit. When I feel my shoulders getting tight I stop whatever I am doing and take a deep breath. I try to release whatever is on my mind as I exhale and simply empty myself. In that emptiness other things often emerge, and those things tend to do with a present moment.

The HS is my most reliable partner in spontaneous crime. Out of nowhere a detached thought will emerge, or I will observe a detail in my surroundings that causes me to pause and consider some aspect of it. She is especially good at getting me to listen to silence. I can recall one evening a multitude of years ago when my goddaughter and her sister (then both under the age of ten) came to spend the night with me. As I was going to bed I was stopped by the sound of their breathing, an awareness of their presence and a reminder of the aching void of not having children of my own. (My goddaughter and her sister are pictured to the right, all grown up!)

2. What are 5 things you see out your window right now?
The front yard, full of birds eating breakfast.
The opportunity for getting better acquainted with our neighbors across the street, two of whom we haven’t met.
A garden project I would like to move from planning to reality.
The colors of sunrise reflected in the windows of the house across the street.
Our overgrown front lawn.

3. Which verbs describe your experience of God?
Inspire, accept, comfort, disappoint, amaze, annoy, love, surprise… I’ll stop there or I’ll be here thinking about it all day!

4. From the book on p. 197: Who were you when you were 13? Where did that kid go?
At 13 I was a girl adjusting to the separation of her parents; making new friends when in seventh grade four grade schools funneled into one junior high; experiencing live birth when my dog had a litter of puppies; suffering through death when the firstborn pup died at five weeks, and the mother of the litter was killed three weeks before Christmas; being involved in every conceivable sport for girls, either as athlete or team manager. As I list the things most readily available to my memory two themes emerge: grieving and relationship building. Where did that kid go? She was tasting adulthood, and her road pretty much continued down that path.

5. From the book on p. 88: If your work were the answer to a question, what would the question be?
How are you seeking to respond to God’s call of service through your gifts in this time and place?

I don't know if I would call this a "bonus," and it doesn't follow the ff instruction, but I found this a very challenging post today. Guess it's illuminating some of the bumpy road that is my path at present, and that's not exactly comfortable. Guess God is answering one of those prayers about revitalizing my faith! Careful what you ask for...!

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

holding within

My friend Jayne posted a meme on her blog the other day that I will apply to my own world shortly. In coming up with the responses to this meme challenge I got to thinking about what would represent my deep love for Scotland. One thing that came to mind was a framed work of batik that I used to own. It showed layers of hills/mountains that ran down to the sea, with a sky of gray and blue clouds and a gentle land mass in the foreground. I encountered this work at a craft fair the summer after my semester in Scotland and immediately recalled the rugged peacefulness of the western highlands and islands. It hung on my walls for years and finally grew dingy from years of accumulated dirt. It was made of silk stretched in a bare wooden frame.

I parted with it at some point not long ago. Other art had come into my life and competed for space on the walls, and though the batik continued to carry my spirit back to Scotland whenever I looked at it, I knew I could bid it farewell. I knew this because I carried in my heart the joy of that place, the colors and changeable moods of the landscapes according to sun or clouds, shadows or light. This part of Scotland is more than in my heart, it is deep within my soul.

In 1987 I ventured back there for the first time since I had been there while in college. The occasion was the wedding of a friend, and I decided to fly over and surprise her. It was the first time I ever took a trip alone, and many things are memorable about it. Apart from the wedding I had two priorities for my travels: Edinburgh to see again the family with whom I lived during that amazing semester (and to see the city, which I love), and Iona and the Isle of Mull. The latter are deeply spiritual places for me, and Mull, in particular, draws me like a magnet. At the wedding of my friend several days after my return to Mull I remember talking to the priest about the experience of my return. "As long as I can remember, when I sit down to draw and a blank sheet of paper is in front of me I draw mountains. Sometimes there is water in the foreground and sometimes not, but my first inclination is always to draw mountains. While crossing to Mull on the ferry," I told him, "I looked over to Mull with the mountains rising from her shores and realized that all of my life I have been drawing the mountains of Mull."

It was a startling revelation to me, but it explained to me the immediacy of my affinity for the place, and my sense of feeling at home there. All of Scotland works on me that way, but Mull, in particular, claims the core of my soul. It also explained why I could part with my batik. I don't need to see the colors dyed in silk to recall the place or remember its impact. I carry it within me. I can close my eyes and picture the landscape, feel the breeze and hear the gulls that keep vigil at the shoreline. I can smell the damp, dense earth and the salt of the sea. I can imagine my hands shoved into my pockets for warmth and the moist fog that clings to my skin. I can feel the dried heather yield to my steps on the mountains, and the sheep that dot the hillsides share the terrain without much of a blink. It is home, and I hold it in my being at the cellular level.

It is the richest blessing in the world.
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

honoring fathers

I mentioned the other day that we needed to get a Father's Day card to send to Travis, our son-in-law. Ken gave me a blank look. "Why?" he wanted to know.

"Because he's the father of your grandson," I replied, "and a member of our family." The blank look continued, and a conversation ensued about card-giving norms and "protocols." The conversation illustrated yet another area where our backgrounds differ in the extreme, and our life experiences share few common boundaries. It is from such discoveries that both of us learn and grow.

But it made both of us curious about what the "cultural norm" might be around the matter of sending greeting cards. (We won't engage in the discussion about how greeting card companies find occasions and create opportunities to purchase just the right card. At least not today.) So I offered that I would post a poll on this blog and ask readers to respond with what his or her practice might be when it comes to Father's Day. I thank you in advance for participating, and welcome any comments on the subject you'd like to share.
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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

a little levity

This comes by way of my cyber friend Kim's blog. This is too funny!


And, if you wouldn't mind taking my Father's Day poll, please do!

Enjoy your day!

Monday, June 15, 2009

release, part 2

A further word on the "holding on" stuff from the other day.

My eye has been twitching. At lunch after bible study last week I asked two of my companions, both with medical training, if they knew of anything I could do to relieve the twitching of my eye. I attributed its origin to stress. My medical intuitive friend stopped what she was doing and focused her concentration on my energy. Her read was that I was holding on to something that had to do with someone else's concerns, and her counsel was that I detach myself from the outcome of the scenario in question.

I've known about medical intuition for several years. I learned of it through the work of Carolyn Myss (pronounced mace, for those of you that wonder) while I was in seminary and became fascinated by the notion of reading intuitively a person's energy to discern something of their health and physical well being. According to Myss our biography becomes our biology: what happens to us is stored in our bodies at a cellular level and affects our physiology. The examples she uses to illustrate this are fascinating, and the art/science of this make sense to me. When I learned that one of my bible study participants was a medical intuitive I felt like I had received a double blessing from God. I now had the opportunity to look at life through this different lens.

There are multiple things at work here. When Medical Intuitive friend told me that at issue was someone else's difficultly, I immediately thought of a family situation that reared its head recently. The matter affects Ken very directly, but since what affects him also affects me there is complexity in this. I also have relationships through him, so I am affected by this on several levels: one is my concern for how this impacts and plays out for Ken, one is how the effect of this on him affects our relationship, and one is how my relationship with the person(s) in question is affected.

In terms of the former, I can advise and counsel, but the action is up to Ken. Although I understand the idea of detaching myself from the outcome, especially since it is not "my" outcome, this is truly a challenge, since the outcome will have considerable consequences on our life one way or the other. Yet Medical Intuitive friend suggested that though this matter was involved in what I was "holding" physically, there were other things, too. Things that are not mine. And trust is involved.

This is where it gets dicey for me. The idea of holding someone else's stuff makes sense, and yet is unconscious. I get it, intuitively, but the specifics are not available to me at present. Accessing those specifics is the critical first part. Doing the work of releasing them will involve some intense work of changing my behavior, and in so doing, impacting Ken's behavior. I was totally unaware that I was holding his stuff, but simultaneously it makes sense that this is true. Without betraying the tangled wounds that are Ken's story, my compassion for him and what he has experienced is bound up in the unspoken contract of my commitment to him. And the trust part? The foundation of my relationship with him is my experience of his trustworthiness.

So I have stuff to unpack in the "let's isolate the parts and deal with each one" sense, as well as the shedding of what I have been holding--someone else's baggage--sense. It's intricate and tender and in need of healing. But this is the journey before me, before us. Prayers are coveted, and support desired. It's going to be an interesting road to travel.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

sights and sounds

It's not unlike any weekend morning I suppose, but this morning it is something of a cacophony as I stand at the kitchen sink and look out the window. Next door the neighbor's grass is getting cut (imagine the buzz of the mower); between the two houses across the street I can see through to the neighbor on the next street over washing his truck in his driveway; through the door between the kitchen and Ken's office I hear him rehearsing one of today's hymns that is giving him fits. And I'm thinking about mustard seeds and bushes and birds seeking sanctuary even as I watch a plethora of birds in our front yard pick at the ground and find sustenance.

Mornings are the time I tend to be the most reflective. The demands of the day haven't yet succeeded in crowding into the mellowness of my post-sleep mind, and the tender shoots of hope and encouragement manage to rise and shine amidst the debris of the previous day's disappointments and discouragements. These are precious moments for me that offer glimpses of dreams and crystaline days to which I can think back when the day falls apart or obstacles like boulders emerge in my path. These are talismans of faith that hold seeds of potential and bushes of promises delivered.

This morning all those sights and sounds compete for attention, but I am trying to think about seeds and bushes. And getting into the shower and keeping an eye on the puppy and making sure that there's something for breakfast so I don't head into worship on an empty stomach. Clearly my time for reflection this morning is too short for any one thought to take root and offer nourishment for the day, and perhaps that is the piece of clarity on which to reflect. For surely we have days as disjointed and noisy as this day is beginning, just as surely as we have days that are full of silence and emptiness, dense with meaning.

I can attribute this morning's unfocused chaos to hormones and laugh, and I can try to pull from that a metaphor of food for thought for those who will hear me preach 90 minutes from now. One thing is for certain. I will hand to God the dilemma of this day, the images and opportunities that are part of this mix and ask that it be blessed for homiletic delivery. And then I will trust the Spirit to empower me to deliver it. That process works every other time. I have no reason to doubt it will work today.
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Friday, June 12, 2009

friday five: food shopping!


Shopping at Whole Foods on a trip to St. Louis

Sophia at RevGals writes: My family has happily Trader Joe'd in southernmost California, up to the Northwest, and back down to southern Cal. And now we're really excited because today a brand new Trader Joe is opening up across the street from our apartment. Wahoo! There are sure to be lots of tasty free samples on opening day and from now on we can just walk across the street to get a lot of our shopping done. I have a new spiritual directee coming tomorrow and she has already mentioned that she'll be stopping in on the way here, leaving me to be jealous cause I'll be spending that noon hour like, praying and preparing and study-vacuuming and everything, and won't be able to stop in till the afternoon.

So in honor of the new Trader Joe's, this week's Friday Five is all about food shopping.

Trader Joe's has just come to Nashville, but we haven't been there yet. It's 45 minutes away--not a dreadful distance, but on a tight budget these days we're conserving gas. Next time I have to be in town, however...

1. Grocery shopping--love it or hate it?
Neither—it’s a necessity. Of course, if the store is fabulous the experience can be amazing! Publix is a mile away, and we're thrilled to have it so close. We love Publix.

2. Who is the primary food shopper in your household?
It tends to be me because my schedule is more conducive to shopping. But my husband shares the load.

3. Do you have a beloved store like TJ's which is unique to your location or family?
Not unique, but I love The Fresh Market and Whole Foods. Unfortunately both are a distance from us (45 minutes +)

4. How about a farmer's market, or CSA share, as we move into summer? Or do you grow your own fruits/veggies/herbs?
Our local farmer’s market is a bit small, but we have one! During the summer months we do our best to support it. This summer we’re also growing our own herbs and a few veggies.

5. What's the favorite thing you buy at the grocery store?
I don't think I have a favorite item, but we don't come home from the store without half and half, which I must have for my coffee. This doesn't mean there aren't things that tempt me, however!

And here's a bonus for the cooks among us. Check out this site!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

release

I have a friend who is a medical intuitive, and she has opened the door to new life for me. In response to a passing comment I made about mid-life, menopause and weight gain, she quickly shook her head and told me that none of these was the cause: I was. As a fellow intuitive I knew what she meant in the broad sense, but needed clarification.

She explained to me that I was holding on to things, storing them, if you will, in my body. I was literally adding to the increased pounds because my body was getting the message that I "should" hold on. Except that the things to which I am holding aren't mine.

Again, I knew what she meant. To aid my health, I need to let go.

So I have been thinking about release. It's one thing to understand the idea of releasing or letting go of something. And sometimes it is clear what needs to be done to release things to which we've been holding. But I had been unaware that what I was holding wasn't mine in the first place.

This will take some thought and reflection to sort out, but in my mind a process is emerging to assist that effort. In typical "J" fashion I will make a list! I can summon up a few ideas about some of the things that I have volunteered to take on as baggage. I can symbolically set them down, an act that will aid in releasing some of their weight. But more importantly I need to take stock of why I am taking them on in the first place. It is not a conscious decision to do so, and there has been no contract drawn up that indicates this is part of a job description. I have some ideas about that, too, and need to spend some dedicated time reflecting on this and understanding what is going on.

The good news is that I am not afraid of such work, or of facing whatever I learn. And I am fortunate to have my friend as support, guide, and translator as I take on consciously the effort of identifying and shedding baggage. And eventually, body weight. It is a new journey. Time to strap on the necessary footgear for the path that lies ahead and take a deep breath.

I never did buy into the idea that the weight that has piled on was simply a matter of hormones and that diet and exercise would resolve the issue.

Breathe. Take a step. Breathe. Take a step. Breathe...
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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

waking

Thanks to my new cyber friend Diane at Contemplative Photography I have been introduced to the work of John O'Donohue, described on a book jacket as a Catholic scholar, but who more specifically, to me, is a Celtic mystic. But I've only just started his book Eternal Echoes, so I might be wrong about the mystic part. I can tell you this--wisdom exudes from what he writes by the bucketfull.

Before I'd even gotten to the table of contents I was bowled over by poetry so rich with imagery that I knew I had to share it here. Perhaps because I am a person for whom metaphor is so effective as a means of grasping the nuances and complexities of the world that can be difficult to apprehend otherwise, his poem, Matins, sank into my soul like water on parched ground.

I went in search of an image to reflect daybreak and then had to do a forehead slap. I had my own! This is from the balcony of my room somewhere in the Gulf of Mexico cruising toward Cozumel. (Hey cruise-mates, I miss ya!).

Without further ado, John O'Donohue:

Matins

I.
Somewhere, out at the edges, the night
Is turning and the waves of darkness
Begin to brighten the shore of dawn.

The heavy dark falls back to earth
And the freed air goes wild with light,
The heart fills with fresh, bright breath
And thoughts stir to give birth to colour.

II.
I arise today

In the name of Silence
Womb of the Word,
In the name of Stillness
Home of Belonging.
In the name of the Solitude
Of the Soul and the Earth.

I arise today

Blessed by all things,
Wings of breath,
Delight of eyes,
Wonder of whisper,
Intimacy of touch,
Eternity of soul,
Urgency of thought,
Miracle of health,
Embrace of God.

May I live this day

Compassionate of heart,
Gentle in word,
Gracious in awareness,
Courageous in thought,
Generous in love.
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Monday, June 08, 2009

fruit juice

"Part of trusting God is accepting the goodness of what God sows, even when it bears surprising fruit. Saints, it seems, are those who let God sow at will."
-Tom Ehrich, On a Journey 6/8/09

I read these lines this morning in a daily meditation delivered to my emailbox (thank you, Jayne!) and paused to take them in. Having been flattened significantly some years ago by an unexpected meteor disguised as a committee of four white male academics, I learned fairly early on in the faith walk to find the gift hidden in adversity. Some people call it looking on the bright side, but I've never found it quite as simplistic as that.

Last night I had a peculiar dream that I won't even begin to recount (dreams are always more fascinating to the dreamer than to anyone else), except to say that two young, underprivileged boys were heroes (I liked that part), and I had two melt-downs. Oh, and there was lots of paralysis--you know, when you try to walk and your legs won't move?

I woke up feeling the weight of life's present reality, which is, frankly, a bit overwhelming. I don't have a bad life at all, and my circumstances are far better than many. I don't even feel the desire to whine or complain about anything. There are just some challenges and concerns that consume my energy and leave little remainder. It's a great time to be an observer, so I am on the lookout for fruit.

I'm pleased to share that I have spotted some.

One is a seedling. It's in someone else's garden, but seeing that it's within my line of vision I take a proprietary interest in its wellbeing. I've even watered it when I feared it might be in danger of drooping. I'm watching it with great interest, because fruit from it would be a blessing so imagineable that it would alter our life's landscape in some wonderful ways.

Another arrived in my mailbox. I didn't trust its arrival at first, but its presence eventually claimed my curiosity and I responded to its invitation. There's mutual accountability in seeing this offering grow to bear fruit, but it has wonderful, liberating potential. There are moments when I want to bow before it, but that would be idolatrous.

The whole saint thing is nice but not on my radar. I'm much more interested in the notion that my ability to recognize fruit is a reflection of trust in God. There have been more times than I want to acknowledge that such trust has been so covered in layers of dust that I wondered if it would ever recognize it again. Somehow I seem to trip over it after it's been cleaned up and is looking good as new, and I'm back in the game. Oddly enough I still see the fruit or the seedlings during these phases of emptiness, I just don't feel connected to them. Part of that divine mystery.

But we've had cool breezes and dry days and birds are abundant in our yard which means they're finding this place hospitable enough to call it home. That tells me something. And the good news is that even as I was having my meltdowns in my dream I was surrounded by people who cared, and supported, and provided the strength that I had exhausted from my own being. And two young boys selflessly took time away from what they were doing to save my day and keep me on track and make it possible for me to return home.

On reflection, and that's what this is, I suppose I can point to that as evidence that the sower has been busy. And what that means is that the fruit is on its way.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

eighteen weeks

Is it possible to resist a puppy when her head is cocked to one side? McKinlee is now 18 weeks old (as near as we can tell), and is looking less and less like a puppy. The typically rounded puppy features on her face are morphing into more clearly defined characteristics, and her legs are growing longer and stronger. She can sleep through the night without the need for relief, although that accomplishment is not yet consistent. She likes to snuggle between our pillows at night where one or the other of us is as near as an outstretched paw. And she likes to love all over you and lick your face. And bite my nose! Now to get the yard reflagged and her trained to the invisible fence, and she will be very happy to have the freedom to run around the yard, chasing after Rigel and trying to convince Juliet that the new arrival is worthy of the matriarch's approval. It's good to have this young life keep these aging ones on our toes.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

soul satisfaction

My office is really beginning to come together, and it is enormously satisfying to see things finally have a place to call home. Like photos that have yet to be scrapped. The corner cabinet came with a lazy Susan--not my first choice, but I am working with it. The top level I am using as a stationary section for, you guessed it, photos and their archaic counterpart, negatives. The lower, swiveling level holds containers of ribbon, glue and heat guns, and a miscellany of other craft items. It is amazing how much space is now free elsewhere to be designated as home for other items.

Scrapping accessories are a real challenge. There are some obvious items of like kind: embellishments, for instance, and buttons. But then there is the solitary item acquired at a workshop, or which is a one-of-a-kind by virtue of its function. Does all that get stashed in a bucket collection like the Isle of Misfit Toys? I'm not overly concerned about what I do with those things, but such decisions slow down the process of putting things in place.

It is that "putting things in place" stuff that drops pearls of satisfaction into my container of joy. On the Meyers-Briggs scale I am decidedly a "J," a person who prefers order and structure in my world. I like symmetry and precision, and the poetry of coordinated movement (hence my attraction to Scottish country dancing, and the heart-tugging "missing man" formation of military aviation). I enjoy the bonus of having very good spatial relations skills, so fitting things into spaces is a no-brainer for me. Is it any wonder that when clutter abounds in my life I feel fragmented and distracted? I am giddy with the release of energy resulting from this reorganizational coup!

My eupohoria, however, is not simply about accomplishing a task. The soul satisfying aspect of this experience reminds me of the simple (if delayed, in this case) ways available to us to connect to the inner sacred. A general label of what resonates with my inner sacred is the aesthetic. I appreciate beauty and respond to it in ways that perk up my soul. Call it spiritual endorphines. Whether it's the flowers at the nursery (since I have none in the garden this year), or music that stops me in my tracks, a certain combination of the world's elements is pleasing to me and connects me to the divine. I can appreciate the value of chaos, but balance contributes to my well-being.

So this morning I am grateful for achieving a degree of soul-satisfaction in my space. I will continue to organize and place things, aware that some things never quite "fit" anywhere, a reflection for another time, but doing my best to restore order to what has been my chaos. Who knows what will flow from the resulting peace, but I am more than ready to find out.
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Friday, June 05, 2009

friday five: moving and changing

Sally at Revgals writes: ALL IS CHANGE.... and although I am looking forward to it, it is not without a sense of trepidation, as change always brings challenges.Changing location also means packing, so next month will be a month of clearing and sorting, deciding what comes and what gets left behind...So with change in mind I offer you this Friday five;

1. A big move is looming, name one thing that you could not possibly part with, it must be packed…
I can't think of one thing, but my grandmother's four-poster bed stands out as something I am loathe to part with. And my scrapbooks/photos. That's one category, does that count as one?

2. Name one thing that you would gladly leave behind...
those things have already been purged from the household—that’s what yard sales are for!

3. How do you prepare for a move:
a. practically? I start to pack as soon as possible, starting with the things I know I don’t need (seasonal items, books, etc.) I label boxes with contents, and sometimes I even color code the boxes with different colors of tape. It’s a “J” thing.
b. spiritually/ emotionally? I experience the process. I take time to grieve what I will miss, and say goodbye to the places and people that mean something to me. I find there is always something to look forward to in going to a new place, even if that something is the opportunity to “set up house.” I imagine the new place, anticipate the possibilities and what I know I will enjoy about it, and begin to shift the internal gears.

4. What is the first thing you look for in a new place?
Where the Christmas tree will go!
In terms of places to go to--I was reminded while at the nursery the other day how much I need access to beauty. That is a "fix" far more important than say, Starbucks!

5. Do you settle in easily, or does it take time for you to find your feet in a new location?
I settle in pretty easily. I enjoy exploring a new place, finding my way, learning the roads, the shops, the “green places.” And I like to set up house, so that aspect is always fun, even with challenges.

The bonus for today; a new opportunity has come up for you to spend 5 years in a new area, where would you go and why?
I’ve experienced a variety of ministry opportunities in a mix of places: urban/cathedral in the northeast, large suburban church in the mid-west, small and smaller churches in the southeast, town and rural, associate, rector and interim, mountains and not-so-mountainous… I think it’s time to head to the water, and the northwest—someplace near Seattle, perhaps? There are some new cyber friends in that area I would love to spend some time with IRL, and from all accounts it’s a great place to live.
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Thursday, June 04, 2009

hubby rocks!

I've known what I've needed for a while: a corner cabinet (think kitchen) on which to set a countertop. Cabinet for storage, countertop for creating! It was the first necessary step toward getting my office under control once and for all (well, and the closet...).

It finally occurred to me last week to call the Restore to see if they had one. Restore is Habitat for Humanity's retail effort that resells what other people no longer want or need. Ken has used them a lot in his business, and donated lots of items when he has done remodels. "Sorry," Kim told me. I would continue to wait. Until the phone rang Saturday afternoon just as we were getting ready to leave for Molly's wedding and Kim told us that she had just gotten one in, slightly damaged but otherwise brand new. I asked her to hold it until we could come see it Tuesday morning when they opened next.

The timing couldn't have been better. Junior was here briefly overnight Monday, so the three of us headed to Restore when they opened. The cabinet would do! We loaded it into Ken's truck and headed home. I was giddy with excitement. Until we couldn't get the cabinet through the door. Take it back? No such luck--at the Restore, all sales are final! Window, Junior suggested?

As you can see in this first photograph, bringing the cabinet through the window of my office is exactly what they did. My dashed hopes were swept away and we settled the cabinet into place. Or near enough. An electrical outlet would be covered, and some finagling would be in order to address that. No problem.

Yesterday Ken set about taking care of the outlet problem, we assembled the countertop we had and Ken installed it. I got myself in gear to begin the process of overhauling the office, measuring furniture, making decisions, and moving things about. Like staging a house for sale, I am doing my utmost to reuse things that I already have. I had the perfect solution for one problem, but implementing it was a challenge. I said to Ken, "how hard would it be...?" None! was his reply, he'd just get his reciprocating saw, complete with the new blade he'd received for free.

So I documented!

An hour later I had another question for him, and once again he set to helping me resolve my problem. And another hour later, another problem put in his hands was resolved. Ah, it's good to have a hubby who's handy and willing to have a honey do list. Did I mention that he rocks?

I spent the rest of the day starting to square away the office. It's going to take some doing, and the closet is still an issue and requires attention. But finally the project is underway, shoved out of the planning and dreaming stages and on the road to reality.

Life is good. Especially in my office.
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Wednesday, June 03, 2009

where, o where?

Some days are better than others, but can I just say that mid-life adjustments are a bitch? We've all heard about the hot flashes, but why didn't anyone ever mention the memory problems? Oh, well, of course--they forgot! Small comfort...

I've come to terms with the memory issue a whole lot better than my spouse, but today I am aware of how much more I creak and groan, and those sounds aren't coming from my mouth. I've got hip issues (though they are likely the result of an old injury), and a knee that hurts when it bends, and an ankle that is starting to stiffen where there was a fracture, and and and... My grandmother had a saying posted in her bedroom in her later years that read: "Old age is not for sissies." At the time (how old was I, thirty?) my mother told me I couldn't appreciate the adage, and I believe she was right. I get it now, Mom! And energy. Where has my energy gone and please tell me it will come back! After a busy weekend filled with lots of activities it is taking me a couple of days to recoup and feel productive. What is up with that? I look at my mother who, at age 81, reads, and travels, and participates in so much life that I don't know how she does it. Please tell me I have that gene and that it is only temporarily impaired!

I am pledging not to be a sissie. I don't complain, though I may grimace periodically (involuntarily, even). But can I just say that I really resent this slow-down in physical ability? It's bad enough that I can't read much of anything without fetching a pair of glasses (Ken has learned to advise me to retrieve them before he points something out that he thinks would interest me to read). I tried to help Ken split some wood yesterday and was a miserable disappointment to myself (I'm afraid he knew the results would be fair, at best). But the mind thing must be a mutation from the original divine plan. How are we supposed to share our life's accumulation of wisdom if we can't remember it? And what sort of credibility do we have when our attention span is worse than a goldfish? It's a miracle I can still preach!

I'm just sayin'.

Join me in the pledge if you are among the aging population for whom memory and aches and pains are an issue. And for those of you with this gift of nature in your future, your pledge is not to laugh at us, but to love us. It's a simple request. Really!

Monday, June 01, 2009

behold, the garden!

The other morning Ken told me he was going out to clean the gutters, which have sprouted a couple of hundred maple tree saplings in the last two months. Ah, I thought, good man! Imagine my surprise (not) when a few hours later I discovered him hard at work fabricating containers for garden beds. This is not a new thing in this household--and I confess that I do it as well--to head off to do one thing and end up entirely redirected on another project. I felt slightly chagrined at the time, but got over it quickly since by day's end we had herbs and vegetables planted in one of the beds.

Let me just say that I am entirely tickled at the prospect of eating out of our garden. I know that this is a common occurrence for many, but it has been absolutely ages since I've had any success with herb or vegetable gardening. The garden smells fabulous, and yesterday we even picked up some onions to put in.

I luxuriated in being in the presence of beautiful, flowering plants these last several days, and miss terribly not having garden beds well on their way to glorious blooms this summer. We are drowning in bills, so beauty to bathe my soul will have to wait until another time. In the meantime I can enjoy the fruits of our new herb garden in the immediate realm: basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley and rosemary, with the promise of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions and lavender to come.

I am a happy camper, and a contented new gardener.
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