Friday, April 12, 2013

friday five: random is back!

 Taken at St. Mary's Conference and Retreat Center
Sewanee, TN
At RevGals Karla writes: Can you believe it is April 12????  Have you finished your taxes?  Here in Boston, the city is abuzz with Boston Marathon anticipation.  We are finally hearing birds chirp in the morning, and even though it was in the low thirties last night, many of us are bravely sporting open-toed sandals.   None of this has anything to do Friday Five, except randomness.   So, in that spirit.......

1.  How are you doing?  What's going on in your life?
I've just returned from the annual diocesan three-day clergy colloquium. Except for one other occasion (that included spouses) this is the first time in more than two years that I have been with my colleagues. I had dropped off the grid intentionally due to a great deal of ecclesially-induced pain. It was not an easy return, and I certainly had my moments of fragility when attempting to share the cause of my absence, but it was really good to be there. Stanley Hauerwas was our guest and speaker, and offered a great deal of food for thought; extended time for one-on-one conversation was greatly appreciated; and time away was beneficial.
2.  Have you ever resigned from a position?  What was the good-bye like?
In terms of church resignations, most of have been hurtful and disappointing. One, however, gave me a truly loving sendoff. I value particularly a gift given me on that occasion in the form of a kind of scrapbook. There were photos, handwritten notes and pieces of  newsletters and other assorted "press" from my time there. What I especially appreciate, however, is the list of names of the people I baptized, married and buried. The construction of the book is such that I was able to supplement those sections with pictures I had of the individuals and couples in the lists, and when I occasionally go back through that album those are the pages over which I linger. 
3. So, we are still resurrecting...still getting used to New Life!!  What is a source of new life for you?
My husband and I have been worshiping the last several months at a church that is what I call a Quaker community with sacraments. Perfect for this Quakepalian! There is a great emphasis on social justice, and a theology more interested in welcoming and ministering to the spiritually hungry and the wounded than following any proscribed dogma. The music is incredible, blending traditional, seasonal hymns with offerings of songs out of folk, bluegrass and rock traditions. What makes the music so good is that it is very well done. One of the perks of being in Music City! I will preach there for the first time on Pentecost, and am so, so grateful to find a place to have a sacramental ministry.
4.  My friend is running the marathon on Friday, because it is on her bucket list.  What is something on your bucket list?
There is some travel I'd like to do, but in terms of some other things there are just two items on my list. One is to make a gingerbread house. The other, a recent addition, is to go sky-diving with my daughter-in-law (seeing a video from when she did it for the first time inspired me!).
5.  Tell us about one precious thing (tangible) you keep around your house, your altar, your pocket, and what is its story?
I have an assortment of things that are precious to me that were given to me by other people. A handful of special things are by my own hand. One of them is this icon I wrote four years ago at a workshop I served as chaplain. It is The Virgin of the Passion, and the experience of writing it transformed my relationship with Mary.

Monday, April 08, 2013

another stream of consciousness

As part of looking for work Ken and I have come to terms with the very real possibility that relocation might be necessary. We are fine with this. Except for the investment we've made in our home with various improvements and refreshers (and by investment I don't mean financial), there's nothing keeping us in the town where we live. People who were friends have become acquaintances, and the community-based groups with which we've been associated have shifted in importance for us. Having one foot lifted to put out the door--should it come to that--is a good place to be when you consider how absolutely bonkers our state legislature is. They're not fooling anyone with the use of the word "reform," which is simply code for stripping the substance out of every possible good thing that has been in place to benefit the citizens of this state. Okay, they are fooling a lot of people, but mostly because those people just don't pay attention and/or don't care. It's enough to turn my still-brown hairs gray. Thank goodness for color in a bottle.

Then again, relocation might simply mean 30 miles to the west (e.g. Nashville). While Ken is up to the straps of his bib overalls volunteering at Thistle Farms (think construction), the worship at St. Augustine's is more and more alluring to me. Yesterday the priest associate absolutely knocked the sermon out of the proverbial park, moving me to tears, and the blend of traditional hymns and folk-style/bluegrass/country sequence music, offertories and communion melodies almost has me dancing (I swayed in the pew). I had more than a few twinges during the morning thinking of how much I would miss St. A's if we were to move away. Let's not think about that.

After church we attended the adult ed hour on natural burial. Say, what? Here's Wikipedia's definition: "Natural burial is the interment of the body of a dead person in the soil in a manner that does not inhibit decomposition but allows the body to recycle naturally." The conversation with the presenter of this topic also addressed ways to make the experience of laying a loved to rest as personal and fulfilling as possible. Fulfilling might be an odd word, but when you consider that this woman lost her 26 year-old daughter to brain cancer, she didn't want to relinquish her daughter's body into the care of strangers during the rituals of farewell. She and other family members and friends washed the body, wrapped it in a shroud, and shoveled the dirt back into the grave when the body had been lowered. As she put it, she was the first person to wash and comb her daughter's hair, and it was only right that she be the last person to do so. Those who are interested in the practice of natural burial seems to appreciate two components of this. One is the personal involvement in the literal last rites connected to the person who has died. The other is an appreciation for and commitment to being friendly to the natural world: not adding concrete and steel to the ground through vaults and caskets, or toxins like embalming fluid to the earth's soil. Even shrouds are prepared organically and certified as suitable for burial. Wood coffins are made without using metal nails, and so on. 

These various components of natural burial have sort of captured my imagination. I'm still reflecting on the things I learned and letting various ideas pop into my head. In some ways this is a natural progression of thought, launched by my father's death a little more than a year ago, and come full circle now at Easter as we celebrate and consider the meaning and implications of resurrection. There are several other posts that could be catalyzed by that last sentence, but for now it is enough to say that the ground of my imagination has been tilled to receive these new thoughts and consider what meaning they might have for me. 

And then there are the crape myrtles, zapped by frost and needed attention to come into bloom. Isn't it ever thus? We live, we die, we are reborn. We lose, we grieve, we grow. Thank goodness we have each other to help us through.

Thursday, April 04, 2013


Reader-be-warned: what follows is a rant.

Do you ever stop to consider that you are part of a statistic? In most cases such inclusion is benign, like the fact that I'm part of the percentage of white women who have an advanced degree, or part of the percentage of women who are ordained. Yada yada.

It's not so benign when the facts or circumstances of your life dump you into other categories. Unemployed, for instance. Ouch. And now, thanks to congress, I fall into a new category: a person with reduced health benefits. As a military dependent my health insurance is the result of your tax dollars at work. (Mine, too, by the way, lest someone think I'm sitting idle here living low on the hog.) Let me say right up front that I thank you for that benevolence.

Back to statistics and the consequences of congress. Not long ago I received a letter from my insurance carrier informing me that my existing plan was being discontinued. Now, instead of co-pays, I will be paying a percentage of my bill. Ouch again. Because of this I almost cancelled a scheduled appointment with my doctor last week. I had to weigh the cost, literally and figuratively, of showing up in order to get a couple of prescriptions renewed. I could go without the prescriptions, but let's just say that one of them keeps my cholesterol level in good shape, and the other manages pain level for a certain affliction that really sucks, while simultaneously helping me function like a normal person, whatever that means. I opted to shoulder the financial cost of the visit. I'm actually in pretty good health, a few issues notwithstanding, but particularly as I age I'm a continuing believer in the benefits of preventive care.

Then yesterday I get a call from the doctor's office telling me that my insurance carrier is requiring a pre-certification on one of my prescriptions. Apparently they don't want to cover this medication any longer and are requiring justification to remain on it. But here's the kicker. I am required to meet with my doctor to answer some health questions in order for this to be accomplished. I'm told that this cannot be done over the phone, despite every well-articulated argument I assert through the phone at the poor office assistant who makes her living making calls to share this kind of news. (I'm really sorry, Jennifer. I hope you've developed a thick skin and don't take any of our outrage personally.) The alternative? "I" can decide to use a different medication that is covered. Huh? I'm not in any position to evaluate the benefits of a medication for my particular physiological quirks. So here is my choice: incur additional financial burden because the insurance company isn't happy with my doctor's comfort level a week ago with prescribing a certain medication or wing it with my health.

Here's what I hate (and there are very few things that I hate). I've actually been feeling pretty upbeat this week. In spite of having to cancel a trip I was looking forward to, in spite of having to contort my  life to appease the requirements of the state in certain matters, in spite of a handful of other thorns in my side, I've been exulting in the Light that beams from a certain recently-celebrated resurrection. A phone call later my voice is quivering and tears are running down my cheeks because the carefully constructed dam that helps keep me intact through the refining fire gets punctured and I suddenly feel deflated.

I have been angry with congress for ages because of the cold-hearted disregard that is demonstrated toward those who need help. Now my anger is personal. Now the helplessness with which I empathized looks back at me in the mirror. Now the narrow road of care upon which I've been walking is narrower and more precarious. I feel like the mythical Haggis who clomps up the mountainside on uneven legs only to topple to the bottom when it reaches the top. This is such an exhausting kind of life.

Mind you, I will recover before the day is over, but it's not just picking up where I left off. It's like getting knocked off your feet while carrying a carefully ordered stack of papers. Everything gets scattered and now needs to be collected again. And put back in order. It makes a person crazy.

If you're still reading, thanks for listening. You are now free to unbuckle your seat belt and roam about the cabin.


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