Sunday, March 31, 2013

2013.03.31 Eastering

Easter for clergy is exhausting, even if you’re only assisting. I’m the good kind of tired, the kind that comes from a fine meal in good company with lots of laughter and children’s faces, the kind that satisfies.  

In our  parish, when small children come to the altar rail to receive their share of the Holy Communion bread, which is a flat white tasteless wafer, they run or skip. Their parents grab them by whatever is grabbable to hold them back, to make them wait, corral their eager energy.  But the children know better.  They know when something is special and they know that they belong. So they run up, hop onto the kneeler, prop their small elbows onto the rail and stick out their hands—right palm over left, as they’ve been taught. Some kids curl their fingers into tiny tight cups. They try to get the formation just right.  

The priest comes by to give them their “treat.” When I am the priest, I look into their turned up faces and bend down a bit to their level to place, sometimes wedge, a wafer into each pair of cupped hands as I say their name, or my sister or brother,  “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven.”

Then they pop it into their mouth or take a bite and discover again that it tastes yukky.  Still, they know that it’s important and that everyone is eating it with them, all together the same. Small faces register like and dislike —yes and no at once. There’s no faking here. Kids are truth.

Is it okay to say yes and no at once to Godde? Even okay to say yes, but—sometimes?

I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic

and she said yes

I asked her if it was okay to be short

and she said it sure is

I asked her if I could wear nail polish
or not wear nail polish 

and she said honey

she calls me that sometimes

she said you can do just exactly

what you want to

Thanks God I said

And is it even okay if I don't paragraph 

my letters

Sweetcakes God said 

who knows where she picked that up

what I'm telling you is

Yes Yes Yes
                                    “God Says Yes To Me” by Kaylin Haught from The Palm of Your Hand, 1995

Friday, March 29, 2013

2013.03.29 Listening

It’s Good Friday, a paradoxical day when Christians remember Jesus’ hideous death on a cross and all the injustice and pain in the world, and at the same time see in it hope for transformation—brought forth by divine/human collaboration. Kinda crazy really, but hope against hope is like that.

One can only pray and write poetry. Here’s one that captures the whole hope-driven journey.

    by David Ignatow (American poet, born in Brooklyn, NY, 1914)

You wept in your mother’s arms
and I knew that from then on
I was to forget myself.
Listening to your sobs,

I was resolved against my will
to do well by us
and so I said, without thinking,
in great panic, To do wrong
in one’s own judgment,
though others thrive by it,
is the right road to blessedness.
Not to submit to error
is in itself wrong
and pride.

Standing beside you,
I took an oath
to make your life simpler
by complicating mine
and what I always thought
would happen did:
I was lifted up in joy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

2013.03.27 Who Said Animals Don't Get Ressurected?

Imagine having a huge horse (10 feet tall, 1000-1200 pounds,) a lion 7 feet tall, and a giant brown bear, 8 feet tall, living in your barn, which is attached to your house? 

This would be worse than being Noah and his wife, whose name was Elizabeth (I made that up, sick as I am of biblical female anonymity) on an ark. Imagine the demanding task of having to keep track of the feeding schedules of hundreds of creature couples, plus clean up their daily excrement—probably a lot, since being crammed into an ark for 40 days and nights with no sign of land would make even the fiercest of beasts nervously excremental. (The first thing Noah did, btw, when he got off that ark and onto dry land was get drunk—of course!)

But the large animals living in Arron Sturgis’s barn don’t make any noise, eat nothing, and don’t shit.  They are wooden sculptures by the late Maine artist Bernard Langlais. The animals, signature Langlais art, have lived outside in the garden at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art for over 30 years. The wood has suffered from rot. Now, thanks to grants and gifts, these animal works of art are going to get a resurrection. And they’re not even dead yet! 

Sturgis owns Preservation Timber Framing, Inc. in Berwick Maine. He’s a timber framing expert, sensitive to the needs of all kinds of wood that has gotten old and needs restoration.  Usually his work involves old New England buildings, church steeples, and even design and framing work on the new American wing of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. And now beasts of wood.

“The challenge is doing this work without changing the artifact so it’s no longer a Langlais,” Sturgis said.  “But they’re all salvageable, and they all will be Langlais when we’re done with them.” He wants to capture the same spirit and vigor he imagines Langlais invested in his originals.  Now that’s humble integrity!

“This guy wasted no time on these,” said Sturgis. “They are not pieces of finely crafted furniture. He was really moving.”  Sturgis, 52, is the same age as Langlois was in the prime of his creative years. As I know Arron Sturgis, he will move efficiently and with all of his own vim on these resurrections, which will be as valuable as the originals.

So you see there are artists behind the artists, behind the artists, all with the same goals as the divine artist, whom some of us call God-Creator/Godde-Resurrector.

A whimsical anecdote from Sturgis: One day he was transporting the bear, who sat nobly in the back of his truck as they drove through Ogunquit.  He stopped ( no light, just courtesy) to allow a pedestrian to cross. The woman began to cross, with her head lowered, absorbed in her electronic device, when Sturgis yelled out his window, “Hey watch out for the bear!”  The woman looked up, gave the bear a glance, then went right back to the non-ursine essentials of her life. 

The bear (see below) was nonplussed as well. He knew he would soon receive the gift of new life.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

2013.03.24 Empathy Week

Most Christians call the week we are entering, Holy Week. I call it Empathy week. It’s a week we re-enact the skein of tragically inevitable events in the life of Jesus Christ, events that led him to trial and then to execution on the cross, events human history never forgot and divine grace forgave. 

Christians are not re-enactors, like the groups that re-enact Civil War battles and the like. Our liturgies are not pageantry for its own sake, or to memorialize for history’s sake. Christians, if we allow ourselves to be real, if we dare to feel what Jesus might have felt, ought to be heartbroken.

Do we dare to be empathic with the sorrow, the cruelty, the betrayal, the treasonous politics, and rigged proceedings? It takes courage to feel empathy. Can we put our hearts where our mouths are?  All those bloated hosannas ring hollow without heart-truth.   

I’m reading Sonia Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved World.  Her life discoveries are interwoven into her story in a seamless way.  Here is one such insight: “I was fifteen years old when I understood how it is that things break down: people can’t imagine someone else’s point of view.” 

At the time when Sotomayor, was “on trial” herself to prove herself worthy of being a Supreme Court Justice. She said that one of the values she thought important for a good justice to hold was empathy.  Many people jumped all over that word and mocked it as absurd, not part of justice at all in fact.  Do you remember the hullabaloo? 

At the time I thought all the flap had something to do with Sotomayor’s being a Latina and a woman. Probably it did.  However, at a deeper level, the reaction had to do with an incomplete and narrow understanding about what true justice is.  

“I was fifteen years old when I understood how it is that things break down: people can’t imagine someone else’s point of view.”

Without empathy, things (like love, justice, peace, truth, faith) break down. Simply so.
Sonia Sotomayor has served as Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court since 2009.

Jesus Christ, as far as I know, is still feeding hungry souls.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

2013.03.20 Tweet. Tweet?

There is lots of pressure these days to use Social Media, especially if you hope to publish.  Get yourself, your brand, your fabulous wonderful YOU out there—VIRAL NOW!

Or perish?  My hashtag might be—no idea, send me one. But I’ve been practicing in case I decide to get on Twitter. Here are some sample tweets.

The most forward thinking thing the RC church has done in 2000 years.  What will they think of next, ordaining women? A friend’s comment on pope’s decision to tweet. Hashtag is pontifex! 

Godde has no way to us but through us.

There’s no such thing as disincarnate love.

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

If Godde is love, then love must be God.

If we were dinosaurs, aka olding, then I want to be the  little hoppity one who turns quickly into a bird and soars off into the wild blue yonder.

I can put faith and trust in the ultimate and ideal Christ and the historical human Jesus at the same time.

Rebbitzen, tog mir a toyveh, fahrlr mein ahdres.   Yiddish for: Lady, do me a favor, lose my address.  We should make one for a woman to say to a man, no? 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

2013.03.17 Stormy Weather?

It’s amusing to watch the weather people this winter here in New England.  They usually don’t get much air time, but with all these storms they are front and center in our living rooms.  Weather newscasters shout the latest disaster and its terrific drama almost ecstatically. They dance close to roiling waters, mikes in hand, while nearly being soaked by a blast of sea, or blown over by a fresh strong gust of snow-wind. 

The weather is Cecil B. DeMille calibre.

But I’m tired of everything, from the latest economic news to D.C. political plots, being cast as a disaster, a catastrophe, a crisis. The “weather”of this culture is like the weather outside, so hyper it could blow us away.

Does everything have to be an opera in rehearsal? It’s hard to slow down, hard not to snap at people I love, hard to concentrate on what really matters when everything seems to demand attention—hard to love.

I even suffered the base theological temptation of wondering if God, through the weather, was getting even with us for being scornful and forgetting Divinity. We, as well as God, can get lost in the swift currents of a world in a panicky race. Many religious folks worry —silently or aloud—that God destroys as well as creates. But Godde has nothing to do with the weather. Nature’s will is as free as ours. And Love does not destroy.

Still, I’m tired of adrenaline rushes. My soul is ready for some peace. If it snows or blows or implodes I want to hear the news in a clear, calm way that gives the facts, advisories, and predictions.

There is a difference between an apocalypticist (the end is near and it isn't pretty, so get afraid now) and an eschatologist (we don't know how, or if, the world will end, so we live each day in hope).

Then a gift came my way.  It is a storm photo, but it’s not stormy. The bird mid-flight looks more like the Spirit to me than the “almighty” weather. She is free, lithe, peaceful, and true, in all weathers. Not dramatic, but so powerful—sort of like the white smoke over the Vatican, symbol of hope-in-flight.  We'll see.   Thank you.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

2013.03.13 My First White-Smoke-Over-the-Vatican Viewing

The sheer volume and power of bold and bald hope that was evidenced today in St. Peter’s Square in Rome is a statement in itself.  Thousands of people gathered to await the announcement of the election of the next leader of the largest religion in the world.

Who knows the future?—but history was made today in this election. The man the cardinals elected as the next Pope is Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina.

He is very conservative about most church practices, theology, and morality.
He has chosen, for the very first time in papal history, the name of Francis.  He will be Francis the First!  I was hoping for Peter, but so far no one has had the courage to choose that name. St. Francis is one of the most beloved of church saints, known for his humility and his attentiveness to the needs of the poor, not just materially, but those who have been neglected and marginalized in church and society—those in fact who have suffered rejection like Jesus did.  Francis is also  known for his affection for all nature and all critters whom he called Sister and Brother. He’s the saint whose statue you often see in a garden next to the birdbath scattering food for the birds. 
     And there’s another Francis represented as well: Francis Xavier, the co-founder of the Jesuit Order: the Society of Jesus.  
He is a Jesuit, another first.  That will be controversial, and also says much about this man’s intellectual grounding and his love for Jesus Christ. 
He is a Latino, representing an area of the world in which the Roman Catholic population is strong and growing. Politics is in everything, but American Latinos/Latinas will feel proud and represented.

There were clear signs today of this new Pope’s humility:
He chose to wear his own simple cross, not one of the Vatican  bejeweled papal crosses.
He asked for silence from an enormous crowd—and got it.  In the silence he bowed to receive the prayers and blessings of the people upon him— BEFORE he gave them a papal blessing.  A first!
He spoke in Italian, except when Latin was required, and in a colloquial tone, calling people his brothers and sisters, and telling them he’d “see them soon”  and to “have a good evening.”
When he was a Cardinal in his native land, he walked among the people and took public transportation or a cab.
Francis has a winning smile and a clear-eyed gaze. I do believe that this man, while conservative in many ways will LISTEN and encourage dialogue about women in the ordained ministry, homosexuality, gay marriage and adoption of children, and many other issues people are clamoring about.

I doubt that he would give much priority about my soap box issue: theological language (pronouns again!)  but who knows?  But I bet he would listen to me.

So, as always, we wait and see, pray and hope— and stay open.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

2013.03.10 Women of Guts and Glory

In honor of International Women’s Day, which was actually March 8, and my oldest granddaughter’s 17th birthday, which is today,  I honor all girls and women for their steadiness in a world that has not always noticed their presence. 

Oh Godde, you are not a man nor a woman, rather fully feminine and fully masculine (and everything in between) in the energy of your one holy life in which all creation has life, breath and being: Keep humanity one-in-you, and keep us holy-in-you; and please don’t let our mortal divisiveness hide from us the light of the love that is immortal. Big fat spirit-filled smooches from us all. AMEN.

Happy Birthday, beloved Gillian. You begin your 18th year today. Find out who you are and what matters to you. Stay faithful to yourself, for, in doing so, you will be faithful to Godde.

May I also recommend to you who read this blog a weekly series on Presidential Wives, ladies of power, wit and wisdom. It’s on Monday nights from 9-10:30 on CSpan. Very engaging—good story, good history.  

I confess I never remember exactly the list of male presidents, however, for, some quirky little reason, I now am ready to know who these men were— through their women.  That is good, because we're used to knowing the women through the men, not the reverse. The wives who loved them, and were beloved by them. Partners in marriage and politics, from Martha Washington onward.  

My mother was a strong though scared woman, but when she came through she’d hit it right on.  She told me once when I was whining about the fact that I might never develop boobs( and therefore get a boy) : “Lynnie, you come from a long line of boobs. You’ll get them!” She gave me guts.

So there you have it.  Honor the women in your life. And honor the men who have through history honored the women in their lives.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

2013.03.06 A Red Shoe Rant

I’m so glad the retiring pope is leaving his red shoes behind.  I wonder if he knows that it used to be considered a scandal, or at least the sign of a “loose” woman afoot, when a woman wore red shoes—anywhere but most particularly in church?  

I still have the little red party shoes I adored as a young child. They are dirty and have lost all their luster, but they sit at the foot of my home altar—not for me to worship but for me to remember my spunk, and the God who gave it to me. I have adult red shoes, too, and have worn them to church.

The papal red shoes are supposed to symbolize the blood of the martyrs. It’s a nice gesture to stand in “pools of blood” once shed by people who would not deny their devotion and faith in Jesus Christ, or was it their faith in Christianity itself, or something else?  I think their hearts were true and the culture of the day supported such sacrifice, but I think it’s time the Vatican itself sacrificed LOTS of its excessive wealth and power, perhaps some of the accumulated papal wardrobe and regalia— red shoes and all.  Ya know, all this Pope as almighty demi-deity isn’t that old— wasn’t part of the original plan.  

Time to Occupy Vatican City.

My protest isn’t just about wealth and power, it’s about theology, ideas and words about God and religious practices that amount, in my book, to God-abuse—advertising a God whose immortal love gets hidden from us by the sins of the Church. I mean ALL Christian churches, not just the Catholic one because it’s the biggest, richest, and loudest. 

I reject the theology that says Jesus Christ died for my sins, or anyone’s. He didn’t die, he was
I reject the theology that ordains the votes of men-only as the will of God.
I reject the theology that insists that God has a plan and a candidate in mind. Guys! Just pray     and vote, but for Christ’s sake don’t politik or lobby. Can a nun self-nominate?
I reject the theology and the language that consistently names Divinity as He, Him, His,     Himself—a sinful way to imprison Divinity in masculinity.
 I reject a church that protects men who abuse, and other men who cover up.
 I reject a church that will not ordain women to celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Either include     women in priestly ministry, or stop ordaining men.

I suggest all women wear red shoes to church—if you still go to church. Click those heels together three time fast, and PRESTO! all the non-avian cardinals will vanish. Look for them in Kansas—or not. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

2013.03.03 Meet Maud

Girls at eight are often at their most engaging, creative, uninhibited best.  Eight is great!

One such girl, the niece of a good friend, regaled her family with her own personal theology.  It went something like this: “God is Maud. Did you know that?  Yes, God’s name is Maud.”

Curious adults wanted to hear more, so the child continued with her theology, quite obvious to her: “Well, when I take a bath or a shower, I wouldn’t want some man-God watching me, would I?”

Would you?

So much for the omni-present, omni-masculine deity. Bring me Maud. And seriously, as far as I’m concerned, most of our highfalutin ideas about Divinity could be eliminated in favor of Love.

Take omniscience, for example: would a loving Godde not respect everyone’s need for privacy, even secrecy at times, especially teen-agerish times? Some argue that God is all-knowing, but waits (cunningly?) for us to reveal, knowing we will. I doubt that very much.

As to omnipotence, it’s quite obviously errant, unless divine power is only that of Love with no conditions.

Omnipresence might work, but only if that means that Godde is available and accessible from within—something like, give us this day our daily strength. 

How about All-Seeing? Perhaps Godde is a futurist, massaging souls gently, lovingly, and slowly forward into new and mysterious experiences that enlighten, and awaken, and refresh. Like the unexpected (and wise) resignation of the present Pope? Who knew?  There may be pink smoke over the Vatican yet. 

All kinds of holes can be punched in my ideas. They’re just offerings to query by. It’s really not about who God is, but how God is experienced. And there’s more commonality in such experiences than most would imagine.

Recently, a friend and sister Godde-buff and I had to agree, after batting around different images, needs, words,  and concepts about God, that we both were talking about the same thing, basically a Mystery we knew nothing—and everything—about.  A Mystery for  whom we both long and linger over lunch about.

Meet Maud.