Sunday, October 30, 2011

2011.10.30 Keeping Madeleine's Commandment...Continued

The next hurdle I faced in my obedience efforts not to become a little man after I got ordained was what I call the earring crisis.

I started out eager, panicky, and utterly cloying in the first parish I served after I was ordained a deacon transitioning to priesthood. I was all prepped to serve God and the rector obediently—also Madeleine’s commandment.

It didn’t start off well. The rector had NOT told the parish I was coming on board. Or rather he told them by addressing the congregation and asking them if they knew what an ordained deacon was and what role a deacon played in the ministry of the Church. Everyone looked blank.

So he introduced me by name, invited me to stand, and held me up like a poster child for the diaconate. Then he started a round of welcoming applause. The congregation joined in, because how could they not?

I stood there in my shiny new white alb, my face as red as my new Christmas-tree-bulb red deacon stole draped over my left shoulder and down over my left hip (just the opposite of Miss America’s sash!) And me with no ramp to parade!

I don’t know if his passive aggressive way of communicating was about being a man or not but I decided he modeled a way NOT to communicate.

At the coffee hour a statuesque woman came up to me, put her hand on my arm and asked “Did you know we didn’t know you were coming?” I told her no I didn’t know, and she patted my arm in a deliciously matronizing way, smiled and said, “It’s OK we’re all here.” I felt tears puddling up but didn’t let them escape. She became my deacon, my woman minister, and my “mommy” in that parish from then on, a model of how to be gracious and also direct—a woman perhaps.

The next week an epiphany happened. In the parish’s cobwebbed suggestion box there appeared for the first time since forever a handwritten suggestion: THE PRIEST SHALL NOT WEAR DANGLY EARRINGS.

I gave it to the male rector. “This is for you,” I said. We laughed. I was too scared and servant-ish to be more confrontive and direct with him about his wiles, as was my goal. That would take time. After all I was a woman!

I wore dangling earring most Sundays at the altar—a little flaunting and a little pride in proclaiming my femininity.

Or you could say it was a way to keep Madeleine’s commandment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2011.10.26 Being IN Your Writing

A friend wrote to say she was thinking of starting over with her reams of pages toward a novel she has wanted to write, and will some day get write—or right.(My humor)

Writing is easier than organizing I find, mostly because it’s more fun. It gets your juices up. The drone and drudge is getting it organized and into a structure that makes it shine and make sense—like a trellis for beautiful roses—for its beholders.

I recommended starting afresh and just giving it 2-3 hours a day. This is advice I’d never be able to follow. I hate the idea of scrapping it all and starting again. Admit I have done it with some chapters and do it daily as I cut and paste.

As to time, there is an isolation that comes with being an artist of any kind. It’s wise only to devote a certain amount of time each day...then go out and play.

I'm fresher in the a.m. but I find I don't get to it till after 1 or so by the time I do my prayer time, yoga stretches, walk, emails, breakfast and morning paper, maybe a phone call, and try to be nice to my beloved.

I call this pre-crastination: doing NOW what might wait till LATER, or tomorrow. As opposed to pro-crastination: doing LATER what might or should be done NOW.

Take your pick about where manyana (couldn’t figure out the tilde) fits in for you.

Everyone says I do it backwards, that writing should be priority and come first. But pre-crastination works best for me. I hate having undone “essentials” related to my mental, emotional and physical needs/wants hanging over my head.

When I write I like to feel free, to be totally devoted to it. I find when I get INTO it and it sparks I‘m not alone at all but full of life energy coming through my words. I am IN my words rather than my words being IN me.

I find it essential to have a writers group, or take a class or two. You need company for the journey and help for the task. Hook up, as they say. The encouragement is so important, as is the critique and accountability.  

Start slow, small and beautiful, close to the hem of earth where Spirit roams and broods.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011.10.23 Message and Vision

I recently received one of those love-engendering emails that circulate around. A story of a woman who had rescued then nursed back to health a fallen squirrel.

In the squirrel’s recuperation period, before it would be set free to be a full wild squirrel, the woman’s dog had pups.

The photos series showed various shots of the newly healed squirrel joining into the mothering, nursing, bonding process, curled up cozy with the puppies. Adorable and of course it made me smile and sigh and yearn.

But then an intruding thought said, What about photo shopping? This all could have been done easily by inserting squirrel shots into the puppy mélange. The endearing and meaningful photos could be virtual, not real. Ah, technology.

Suddenly I had a quick flurry of something like a million butterflies let loose in my gut and I wondered what I could trust. What is really real?

I decided to go with the message of love among vastly different species and the vision it bespoke for us humans—if only we could dare to snuggle up next to neighbors instead of building walls and fences.

Photo shopping MAY be a medium by which Spirit reminds us that it is the centrality of the divine message and vision that is important to notice, photo-shopped or not.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

2011.10.19 Bodies Beautiful

All this flap about Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown exchanging gender-ish pleasantries with political agenda.

Whose body to vote for?

I believe that one should always write and speak from one’s own lived experience. I also believe that everyone who reads or hears you will place her or his interpretation onto your words.

That’s happening in droves over the trivial politics-as-usual ribaldry in the body politic.

Hence my interpretation is this: It’s possible that Scott Brown meant that it was a good thing that Elizabeth Warren didn’t have to take off her clothes to meet her expenses—not because her body wasn’t much to behold or wouldn’t make much, but because she was spared the humiliation of having to go naked for money.

What he did with his body wasn’t shameful. It was just a symptom of a society possessed with sexual uncertainty and puritan angst. I’m glad his physique could help him out. That’s not sarcastic.

In an unjust society you do what you have to do to survive without destroying someone else or yourself.

When I go to a store, as little as I possibly can, to buy a clothing item I hate to stand in front of the mirror and take in a close-up of my body in the full length mirror. It’s not ugly or gross but my shame sees me as ugly.

(I hate even worse when a salesgirl pokes her nosy nose into the dressing room to chirp, "How are you doing Ma'am?") Shame again.

In Eden the first recorded post-apple feeling was shame—of their nakedness!

Our shape-obsessed American culture of advertising has not yet figured out a way to love our bodies with grace.

We Christians have not yet found a way to belove our flesh and know God incarnate— Divinity that actually deigns to indwell ALL flesh in ALL shapes and sizes.

Toni Morrison's preacher-woman adjures her listeners: WE FLESH!—and it is good.

Until we figure this out we will NOT love our differently-sized neighbors, our Godde, or ourselves.

NO body shames God.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2011.10.16 WWJS?

It was past my bedtime when the text bleep came in, bedtime being a relative thing and wholly retrogressive—earlier and earlier the older you get. But you turn on the light for a precious granddaughter named Izz.

“Hi Grammy,” the text message read, “What language did Jesus speak? Mom doesn’t know either. xxoo Izzy.”

I’m not too old to text but my device has teensy letters on its phone-like, not typewriter-like, key board. So I got under the light and texted back: “aramaic but the new testament is written in greek. how was your dance?” (Didn’t bother with caps but found the ?)

Text back: “It was goo.” Followed immediately by, “I mean good.”

End of soundless conversation with a beautifully curious 11 year old granddaughter.

Why in the world was she thinking of Jesus? The family doesn’t go to Church although they did for a while and they come willingly when they visit. Their northeast US secular world isn’t geared to religion, Jesus, church.

The next day, Sunday, I called to inquire, being as curious as the girl who asked, and the cat I just looked up and spotted paroling my back fence, on a squirrel prowl.

“I don’t know,” was the answer I got. Of course I pushed her a bit. “I was just thinking, wondering about it and Mom didn’t know so I called you, ” she said. “OK I was just curious,” I said.

Exchange of love you and byes.

I was curious, also wondering if Jesus might have planted a calling card in her heart. It gets lonely being a religious Christian these days in liberal land. But Jesus, or Christ, speaks to the ears of our hearts sometimes and if he were here now he might even be a secular humanist who believed in God.

WWJS, What would Jesus speak?

I don’t know, but Socrates said, WISDOM BEGINS IN WONDER.

Stay wondering. Be curious Izz. It won’t kill you, or the cat, but it might make you wonder odd but good things. Might even make you wise, or wiser than you already are.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011.10.12 Spiritual Writing. One Thought.

Spirituality is loosey goosey to define but here is something that came to me as I read and responded on a friend’s essay on being all F’ed up.

Your writing is spiritual because it dwells in the depth dimension where all hell breaks loose and all heaven breaks through. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

2011.10.09 Strongest and Greatest?

My dad used to say to me when I was growing up, “You’re riding for a fall.” The implicit extension of pride goeth before the fall.

I rarely heeded the warning and he was almost always right, like the time I was 13 and in the finals of a tennis championship. I told him I knew I was a better player than my opponent and I’d win for sure. I saw the gentle warning in his eyes. I lost the match and the championship. And I cried. Pride, fall regardless, he loved me anyway.

What I didn’t tell him was that I cheated on one shot saying my racket didn’t nick the net when it did. Cheating didn’t help. I have never told anyone that till now.

If dad were alive he would say that about this country right now: You're riding for a fall.

“I will not surrender America’s role in the world. This is very simple: If you do not want America to be the strongest nation on earth, I’m not your president.” 2012 Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney recently said this while vowing vast military growth.

No, I do NOT want America to be the strongest nation on earth. And NO, I do not want Romney as my president.

I don’t want America to be the strongest, the greatest, the wealthiest, the most advanced nation. I’m sick of American grandiosity and swollen ego and I’m sick of the rhetoric of success when it is obvious we are failing on many fronts: to prevent violence against women and children, to feed our hungry, to eliminate racism and sexism, to distribute our resources justly, to wage peace, to get along with our neighbors near and far.

When do we surrender, holler uncle, say please God save us from greatness, it’s killing us?

The worst problem is spiritual because underneath all this lust for greatness lurks a greed so toxic, so sinister, so demonic that it stifles compassion and inspired a corporate giant like Lehman Brothers to plaster its Wall St. skyscraper windows with huge signs that read:


The implication is that they are proud to hold 1% of the nation’s wealth. This is their arrogant response to the young people’s amazing fast-expanding Occupy Wall Street movement. It is a positive statement for community, justice and peace not just a protest against the pride and corruption that deprives the 99% of jobs, opportunities, dignity—and food.

Cry, beloved country you’re riding for a fall.

In other news......I do NOT want my chosen religion, Christianity, to be the strongest, greatest, best or only religion either. It’s riding for a fall.

I want my religion to surrender its own spiritual arrogance and take its place proudly among the world’s religions. I want it to be beautiful, gracious, and wisely humble.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

2011.10.05 Bounty By Divine Design?


I recently heard a pastor say with clear firmness something like: “We believe passionately that God has sent all this bounty (good results of a capitol fund drive) by design so that we may fulfill His purposes in mission for the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Well now............

I stopped listening after the words “bounty by design” because all I could think of was my good neighbor who had little bounty by God’s or anyone’s design at all.

I also did not want to be included in the pastor’s use of “we.”

I do not think that such ideas about what Godde does are particularly pastoral. Nor do I believe that God distributes bounty even for the good. Sorry. I think this presumes on Godde and makes those who don’t enjoy bounty of any kind either beholden to the ones with the bounty or feeling excluded from the divine economy of distributive grace.

Some will say it’s Providence. OK. But I don’t think divine providence is arbitrary and this sounds as if God plays favorite for those chosen to do God’s work on earth.

We all are chosen and we all try to live it out in the best ways we can with the resources we have.

What do I believe?

First, I don’t know what God does. I just know that I pray and hope and love and trust, not nearly as “passionately” as I could.

Second I do believe that the wee lassy Christians call Holy Spirit, Sophie for short to me, acts as a massage therapist kneading the soul of humanity and all creation to bring forth (ha motzi) good from whatever disaster or error we get ourselves into by human fault or ignorance, individual or collective.

I experience this in my own life and as a Christian I spends my life at the foot of the cross of Christ and other “crosses” just as horrific—in hope and helplessness waiting on God.

That sounds quite different to me from the suggestion that Godde has a plan and provides certain ones of us the proper resources to carry it out.

The only response to bounty if you have it is gratitude and more gratitude, and after that sharing your bounty with those less fortunate.

Probably the intent of the pastor, but she lost me.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

2011.10.02 Madeleine's Commandment

In the late 70s and early 80’s when I was struggling to get ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church, which was not yet ready for breasts and ample bellies in their pulpits and at their altars, I was fortunate enough to have as my spiritual director the author and theologian Madeleine L’Engle.

Madeleine, now dead and missed, was a commanding presence in voice and height and sheer bulk of wisdom. She towered over me in all ways. I was bordering on meek then, having been rejected a couple of times for ordination and being sure there was something wrong, if not toxic, about me and my gender.

Madeleine was reassuring and kind. She bolstered my soul and gave me hope. But she was no softy. She gave me regular opinionated lectures on things like divorce, a church “sin” I was contemplating. Never, she told me, unless for unremitting homicidal behavior or unremitting suicidal behavior. Well, that left me a broad interpretive swatch.

I remember feeling awed in her presence—also buoyed, but not spoiled.

One day, probably sick of my laments, she said, “Now my dear, when you get ordained, and you will, do NOT become a little man.”

I got it and I didn’t, become a little man that is. I laughed and forgot about it until I got ordained. To follow Madeleine’s commandment has not been easy though I’ve been ordained now for almost 25 years.

The first decision I made not to become a little man was to decide not to be called Mother Lyn. I had enough kids already. Many men still call themselves and/or invite or let people call them Father.

To be called Mother I thought would be like becoming a little man following the tradition of paternalism in the Church making congregants, whether consciously or not, think of themselves and even behave like children, dependent and beholden to Father or Mother knows best. (Petri dish for passive aggressive adolescent subertfuge, if nothing else. )

I told people to call me Lyn. Even “Pastor” suggested a shepherd and her flock of bleating stupid sheep. Not a good model. Besides, images of shepherdesses frolicking on the green or Little Bo Peep just weren’t my style. (God/Jesus as shepherd isn’t an image that much appeals to me either. Baaa)

When parents wanted their children to use a title I’d discuss my perspective of mutuality (my needs are as important as your needs even if I have more authority). If they insisted I conceded to Rev. Lyn. But the kids who wanted to do what everyone else did and who liked the respect usually won the day.

Stay tuned for more on how I tried not to become a little man, in remembrance and loving thanks to a grand mentor, Madeleine L’Engle.