Wednesday, April 27, 2011

2011.04.27 Becoming Mercy

I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up. It wasn’t a princess. Maybe a horsewoman.

Maybe I just wanted to be the apple of my dad’s eye or at least not so much the apple of my mother’s eye.

Maybe I just wanted to be left alone to create—mischief, dramas, daring games with creepy plots, even liturgies—anything my imagination could stretch to.

I imagined God at just three. I was the apple of God’s eye, but I didn’t get the implications till I actually did grow up and into a religious vocation.

One thing I’m sure I didn’t want to be when I grew up was a nun or a priest. Now I am both—sort of.

I was drawn to the richness of the Roman Catholic Mass but found its misogynous politics stifling. Anglocatholic Episcopalians had the liturgy and hopeful politics so I became an Episcopal priest.

To satisfy my earlier Catholic leanings I became an Associate of the Religious Sisters of Mercy (RSM,) a Catholic order. BUT associates, according to their guidelines, are “ordinarily” Roman Catholic—“ordinarily” is a permissive word.

To be an Associate one makes a commitment to live a mercy way of life. Be compassionate and just. Not hard really, but hard as hell some days. A liaison Sister with whom you covenant helps. You keep each other honest to mercy.

I was attracted to the Mercies because their foundress Catherine Macauley, up for canonization btw, had a simple vision to help the poor. "Poor" is not restricted by an economic definition.

The Mercy vision and mission is to work and pray for connection: of the poor with resources, the ignorant with education/knowledge, and the sick with healing. The Holy Spirit Herself is the Great Connector and helps the process along.

This fit with my early Catholic leanings and it fits with my own ministry as priest, counselor, author and spiritual director.

Mercy satisfies my three guiding Muses: Spirituality, Religion and Feminism.

FEMINISM is happy because most of the “poor” are women. RELIGION is happy because many people are ignorant of the graces of sane and good religions and need good prayer guidance and teaching. SPIRITUALITY is happy because every soul is wounded to varying degrees of severity, and we all need healing.

To find out more about becoming an Associate of Mercy go to their website. Mercy Associates are “ordinarily” women.

Pray then click. www.sistersofmercy.org

Saturday, April 23, 2011

2011.04.24 Easter Blessing from Unexpected Place

Conventional spiritual wisdom insists that good news about Divinity’s word and action comes from the margins of society and religion. Here is something from the center.

This may top the classic “Dear Virginia, there is a Santa Claus...” response to a child’s query, full of faith and hope, salted with a healthy dose of wariness, too.

An eastering word for an age of agnostic craving.

A six-year-old girl writes a letter to God. And the Archbishop of Canterbury, the only one of a variety of “heads of theology” of various religious traditions in the UK responded. The girl's question: “To God, how did you get invented?”


Dear Lulu,

Your dad has sent on your letter and asked if I have any answers. It’s a
difficult one! But I think God might reply a bit like this –

‘Dear Lulu – Nobody invented me – but lots of people discovered me and were
quite surprised. They discovered me when they looked round at the world and
thought it was really beautiful or really mysterious and wondered where it
came from. They discovered me when they were very very quiet on their own
and felt a sort of peace and love they hadn’t expected.

Then they invented ideas about me – some of them sensible and some of them
not very sensible. From time to time I sent them some hints – specially in
the life of Jesus – to help them get closer to what I’m really like.

But there was nothing and nobody around before me to invent me. Rather like
somebody who writes a story in a book, I started making up the story of the
world and eventually invented human beings like you who could ask me awkward
questions!’

And then he’d send you lots of love and sign off.

I know he doesn’t usually write letters, so I have to do the best I can on
his behalf. Lots of love from me too.

+Archbishop Rowan

(I credit the Rev. Eliza Kaeton for posting this lovely message from an article in The Church Times by Lulu’s father Damian Thompson, a non-believer, to the Episcopal House of Bishops and Deputies. Brava! )

2011.04.23 Holy Saturday Musing

The Easter Vigil officially begins at dawn. Of course most parishes engage in this amazing all-encompassing liturgy tonight, because God forbid we would be too tired to do the whole thing again on Easter Sunday.

Tonight I will celebrate the ancient story and the dawning of Easter by 9 p.m. Tomorrow I will stay home—and feast.

Today is quiet, rainy, cold, bleak. I'm waiting-in-hope. A wise Jesuit once said to me that Holy Saturday is the day when:

The Father is silent.
The Son is dead.
The Holy Spirit broods.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

2011.04.20 Holy Week Wisdom

Be wise. Speak wisely. Act wisely. Practice Wisdom.

Wisdom in biblical parlance is a holy figure, a powerful symbolic figure, usually portrayed in feminine form and voice, who basically guides the whole enchilada of developing faith between Divinity and Humanity. Big job!

For Jews Wisdom (Hochmah) is found instructing the people of YHWH in the Torah to bind the law of love for God into their hearts as a constant guide for all they do.(Deut 6:6-8, Psalm 19)

For Christians Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God’s Spirit (Sophia) in human flesh, quite like binding divinity to your heart. (John 1:1-18)

To be wise the thoughts of your heart must be congruent with the words of your mouth and the actions of your body.

Wisdom is not knowledge alone. Wisdom is the integration of knowledge from without with experience from within.

Quakers are all over this one.

Wisdom guides the integration process. She is Who gets us through the worst and best of times. Holy Week for Christians is both. Wisdom hold it all together, keeps us whole and holy. (She actually is spiritual velcro.)

Pray. Ask. Follow.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

2011.04.17 Women Bearing Palms

It is for Christians Palm Sunday, a day of hope and fear, remembering all the hope Jesus brought to his age and beyond, also knowing the terrors that come as we struggle to realize that vision of justice, peace and love.

In the parade that followed Jesus into Jerusalem there were many women tossing palms in the path and hoping for something better, while fearing the worst.

“As innumerable global studies have shown, a country’s economic health and security are deeply linked to the status of its women. Even the poorest societies are more stable when children are educated, resources are shared, and women are free. Countries that sideline women not only forfeit the human capital of half of their population but also create conditions of unrest.” (Boston Globe, April 16, 2011, Renée Loth, “An Uprising for Women’s Rights, too.”)

“So God created humankind in God’s own image,
in the image of God s/he created them;
male and female God created them.” (Genesis 1:27 touched up by Lyn Brakeman who
is doing her part to include women in the image)

Genesis is the theological equivalent of the secular sociopolitical statement in the newspaper.

Contemplate the connections. Throw palms, and your weight, toward the wholeness of Godde—and the world.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

2011.04.14 Intermediate Retirement

I am retired—and not.

Officially I’m unemployed, have no boss, no set schedule, no salary or office to go to. I’m free—sort of. All I have to do is take time management skills training!

It’s bad enough I’m my own boss and I have a computer and home office that calls me to write daily.But I can say no—sometimes.

I’m busier than ever, as people say they are who retired. So not retired at all in a traditional sense.

Hence, I’ve invented something called Inter-Ret, Intermediate Retirement. The time, about 70-80, when many of us are still vital and we can choose what to do.

This applies to those of us who have pension security and few severe limitations. The precious lucky!

Inter-Ret is a thin space time, a time when you can re-tread, re-up, re-boot. Choose your own re-.........

I like re-soul.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2011.04.10 Chiropractic Spirituality

The first time I ever heard of chiropractic manipulations was in the morning milk delivery truck with dairy farmer Kurt and his daughter Isabella. We would travel to Millerton NY for a visit to the chiropractor who would, Kurt told us, crack every bone in his back.

Paying to have all your bones broken sounded neanderthal to me, but on the ride home Kurt was joyful. We girls bounced like popcorn on the front seat of the pick-up and all of us sang at the top of our lungs, “O my darling Clementine...” which always made me cry. I don’t know why.

Chiropractic back in the ‘40s was considered tantamount to witch doctoring or voodoo. People looked askance, but Kurt, who had suffered more than his share of near-death farm accidents, swore by it.

I didn’t think of chiropractic again until my neck froze up solid and I was sure I’d be crippled forever. Remembering Kurt I found a chiropractor who set the vertebrae in my neck and spine straight. No medication! It felt miraculous.

After the first treatment I told my husband I’d experienced righteousness in my body—all the vertebrae fell into line.

Righteousness in biblical parlance means to be congruent,in right relationship with God, yourself and your neighbors. What you think, say, feel and do agree. You have integrity, speak truth. You’re all lined up, like your spine should be.

If you're out of alignment you feel pain. Your body aches, not necessarily in your back but joints, even headache. Spiritually your soul aches, you feel phony, chaotic, out of focus. Not credible.

I’ve been under chiropractic care some 30 years now. Many chiropractors use the Activator method now. Instead of aligning your spine by hand with quick deft manipulations that go CRACK and hurt psychologically, they use a small miracle of a power tool called an Activator that drives painless pressure into the right spot and BINGO embodied righteousness begins.

The process is painless, not costly, covered by many insurances, and medication-free.

A chiropractor is trained to develop skill in locating the exact place that needs pressure. Good chiropractors have skill, yes but going to the bone is a gift and an art. My chiropractor, Dr. Cheryl Lubin, has that gift.

Choose well because you want a chiropractor who, like Godde, knows exactly where you need a small nudge of grace.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2011.04.06 Lenten Laugh

May West, stopping at nothing, once tried to seduce the Pope.(She died in 1980 so you figure out which one:)

She was good at her part and the Pope apologized with a deep papal bow, pulled a reversal by kissing her hand, and hid behind Lent. “I’m sorry I can’t, it’s Lent.” Well, West retorted, “When you get it back let me know.”

Lighten up for Lent. Sin is serious and also hilarious when you get perspective.

Mercy triumphs over judgment anyway.

So lighten up and laugh for Lent —and don’t loan anything essential.

Monday, April 4, 2011

2011.04.03 A Day with Teen Girls in Boston

One way to spruce up Lent, if you so need, is to banish sombriety (yes, I made that one up!) and spend the day with two 15 year old girls in a big city.

One of these two enchanting teens is my grand daughter Gillian. She has reached five feet and is statuesque with pride, having anticipate a life worse-than-death-as-short.

Just getting on the red line subway was an adventure. Everything was an adventure even if it wasn’t really new. The two giggled their way along city streets.

They walked ahead of me as if they knew where they were going. I got to watch their Gilly Hicks butts swinging along, perky. If it weren’t for the color (not flesh colored) of the tight leggings (all the rage) you’d never know they had a thing on.

Some guy called “Hey cutie” to Gillian. This inspired a flurry of hysterical giggles—embarrassment and thrill all at once. I hadn’t seen the man but she said he was sitting in a chair on the sidewalk.

Each girl had some money. Grammy treated for lunch and took cellphone photos of them, their heads tilted toward one another, mouths fixed on straws as they sucked up their twin strawberry frappes.

Gillian asked if it were rude to noisily suck up the remainder of the frappe with the straw. I said go for it. If it’s delicious, delightful, get as much of it as you can. They slurped, pleased and innocent as suckling infants. My own motherly love knew no bounds as I took in their mutual delight. Eden joy!

After ogling the scant overpriced putative clothing options, they found an “everything” shop and purchased souvenirs of Boston, selected carefully and with conversation about what would be just right for Mom, Dad, siblings and their grandparental hosts.

Grampy and I got little duckies and a panoramic postcard of the Boston skyline. Mom got a rubber bracelet “Superstar” and younger sister one that said “Spoiled.” For themselves they bought the same woven pink cord bracelet— a cut above rubber.

These girls are nice girls. They have soul because both have resisted the temptation to be mean in order to belong.

The highlight of the day was the trip to the ladies room at the lunch place. On the wall were wise or witty quotes, Oscar Wilde, Shakespeare, Charles Manson, and more.

They came rushing out of the bathroom wanting pens to write quotes. “But we don’t know any quotes! Can you give us some?”

I jotted down one of my favorites: “I have set before you life and death. Choose life” paraphrased from Deuteronomy 30:15. “That’s great Grammy!” They never asked what Deuteronomy was but raced back to the bathroom to write themselves, and a little of God’s wisdom, onto the wall.

That’s how faith-in-memory happens—and then gets written over and over.

A day with nice girls in a buzzing big city is enlivening and therefore holy.