Friday, June 26, 2009

Goodbye Margaret

Recently, NOT via Facebook or google, imagine! . . . I have reconnected with two best girlfriends of old, one from first to sixth grade, Margaret, and the other from high school and college years, Annie. Just when we found each other through old school connections we have had to say good bye, God be with ye. Annie died a year after our grand and talkative reunion in person, and Margaret is in the process of dying and too far away for a visit except by email. My farewell e-letter I share for anyone in a similar situation.

Dear Margaret,

What a loving thing for your son to do creating a Maine nook so you're able to be there and gaze at your beloved summer place as you lie in your bed in hospice care resting and dozing in beauty.

I am so sorry we won't be able to meet in person, but I want you to know what a powerful influence you were on my childhood, mostly one of mischief, laughter and just being girlfriend-to-girlfriend as we grew up together and managed to survive even the gunny sack blue serge lower school uniforms.

You made my young life, growing up in a family where there was love and caring and also alcoholism and anxiety, joyful. Thank you Margy with a hard G as I used to call you.

In addition to you I counted on God. As a kid I would often find refuge from the eternal and everlasting, or so it seemed, evening cocktail hour under a large dining room table where I chatted (gave little sermons) with my imaginary friends and a fourth friend I called God. I'd snitch Ritz crackers from the cocktail tray, eat one and leave the other four lined up on the table's cross beams waiting there for my friends and God. Later I would come to understand this childhood ritual as my first ordination as a priest and a call to a vocation I didn't pursue for years. Being a mother came first (two daughters, two sons, all grown with families of their own.)

That's a tiny but formative piece of my story. I wish I knew more of your story and the joys and sorrow that have filled your life over the 60 years since we last saw each other. I did google you and see that you did a lot of philanthropic work in the arts and consulting. Also your info sounds like you are a feminist or at least a promoter of women's gifts and passions. There's a reason we were such soulmates! I saw your photo in the yearbook and you hadn't changed a wit from sixth grade to graduation.

I hate to have to say goodbye just as we're saying hello again, but such is the unsteadiness of life and death.

Perhaps I will put this in a card also as I'm not sure how much email time you will want to spend as you rest and move into your death. Be sad but don't fret for there is nothing, even death, that can separate us from the Love beyond all loves some of us call God.
I send you this ancient blessing and, although I don't know of your own religious journey or faith, I send it in the spirit of grateful memories for our short but lively friendship.

God bless you and keep you;
the face of God shine upon you and from within you
and bathe you in peace

this day, this hour, this minute and for ever. AMEN

I love you my bright childhood friend.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blog Snacks With Lemons

This blog is NOT a diary!!
It’s not full of trivial personal anecdotes with no soul, meat or meaning. I hear that is a reason some folks avoid checking in on bloggers and hope I have moved beyond the heaving narcissism of my “Dear Diary . . .” days.
My spiritual lemons are meant to awaken, provoke your reflection and call you to your depths.
But they might make you pucker up in case you expect some can-do or how-to spiritual advice that will last as long as your nose.
This week I offer these spiritual snacks.
-Boston Globe headline quote, 5/22/09, from President Obama’s speech, a necessary corrective to the Cheney same-old rant. Obama: “ I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values . . . “ Lemon: We cannot keep this country safe from our enemies without the power of our enemies.

-Jim Wallis: “New vision is always what any society most needs, and the edges of society have always been the most likely place for it to emerge. To generate something new, one must be listening to voices other than the loud voices of mass society.”

-Feminist Lemon: The feminization of any institution is no better for humanity than has been its masculinization.

-Ani Di Franco: “Someone you don't know is someone you don't know
Keep a firm grip girl and don't let go
Behind every hand extended another lies in wait
Keep an eye on that one - Anticipate”

-Jesus of Nazareth: “Be innocent as doves and wily as serpents.”

-Wily Lemon: There is little or nothing evil but that we make it so.

-Spiritual Lemon Policy: There is only one thing more important than individual rights and that is the common good.

Lemony wit/wisdom, oldie but goodie: “My grandfather knew the exact time of the exact day of the exact year that he would die.” “Wow!, what an evolved soul! How did it come to him?” “The judge told him.”

Lemon: Godde has no way to you but through you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Priest Wears Dangling Earrings—Still

Just three known-to-me times in my twenty-some years of being a priest, active in parishes, counseling, spiritual direction and chaplaincy, have my earrings made the headlines in someone’s mind—once for scandal, once for shock, and once for delight.
The Episcopal Church voted that women could be ordained in 1976, a very good year for church and USA. I was ordained in 1988 after some struggle, but women were still not regular fixtures at parish altars. We just didn’t look right. To some we were an offense.
When I started celebrating at the altar in my first parish in Connecticut I wore the correct uniform except for one thing—my dangly gold earrings. They were delicate, teardrop-shaped like a fish, the Christian symbol after all, but they raised eyebrows. No one said anything to me personally but by Monday morning the moribund, covered with dust and cobwebs Suggestion Box contained two slips of paper. We knew there was new life for this old box because the messengers had carefully left the edge of the white message paper sticking out of the slot.
The messages were for me. One note said, “The priest should NOT wear dangly earrings,” and the other one was like unto it. I gave them to the male rector, told him they were for him, went home, fumed to anyone who would listen, asked Godde what to do, and wore buttons not danglers the next Sunday and several more until the people knew me and liked me behind my danglers. Then I wore the danglers again without comment. It was okay to be an anomaly but not wise to flaunt my gender ornaments in anger and just to mock others. Motives count.
The second time my earrings drew comment was when I officiated at the wedding of my former spiritual director, a French Jesuit priest who had left his country, his religion and his order to marry a sweet young thing named Mary. He hadn’t left his Roman Catholic priesthood, just transferred into Episcopal priesthood. A priest is a priest is a priest. Okay for him to have me officiate but the shock for at least one Catholic wedding guest jumped unbidden out of her mouth. “Look! The priest has earrings!”
The third time my earrings became the center of someone’s attention was in the yes of a six month old child at her baptism. She was screeching, her parents blushing and shushing when I reached for the child to get it over with quickly. Suddenly she stopped her wailing and stared at me with smiles and coos. That was just before she grabbed at one of my danglers and yanked. In spite of the endangerment to my ear everyone laughed. How cute!
The moral of this story is that dangling earrings can be dangerous, but isn’t that true of all adornments? They stand out, command attention, turn heads.
Scripture has a tradition of adornment. Godde adorns with beauty those whom society casts out. Godde raises them up, saves them from the muck of human degradation and abuse, calls them beloved, and dresses them in garments of fair linen, and fits them for halos—and the women get dangly earrings.