Monday, September 23, 2013

moving into the starting gate

It's here. It's the beginning of the week that will turn corners that will in turn open vistas, and from which new adventures will commence. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Rinse optional.

Wednesday I load myself, Juliet and McKinlee into the car and head north, destination: Toledo and the animal massage workshop that culminates the foundation of my training. I get a small price break by bringing two dogs, and although McKinlee isn't the ideal candidate for this journey (way too much energy and the need to be the center of her mama's world), I'm heeding the words of my liturgy professor in seminary: work with what you've got. I will say that she responds very well to massage, so there's hope that she will overlook my attention to other dogs over the course of the week. Crossing fingers and shooting off prayers! We'll be there for five days of training

In true Anne McKinne fashion (which means that if you bear the name Anne McKinne, like my mother and grandmother before me...) I will be taking advantage of the itinerary. As I go through Cincinnati I will stop to see my Aunt Hap, my father's remaining living sibling. When I called to tell her of my plans and to make plans to see her she wrapped up the conversation with the words, "get your questions ready!" Apparently the bulk of my generation of cousins (including me) have learned the hard way that it's critical to seize the opportunity to ask about the family and its past while there's still someone to ask. This is so obvious, yet so unheeded. Number four on my pre-departure check list is to write up those questions.

From Cincinnati I will venture just slightly farther north to meet up with my friends Dana and Mike. I met them through this blog, one of the happier virtual relationships of my experience, and I look forward to some time with them. We were able to meet in the flesh last year when Ken and I were in Cincinnati celebrating Hap's 85th birthday, and I can't wait to see them again. After Dana and Mike, onward to Toledo!

But wait, there's more! The route to Toledo is so screamingly close to my alma mater that I just can't resist stopping to visit. That modest detour opens up a couple of other opportunities. Picture a Cheshire cat smile... After completing the training next Monday we'll start south with our sights on Richmond, Indiana (alma mater!), where I haven't been since my fifth college reunion in 1984. Richmond is more than the location of Earlham. It was also home to me for the two years following graduation when I worked as Youth Program Director at the YWCA. I have good memories of Richmond and my years there, so this is partly a nostalgia detour. And a chance to pop into the bookstore to scoop up a sweatshirt. There have been a lot of changes to the campus in the last 30 years, and I'm looking forward to taking a stroll with the dogs to get acquainted with those changes while indulging recollections. (Which reminds me, I need to pack pooper-scooper bags.)

My next stop will be only slightly west of Richmond, to Centerville. It turns out that I have ancestors who were early settlers of that community, so armed with a few descriptions of where they built homes and businesses, I hope to locate those sites and take a few moments for my DNA to experience a kind of realignment. If possible, photos will ensue. This is one of those times when I really wish I had an iPad so that navigating maps would be more interactive.
 the log courthouse in Centerville, built in 1811 by my 3rd great-grandfather,
and reconstructed in 1952 on this site.

The whistle-stop genealogy tour will continue as I mosey west toward Indianapolis. Just south of that route are other DNA stomping grounds. I've been reading and rereading some notes written by a great aunt about that branch of the family. These are the roots of my father's father, who I never knew because he died in 1946. He was the youngest of ten siblings, and from the sound of it my father's family (mother and siblings) didn't have a lot of contact with my grandfather's family after his death. I don't even know the names of any of my second cousins. I'm hoping that will change in time. Armed with a hand drawn map that is more than 50 years old I will tour that part of Indiana as well. It is still fairly rural and little changed, and although I know that an old family mill is no longer there, I want to get a sense of that community and be able to picture it. And perhaps visit a cemetery or two.

We're almost done! Next stop, Indianapolis, where I will meet for lunch Carol, the sister of my college roommate, Mary. It may be possible that Mary will join us, but Mary is not a communicator and if she has an email address, I don't know it. Carol and I are in touch via facebook, and she has been an enthusiastic encourager of my new direction in animal massage. She has also volunteered her horses for practice when the time comes!

Breathless yet? See why I started this post with the reminder to breathe? Here's the good news. After lunch with Carol, the intrepid road crew will head home with no additional stops except for nourishment and relief.

Once home we'll unpack the car in order to pack it again for another trip, because grandson Hunter is due to arrive October 1, but that journey is its own story.

I'd appreciate your prayers for safe travel and an attentive mind while at my training. Retention has never been my strong suit, and though much of this work is intuitive, there are all those muscle groups and anatomical details to remember...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

twice fortunate

Last week I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet twice with the Rev. Canon Andrew White, vicar of St. George's Church, Baghdad. As the only Anglican church still functioning in Iraq the sobriquet "Vicar of Baghdad," has become attached to him. The first meeting was a gathering of our diocesan clergy--our regular "clericus--"and following worship and lunch we had about 30 minutes during which Canon White shared a little bit of his life and ministry. He has a sarcastic wit, and shared some wonderful and personal stories woven through the more grim realities of a life dedicated to reconciliation and the celebration of God's presence in the midst of the tragic world that is Iraq.

The second meeting was considerably different, an intimate gathering with a handful of Knights (and Dames) Templar from our priory who could be rallied on short notice to meet with Canon White. (Why the Templars? One of the priorities of the Order is the protection of Christians in the Holy Land, and another is the work of reconciliation. The Grand Priory and its member Knights and Dames lend financial support to Canon White, and for his work he has been awarded the Order's Medal of Valor, as well as the awarding of the Order of Merit.) For nearly three hours I think it is safe to say that we sat spellbound in the living room of a former Prior, drinking in some bitter truths about the world to which Canon White has been called and to which he is utterly devoted.

Among the truths--not new, but more starkly delivered by one who can offer a first hand account--is the abject failure of western governments to appreciate the role that religion plays in the Middle East.What may seem politically expedient to some, for their own ends, yields devastating consequences for the people and cultures of those we seek to "help." Another truth is that many, many people work very hard, each day, to build bridges between opposing religious factions in an effort to forge peace in the fractured lands of the Holy One. And they have had success! Peace may not be lasting, but the forged and changed relationships are building foundations upon which future efforts will be supported with greater stability. I am halfway through the first of three books we now own written by Canon White (The Vicar of Baghdad). It chronicles these efforts to which I refer and for which I have renewed appreciation, along with the people and organizations that support the work of peace.  It is by no means a page-turner, but it is most certainly illuminating.

Another experience of the latter meeting was of a different nature altogether. One person was transparent about her disdain for President Obama, though she was genteel in how she revealed it. Her persistence at laying blame at his feet (not to mention extolling the virtues of Christianity in such a way as to demean all other faiths) led, ultimately, to the piping up of another about having a Muslim in the White House. At that point I could no longer hold my tongue. I'm not good at calling people out, especially in an assembly like this, but I could not remain silent. The "exchange" created tension, which was shortly diffused, but not before Canon White wondered aloud if I might be the only person in the room who wasn't a Republican. Interestingly, as the group began to disperse at the conclusion of our meeting two people approached me quietly to thank me for speaking up. Still, my discomfort lingered for several hours that day, and continues to occupy a portion of my reflective thinking here and there.

On a happier note, Ken had brought with him a set of prayer beads that he had made to give to Canon White. The Canon was absolutely tickled to receive them, quickly revealing that he held in his hands two other sets of beads, including one that had been given to him the day before by an inmate on death row. What we learned was that Canon White holds two things absolutely dear to his heart: [prayer] beads and bow ties. Happily, the Priory gave to him as a gift a Templar bow tie! You can see both in the picture I have included above.

I have not done justice here to either Canon White's work, the presence of his person, or the impact of my time with him. I am not good at reporting something that has had such an impact on me--the intuitive has real difficulty extracting information that has melted into the body of what I have learned.  I share what I do here because it did have such an impact, and because I want to do what I can to spread the word about his work, and in particular to encourage others to learn more about the Middle East.  When I've finished the three books of his that we have I'll be in a better position to make a recommendation about which of those (if not all of them) should be required reading!

Thank you for bearing with me as I've written here.  I fear that so few people come to this blog any more that this effort may be for naught, but I couldn't not write about it. I urge continued prayers for peace, and for well-informed minds to make a dent, where possible, in influencing foreign policy.

Friday, September 20, 2013

friday five: if it ain't broke...

From Martha at RevGals: It was a disappointing download. The new iOS 7 update took away the format I loved for the Notes app on my iPhone and iPad. I admit, these are tiny little First World problems. I will nevertheless miss the digital legal pad with the black brown font, in all its simplicity. In honor of the dear departed, please name five things in your life that need no improvement.

1) When my husband gets up in the morning before I do he makes my coffee--and a damn fine job he does, too! This is a spectacular way to start the day.

2) The presence of 4.97 grandchildren in my life. The very fact that there are grandchildren to love on (since I don't have children of my own) is a blessing and opportunity. 



3) The view from the front porch of our family tree farm. It's a keeper.

4) The music at worship on Sunday. Every week I sort of feel like I've died and gone to heaven.  Without fail the sermon and the lessons and the music weave to form a mystical experience of the Word.  Click on any of the pieces and be transported (you may need to turn up the volume on your computer). If you have time, listen to the sermon and music from August 25 to be blown away.

5) The enthusiasm with which my dogs greet me when I enter the room. Even if they just saw me five minutes before. Maybe especially if they just saw me five minutes before.

Friday, September 13, 2013

friday five random!

Second Fridays are often random at RevGals. Here's where today's questions take us!

1. How are you?  What’s up with you?
Generally speaking, I'm great! I'm gearing up to launch my new animal massage practice, with the last bits of training in just a couple of weeks. Yeeha!  The facebook page is operational and I'm now working on my web site. Still need the basics, like business cards and promotional material. Must. Get. The. Word. Out!
2.  Last Saturday, I went to the outlet store and stocked up on underwear for the year.  I love a bunch of new fresh underdrawers!  I also love a cabinet full of paper towels. What silly thing makes you happy?
Although I let things get out of hand too often, I'm a geek for organization. Give me a tidy and well-organized closet or cupboard any day of the week and I'm putty. 
3.  Give a shout out to someone you love, appreciate, or want to thank!
A few weeks ago I received a message from LinkedIn that a friend had written an unsolicited recommendation of me. This is a friend I have never met, but have known through a common interest message board, blogging, and so on. She lives in Australia. She's gone through some significant personal challenges, some of which have mirrored my own experiences, so I have tried to be supportive of her through her journey. Her recommendation was a reflection of her gratitude for that support, and her appreciation for my companionship on the way. It humbled and moved me, and came at a time when it proved to be a support to me, as well. Thank you, Ruth, Love You!
4. Miss Kansas has the Serenity Prayer tattooed on the side of her body.  I sadly do not have a tattoo, and maybe you do, but if you were going to get a prayer tattooed on the side of your body, what would it be?
I'm not a tattoo girl, but if I were to have a prayer tattooed it would be a precis of my favorite verse of scripture (Micah 6:8): Do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God.
5.  Use some or all or a form of the following words in a sentence: jello, kittens, mercy, dump-truck, tabuleh, terror, skipping, monkey, Rev. , health, and snoring.
The kittens were atop the pile in the dump-truck, tabuleh from yesterday's lunch stuck in their whiskers as they plowed through the debris in search of the jello salad, with utter disregard for the snoring monkey, mercifully asleep at his post.

Friday, September 06, 2013

friday five: let's eat!

Today is a first for me: I've joined the ranks of the Friday Five creators/contributors. Woohoo! Here is my first ff, inspired by another RevGal who mentioned something about haggis...

1) Is there a food from a foreign land whose reputation led to trepidation when you had a chance to give it a try? Did you find the courage to sample it anyway? If so, were you pleasantly surprised or did you endorse the less than favorable reputation that preceded it?
Haggis certainly fits this category. I've had what I consider good haggis, at least to my palate, and yucky haggis. To me a good haggis is like a spicy meatloaf with a grainier texture. 
2) What food from your own country/culture gets a bad rap?
Why did I include this question? I was thinking of the poor, maligned haggis at the time, but nothing springs to mind when I consider American food. I think bad raps are well deserved for all the processed food we have here, and I think the Twinkie is overrated, but probably because I prefer chocolate.
3) Of what food are you fond that others find distasteful?
It's not the food itself, but the combination: peanut butter and bacon. I grew up eating sandwiches of the same, but whenever I mention it to people I get all sorts of "ewwww!" responses. People, you don't know what you're missing!
4) Is there a country’s food, not native to you, that you go out of your way to eat?

In my hometown in Connecticut there is an Afghani restaurant where I love to eat when I'm back visiting family. They have the most amazing, flavored rice, and wonderful seasoned kebabs. I can't get enough.  I also visited a Brazilian restaurant in Georgetown years ago while in D.C., and enjoyed an incredible, tangy chicken dish. I've been on a quest to find that chicken ever since in other Brazilian restaurants. So far, no luck.

5) What is your guilty pleasure food?

Mac and Cheese. I've got a great recipe for it that I make when our son is home, but I resist, resist, resist making it at any other time because I know it wouldn't last 24 hours.
Bonus: What was your most memorable meal (good or bad), either because of the menu, the occasion, the company, or some other circumstance that makes it stand out?
There are a host of memorable meals that are competing in my mind for mention, but I have to go with one that is a bit distinctive. "Way back" I enjoyed the very best vacation of my life, a Scottish country dance tour to dance in Scottish castles.  On our last evening together we dined at Culcreuch Castle, a modest 14th century establishment that now operates as a hotel.  We ate a fabulous venison stew, enjoyed excellent wine, and after dinner we moved the dining table to the side of the room and quite literally rolled up the rug in order to dance. We were traveling with a fiddler and pianist, so we had live music. As we danced into the evening the music got more vigorous and we got a bit more vocal with our whooping and enthusiasm. It was our last hurrah, after all.  But alas, other guests at the hotel were not enthralled by the volume of our amusement, and some complained to management. We were asked to move our party elsewhere, which led one member of the group to remark: "Well, the next time I get asked to leave a party I'll be able to retort, 'I've been thrown out of better places than this!'"

Thursday, September 05, 2013

a call to (loving) arms

Last night Ken and I attended the first Wednesday Evening event of the school year at the chapel that is our spiritual home. It began with a modest supper of salad, humus wraps from the Thistle Stop Cafe, fresh tomatoes from the chapel garden, and a few add-ons. After supper was worship, and for those with a hunger to lend melodic voice to worship, the first choir practice for the newly revived congregational choir.

We got there early, not knowing how much time to allow to weave through Nashville's rush-hour traffic, and we were hanging out in the office of the assistant priest when conversation about worship details arose. There was discussion about including a prayer for peace in light of the tensions around our government's deliberations regarding action against Syria. The consensus was that praying hard was the order of the day.

Inwardly, I cringed. I'm not opposed to prayer, not by any means. I'm not opposed to praying about serious global issues, and with deep roots in a Peace Church tradition the likelihood of military action against Syria is something that rankles at my core. My cringing innards were remembering the days that led up to our invasion of Iraq, when I not only prayed fervently about that approaching calamity but sought the haven of a beloved sacred space to do so. I believed at the time, with deep conviction, that copious amounts of prayer were in order. And I was not alone. The world over people and communities and nations were praying that military action would not become the order of the day. As we all know, our collective prayers did not sway the forces of power that perpetuated the assault on Iraq. 

The realization that a world full of prayer as a dose of prevention against what became the debacle of Iraq proved useless resulted in a prayer crisis for me. It was a crisis that lasted for years, the residual effects of which are still in play. So when voices insist now on prayer about Syria, a part of me wants to pipe up, "Oh, really?"  That would make it about me, and it's not about me.

What is about me is that the scars of my prayer crisis seem to have left a numbness about prayer, leaving me to search and scavenge for other ways to be engaged in thoughtful response to situations like the one we now face with Syria. As we listen to news reports each night that include statistics about the resistance of our fellow citizens to the idea of military action my response is always the same. What can be done? What are the options? Have the leaders of responsible nations been deferring serious discussion about a response to chemical warfare since the hint of its first use some time back? Where are the strategic thinkers? Where are the creative problem-solvers? How is it that in this day we are left wringing our collective hands and shrugging our shoulders as we default to the violence of military action?

I have no answers. Like too many others my own world is so small that other priorities distract me from learning more and, subsequently, doing more, doing anything, that might make a difference.  I am reminded of my favorite quote from scripture, found in Micah (6:8): What does the Lord require of us but to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.  If I strive for anything in my life it is to reflect this wisdom.

It is a familiar adage that "the least we can do is pray." Long ago, on the rugged road that has been my spiritual evolution, I read someone respond to that as being in error, countering that the significance of prayer is such that "the most we can do is pray." I have mulled that over and considered its wisdom countless times since first encountering it. On this side of my crisis I have come to understand that there is a time in our growth when that latter adage holds true. But I am no longer there. Numb or not, I do continue to pray, be it in fractured and unrecognizable ways. I am also convinced that when and where possible, prayer requires the companion of action. The type of action will vary depending on each of us and is not for me to direct--I have enough trouble sorting out my own opportunities and invitations to enter a fray.

I may not have answers, but I do have inspiration. Thistle Farms has a sort of tag line: love is the most powerful force for change in the world. So let's begin with love. All of us. Starting where it is easy and natural, let's draw from the strength and empowerment love gives us to love in the harder places. Let's love our way into and through reconciliation with another person. Let's love our way past misunderstandings and misconceptions. Let's love our way into accepting those we mistakenly think are unacceptable. Let's love beyond our limits and past our boundaries to reach where we thought we could never reach. Let's love fervently and graciously and prayerfully. 

Let's do. And we'll pray about Syria, too.
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