Sunday, July 31, 2011

2011.07.31 Ha-Motzi. "Who Brings Forth"

Today’s gospel reading was the story about the loaves and the fish, a strange miracle-like story in which Jesus, surrounded by a large crowd—5000 men “besides women and children” (Imagine!)—blesses God, who brings forth enough from what looks like not enough.

The blessing over grain products in Hebrew is:


Ha-motzi means “who brings forth”— as good a definition of what God does as any.

Jesus, like all great holy men, besides many women, blesses God first BEFORE asking God to bless. Before you deliver your bill or particulars in prayer, bless God FIRST. To do so is neither an asking nor a presumption of result but a simple acknowledgment of the nature and possibility of the God HA-MOTZI. Then do your own part to assist the bringing forth.

The motzi is used in formal Temple liturgies. It is also used in homes. It’s a bridge blessing, It connects church and home. Anyone can use it. Once I went to a Jewish friend’s home for lunch. We made tuna fish sandwiches. She made ha-motzi over them and I swear that was the best tuna fish sandwich I’ve ever had.

Christians do not bring home the words of our eucharistic liturgy, the words Jesus would have said, the words he did say on the hillside, words addressed to God first.

What would happen if at our home meals, big gatherings or small, we first made our own ha-motzi?

And if we then added some words from our Christian Eucharist?

Might this spiritual practice in time BRING FORTH humility, gratitude, re-enlivenment, hope, courage, a new chance— just as it does in church on Sunday?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2011.07.27 Blessings on the T

Last Sunday I boarded the famous or infamous red line to go into Boston to attend church. The T was empty at its last stop before it headed back inbound.

Empty save for one large gentleman with a Red Sox cap a backpack, also large. It was the last stop. I waited for him to get off but he stayed on, likely riding back and forth like “Charlie.” His head nodded and bobbed and I prayed he would find solace or a home or sobriety a job, or whatever he needed for love.

As the train moved along it filled up. At Porter Square two young women who had just left girlhood got on. They were all primped up, cute and perky in their shorts and tees and sandals.

As the train took off a young-ish man, disheveled, seemingly disoriented but not drunk, began his speech. I’ve heard many such painful stories and I believe them all even if all the facts aren’t quite correct. “Excuse me ladies and gentlemen. I’m so sorry to take your time like this. God bless you. I’m so grateful you’re listening to me. God bless you.I just want a little change, couple bucks to get something to eat. Haven’t eaten in ___ hours..........” No one responded. The young women listened and looked at each other a little embarrassed giggles.

At the next stop the man got off leaving us all God blessed and thanking us all for nothing. Another occasion for prayer.

The girl/women commented. “Wasn’t that weird?” Yeah, really, like...weird.” “Yeah you never hear anyone say that anymore.” “God bless you. You don’t hear it ever.” They shook their heads in amazement—not at the man’s plight or his strategy but at his blessing. So weird!

God bless you, every one!

Friday, July 22, 2011

2011.07.22 Another Amazing Holy Woman

Today is our Episcopal calendar day to wear Easter white, feast, and hallow St. Mary Magdalene.

Mary of Magdala, a town near Capernaum, was very close to Jesus.

In her day it would have been unusual for a single woman to hit the road like that. But that’s the kind of trust Jesus inspired and the kind of risks people took to catch a portion of his spirit.

In Mary’s case there was also gratitude. Luke reports (8:1-2) that Mary and some other women had been healed of infirmities and evil spirits, “Mary, called Magdalene from whom seven demons had gone out...”

Seven was/is considered a mystical number, whole in itself and indivisible except by itself, like Godde. Seven means Scripture is saying something important about this woman. People have speculated about her “demons.” I wrote about multiple personality disorder; others have conjured addictions and incurable seizures. On and on.

We interpret things according to our context. Today's context is nothing if it's not psychopathologistic. (What a word!) Mary's culture was about exorcism and demons.

But the favored conjure has been that she was a wanton woman, bound by her shameless sexual behavior— a prostitute, seductress, temptress and, god forbid, the undoer of men.

Luke wrote none of that, though we are to know that her life was radically transformed in many ways by Jesus and she stayed steadfast to his end, was a witness at the crucifixion, and wept at his mysteriously empty tomb. She mourned so deeply she almost missed meeting the image of Christ resurrected who spoke her name and commissioned her to tell the good news to the others.

If you identify with Mary and make her your biblical prayer partner try this spiritual practice: list seven “demons” of your own and ask Jesus to heal you. Be sure to say exactly what YOU want........ then leave the results up to Christ.

Also . . . suggest to your parish church that they transfer Mary Magdalene’s feast day, July 22, to a Sunday so the whole congregation can remember her, hallow her closeness to Jesus, and bless her role as the first apostle of resurrection.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

2011.07.21 Amazing Holy Women—More


She was born into slavery and passed from household to household until at 28 she fled. With the help of some Quakers she landed in New York and joined the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

But she never forgot her family and all the slaves still in bondage back home. And she never forgot her Bible.

The name story fascinates me. Sojourner Truth was named Isabella and called Belle. When she was 46 she heard God tell her “Go east.” A nice switch—men west, women east. She headed for L.I. and CT. and stopped at a Quaker farm on the way.

“What is your name?” they asked.

“My name is Sojourner,” Belle relied identifying quickly with the biblical injunctions to welcome traveling wanderers who only stay a little time, a sojourn.

“What is your last name?” they asked.

Belle thought of all the names her many masters had called her,. Then an idea sprang from nowhere into her mind, “the only master I have now is God, and His name is Truth.”(An example of the bath qol, Hebrew for the voice of God whispering truth into souls, quiet, the daughter of a voice.

A traveling preacher with wit and wisdom, Sojourner Truth became an abolitionist. Her charisma and six foot height drew many to listen to her truth.

She once said “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these together ought to be able to turn it back and get it right side up again.”

Best remembered for her speech “Ain’t I a Woman” at a Women’s Rights convention in Ohio, Sojourner spoke out against male clergy misusing the Holy Word to oppress women saying women were weak and blacks were weaker still.

She died in 1883. She had told her people she wasn’t going to die, just shoot straight up home like a shooting star.

Now there’s a star in the east I would follow!


Harriet Ross grew up in a pretty stable but always anxious family of slaves in Maryland. She suffered serious injuries from beatings but grew strong in the hurt places. At 24 she escaped to Canada but never forgot her family and brother/sister slaves back home.

Known as “Moses of her people” Tubman followed her favorite biblical hero and story of liberation. She made trips home, worked with Quakers and freed 300 people leading them into Canada.

$40,000 was offered for her capture. On the head of a small black woman? No one ever collected the reward. Grin.

Tubman moved to upstate New York where she joined up with Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to promote women’s rights and always encouraged black women to stare their own organizations. She provided hospitality to orphans and the helpless old and founded schools for African American children.

Moses would have signed Harriet on. She championed justice for women and for own black women in particularity, taking on both sexism and racism in one 93 year long life.

You know the Bible may not exaggerate so much about age and Godde’s grace. Wasn’t Abraham 75 when he headed off to start a nation?!

When this Holy Spirit of reversals touches down, age, race, gender, ability know no limits.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011.07.20 Amazing Holy Women

July 20 is the day set aside on our Episcopal Church calendar of holy men and women to remember Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman—Liberators and Prophets.

And yesterday marked the 163rd anniversary of the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls in 1848. The first day was women only. Today 7/20 the men joined in. We need both!

Godde, I’m proud these women are on our Episcopal calendar and that their day is WHITE that is considered to be a feast day, an Eastering day.

STANTON felt oppressed by the prevailing (and still does prevail) Augustinian doctrine of human depravity and Calvinist predestination. What was the point if doomed? She refused depression and worked instead to right wrongs perpetuated upon women by Church and society.

Stanton attended Trinity Episcopal Church in Seneca Falls, N.Y., site of the 1848 first Women’s Rights Convention, July 19-20.

Stanton was rightly hard on the Church accusing it of using (I’d say abusing) Scripture to enforce subordination of women and to prohibit them from ordained ministry. She wrote a Women’s Bible, a commentary on offensive, sexist we might say today, passages. Her effort was inspired by the fact that there were no women on the committee of scholars that in 1881 published the Revised Standard Version of the Bible.

Stanton dissented boldly and ceaslessly and didn’t lose hope because “what is good is immortal.”

“My only regret,” she said before she died in 1902, “is that I have not been braver and bolder and truer in the honest conviction of my soul.”

I can’t imagine what bolder, braver and truer would look like.

BLOOMER attended Trinity with Stanton and made powerful and popular statements about biblical abuses, being sure that if St. Paul could have foreseen the strife and misery some of his words caused he’d “never have written them.”

Bloomer established schools, libraries and churches.

She published a newspaper called The Lily and plunged without intent into faith and women’s fashion. Waist-cinching corsets created serious health problems for women. Bloomer printed a picture of herself in loose-fitting Turkish trousers and began to wear them in public. She argued with male clergy who cited Moses’ statement about women not dressing in men’s clothing. Bloomer said if they followed Moses they’d all “put fringes and blue ribbons on their garments.” Grin.

So much for biblical literalism arguments. What chutzpah.

I remember in the ‘70s when women started to wear pants to Church and it was considered scandalous.


Who does wear the pants, again?

(Sojourner and Harriet tomorrow.)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

2011.07.17 The Nose Knows

My earliest olfactory memory is the pungent odor of ammonia. My mother who overvalued her first adorable child, me, used to clean my bassinette with it—probably more than she needed.

(After all, don’t some say that Americans have created such a clean germ-free environment that we don’t build up antibodies to strengthen our immune systems? But ammonia is stringent.

At 35 or so I entered my first therapy experience with a bioenergetic (a therapy developed by Alexander Louwen to access emotions that were forgotten by the mind but stored in body muscle) therapist.

Imagine body work for my first ever encounter with psychotherapy!

Imagine my having no mental control over what emotions arose. Terrifying. Through body postures, stances far less graceful than yoga, and encouragement to make totally un-pc sounds like a lion’s roar or a baby’s waaah, I discovered my body’s voice.

Then my therapist and I would process whatever came up and out by which I discovered lost feelings like anger and sorrow, feelings I needed to be whole.

One of my earliest feelings came through my nose. I lay with my back stretched over a stool my feet on the ground, hands at my side and head hanging over the edge. The rack—sort of. Comfy? Not.

Suddenly I got a strong whiff of ammonia. Of course there was no ammonia around. Alarmed I tried to sit up. In the process I experienced a sorrow seizure so strong it took a few minutes to subside.

I think the therapist was as surprised as I was. As we talked I made the connections between what my nose knew and the emotional pain I’d stored in my heart-lung area from not being able to connect securely with my mother.

Science tells us that olfactory memories connect to the hippocampus and amygdala regions of the brain, those in charge of memory and emotions.

I consider my bioenergetic experiences spiritual because of my Christian faith. The body stores healing memories. It is holy, a sanctuary for the wisdom and healing of the Divine within, the Word made flesh.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

2011.07.13 My Ways are Not Your Ways

The biblical wisdom on Godde's lovely lips written by Isaiah lets us know that Godde's ways are not our ways. BUT there is no judgment in this so don't put it in there.

The degree to which I critique, compare, condemn,judge, interpret negatively the ways of another is the degree to which I lack appreciation for my own ways.

Damn. Hard to give up that old sin.

I'm abstinent from sin on occasion only and with Godde's grace.

I have learned this truth from years of creating, participating in, observing sibling warfare.

My sister and I still react. Her ways are airy, light and lovely when she's not on a rampage. My ways are dark, dense and lovely when I'm not in my cave assessing my ways.

Life is not a battle to be won or a success to make me better. It is a spiritual gift to embrace and pluck from, yes, the forbidden Tree of Life

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2011.07.10 Out of Eden?

I’ve noted this before I think but I feel the need to note it again, mostly because I find myself back in Eden passing blame around like a hot potato.

Much of what I read and hear on the news or on internet chitter chatter and in conversations is addressing important issues, which is a good idea, and then coming up with a culprit, not as good an idea.

Adam and Eve blamed each other, God and the snake and God is portrayed as quite fed up with the blame/shame process, enough in fact to institutionalize the breakdown, to make it so humanity will have to take responsibility for their life on earth, with God’s help of course.

Nobody blamed the tree or the infamous apple whose fault it was that the couple got into trouble in the first place.

Finding a culprit makes everyone feel safe—temporarily. Wasn’t it the old priest Caiaphas who suggested that if one man were eliminated peace would be restored. Thus began the plan to execute Jesus who hadn’t preached rebellion but had told people of their worth and value in God’s eyes. It was easy to conclude that they were not being valued at all by those with earthly authority who likely blamed themselves for their destiny.

This can happen in families too of course. We’d all be fine if it weren’t for XX. It’s a habit. I don’t know why it happens.

The current blamee for all of society’s ills is the media. Oh dear the trash they present! But who do we imagine creates the market that buys and tunes into these media reports?

Who is responsible for healthcare or the schools, or church attendance? Doctors, educators, clergy, yes, but ALL OF US are responsible for our institutions and their well being.

What do you complain about most often? It’s a very good spiritual question. Follow it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2011.07.06 Private Property?

It occurred to me recently that there is no such thing as private property. Everyone squawks about abutters and their infringements and how dare they.

Everything abuts. Everything exists next to something else. All is connected. Remember the butterfly wings that affect the weather thousands of miles away?

Suddenly your property is contiguous, not yours at all. It belongs to you AND everyone around you—even globally.

If we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and abut them and they us, then property is contingent and collective. What happens to your property happens to mine so best it be ours. We all are responsible for its well being. It is not about moneyed ownership and property lines, but a spiritual issue.

If only we could believe the basics of creation theology: that it all belongs to God, even our children whom we also think we own. It's all on loan, none of it is private, all of it is sacred, divinized, as is every human being, every plant, every animal and every sunset.

How do you view and treat something you consider sacred?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

2011.07.04 Independence?

Today I wonder......

I have often imagined my life metaphorically as a jigsaw puzzle, myself a piece in the puzzle that had fallen out and was trying to figure out how to FIT back into the picture.

This is personal and political. Much that I read about women tells me they are still trying to fit into a system that grew up around us and seemed as right to us as rain or sunrise. But it’s not.

The workplace is an example. Women are returning to the job market after a break from career for birthing and parenting. I wanted children very much and love them today but I also wanted something beyond motherhood.

Women who get the choice jobs are the ones who return rarin’ to go. They are ready, fit to FIT into the breakneck pace of commerce, great workers. If there are adjustment problems some companies set up internships to facilitate the fit.

Some woman opt out of the insanity of the culture’s rhythm and they will likely be judged inadequate as has happened in the Church.

I remember when a woman bishop retired earlier than expected. She said she wanted to spend time with her grandchildren.Some colleagues said she shirked her responsibilities. Might that be a sexist perception?

Who is looking at a bigger picture? Who sees the forest?

Who is daring to imagine that instead of expecting women in particular to FIT that we reform the system, change the way we do business? Who asks what motivates, fuels this “rat race?”

Has anyone thought that these same dynamo worker women may in just a few years be drawn toward caring for aging parents?— “children” at the other end of life.

Who thinks about initiating WORK-LIFE POLICIES that make it easier for women, really for ALL parents and the children they raise who represent our future, should there be one?

It took me years to realize that I didn’t have to lop off pieces of myself to FIT into the jigsaw. Every single piece as it is shaped has its own place and without each piece, exactly as it is, there can not be a whole picture.

A spiritual vision to ponder and pray. Happy 4th!