Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014.09.28 Women Who Talk Too Much?

When I’m in an informal group of women, 2 or 3 but no more than 6 or 7, I notice a phenomenon. It’s enough to die laughing over—or die for.

I only notice it when I stop talking myself and listen—detached from my own thoughts enough to hear the whole.

All the other women talk at once and keep right on talking. It sounds like the proverbial hen or chicken house, but, at closer hearing, it’s not.

Women seem to be able to talk and listen at once. Everyone talks at once, everyone listens and hears at once, and everyone comes away knowing what was said and mostly by whom—and still with her own reflections intact and often enriched or altered by what she has heard. Now that’s amazing! My husband says it's baloney! (He really used another b word.)

It seems to me that the key to this phenomenon is in the breathing pauses. We all do have to breathe after all. Perhaps it is in the breathe that the thread of meaning and content is picked up. How Spirit-uelle.

Of course you might not want to count on such a group in any formal way. Such groups have only one agenda: being together. We’re usually not trying to accomplish a task. I’ve been in groups where we women take turns in an ordered way, a linear way. I prefer the breath-filled chaos.

Learning theories about women suggest that in fact some women learn best by connection or in relationship—in a group. Connected learning.


                                                            YAK IT TO ME, BABY!

This practice can be risky. Occasionally, a gavel might be useful. Also, basic relational rules, to say nothing of courtesy, suggest that one person should speak at one time, a space should be left, and then a response made. ONe. ONe. ONe. Such rules of conversation work better for my own "sin" of interrupting—usually out of the fear I may not get heard at all, an old conditioned habit.

My spouse, a man, sometimes shouts out, “Stop talking.” He clutches his hands to his head: “I can’t get my thoughts together. You don’t know what I was going to say. Let me finish!”  He thinks I’m interrupting, filling in his blanks. He has a point. I tell him I'm only commenting, interjecting stuff as we go along. To me, I interject as HE goes along. I don't understand why he just doesn't pick up and keep going. “This is a conversation,” I say, and add, “Besides, you go on and don’t stop.”  Then I talk some more, just to clarify—until one of us exits the space.

I mentioned this phenomenon to my male dentist and his female hygienist. She and I laughed. The dentist said: “Tell me about it, I eat lunch with all of them,” and waved his hand, referring to a good-sized all-female office staff.

Perhaps Godde made women multi-task thinkers and talkers needing snatches of breath—a mind on several tracks. It could be a gift to help us hold onto women friends and keep track of children, or even lively canine pets, who dart and race through the world exploring recklessly, in their developing years and beyond. It’s like having antennae.

As we evolve, and gender roles lose their grip, men and fathers might develop this capacity, though I suspect not to the same breathy degree.

Godde the Spirit breathes in us, in each one differently, as any sensitive deity would.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014.09.21 The Old Nantucketeer

In this morning moment, I try to memorize summer as it fades before my eyes. I shall miss it so, as the coldness creeps, then settles, into my bones. But for now, I memorize its every sweetness and prepare to give up berries for apples, bare shoulders for hunched, shivering ones, bare feet for double socks, clear lungs for congested ones, and soft Nantucket sands for my thick comforter. I do, however, adore the beauty of naked trees in winter—also, the glitter of new snow and the gleeful shouts of sledding kids in the nearby park. Still, my island home is kinda mystical to me—a little scary, a little awesome, like the holy.
 As an ode to summer's end, I jotted this proem:

The Old Nantucketeer

We met an old Nantucketeer
on line at the ferry dock—
there to meet a ferry pick-up,
there to pick up guests.
On the rear window of his sizable SUV—
portly as was he—
there was a familiar identifier: a white shield
with a red cross emblazoned, its
upper left corner blue with little white stars
forming an X, five from upper left
to lower right and five from upper right to lower left.
Tic tac doe, or is it toe?
Above the cross arrangement is written
The Episcopal Church.
The church calls its pretty little shield, “soft evangelism.”
For me it was recognition.
My emergent aging extroversion kicked in, “Hi...........
I saw your decal." I stuck my head part way into his window,
interrupting his snooze.
He was buckled into his seat in a reverie of ease.
He awakened and chuckled: “I’ve been coming here
since I was a child; my parental home was in Monomoy
so I know it must have been a mansion,
characteristic of Monomoy and of our Episcopal church.
With some exceptions, I thought.
“Natives fuss about tourists and the summer influx,” he continued.
“I’ve been coming here for over 50 years, summers
and sometimes in winter, “ I interrupted, noticing initials
primly embroidered on the cuffs of his white shirt.
Fancy. Sweet. I’d met a Brahmin.
"People like me, he added, "are called visitors, but we visitors
shed tears when we leave the island." (I know.)
"My brother is fatter than I am," he said. Bragging?
"I can hardly get about anymore."
The ferry horn blasted, signaling
more noxious tourist-types arriving—beloved immigrants—
and some leaving.
My new friend opened his car door and, with labor,
heaved his bulk forward and landed his feet on the pavement.
“You know what they say about Nantucket?” he said.
I waited.
“Nantucket is a chronic infectious disease
 not covered by Medicare.”
He shook in silent mirth; I laughed out loud.
Then I spotted my son and his family bounding
down the ferry gangplank. Hi. Hi. Hi.
I was here when this son was conceived, or was it
when I was pregnant with his sister?

Time gets lost.

My Episcopal friend waved down his friends, turned to
me and said, “I’m devoted to St. Paul’s Episcopal here,
but I worship now at the Congregational Church.”
My irritation rose, fell, and vanished.

I thought, but didn’t say: Next year in Jerusalem.
It sounded like a psalm, more stately than what I actually said:
"Next year in Nantucket."

Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014.09.14 Holy Cross Consecration

Today, in the Christian church, it is Holy Cross Day, a day we remember the holiness of the cross of Christ. (I think it is good to have another day, so that we do not pile all our dolorous grief into one day, Good Friday.)  But a holy execution? Weird, huh? Yes, it is, but it is historic. Jesus Christ is our hero and he dedicated his life, and lost it, condemned for treason to crucifixion. Why holy?

Because:  (1) Jesus taught that God was Love unbounded and died in that faith. (2) Divine grace, he preached, meant forgiveness, erasure, different from pardon, of all sins—a clean slate for those who sincerely desired it. And (3) He had converts who believed his words, loved and followed him, and thought he was “king”—too rivalrous for the Emperor of the day to ignore. He didn't recant from his message and suffered torture for it. There is is holiness in such brave love. It deserves reverence—not to laud suffering, but to honor courage, conviction, and trust in God.

I try to remember that there is no one who has never suffered. There, of course, are degrees, but what you have suffered and do suffer is yours and to be honored equally in the economy of grace.

Comparisons about suffering are about as odious as any other comparisons, though they sometimes help us feel a little bit less narcissistic in our own plights—which is not a bad thing. When I look at the Crucifix with Jesus hanging there, I shudder, and I thank God for thinking ahead. Suffering is not the last word.

Today I am praying for and with my sister who is in pain. I pray courage and good medicine her way. She is feisty and will walk........if not on her legs, then on her butt in a motorized chair.

Yesterday, I, and thousands of other faithful Episcopalians, clergy and lay, attended the consecration of Alan M. Gates, as the 16th bishop of Massachusetts. When the Church gathered does a big new thing, we all come, and we all cheer, and we all sing our lungs out, and hope our hearts out. It is a new day.

We will mourn our former bishop, who is in the process of his dying, and we will cheer our new bishop who will provide new and different leadership. It’s hard to do both at once, yet tears belong in equal force to goodbye and hello. When I saw the former bishop hand over the crozier of guidance to his successor and then walk off the platform and leave, I cried. Later I cried again as I watched all the old, mostly male, bishops slowly come down from the platform to process out. I thought: “I am watching the old boys’ patriarchal church proudly march out—and I am an old girl."  They have served with grit and faith. So have I. It is a new day. I don’t know what the new church will look like, but I know the Spirit will stick around to set fire to it.
Photo: Former Bishop M. Thomas Shaw (left) says goodbye and newly consecrated bishop Alan M. Gates (right) says hello. The Rt. Rev. Mark Hollingsworth (seated) bishop of Ohio and preacher of the day looks on. This day we applauded everything!

The consecration Eucharist was joy on steroids—diverse and amazing soul-music, a panoply of festive red vestiture, and prayers of gratitude and blessing, and a hockey rink dressed up to be  Church-for-a-day!  It was a red-letter day. Red is the color of the Holy Spirit. She is all aflame, spreading her fiery grace on us all—no one consumed. All fired up, as they say.

Bishop Gates, in his own printed message, recalled a French proverb, attributed to Jean Massieu: “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” He elaborated some of his own memories, looked forward to making new ones, and closed with these words:“If gratitude is the memory of the heart, then my heart is overflowing with thankfulness. I thank you. I thank God for you.”

Whereas, if the heart be moved,
Although the verse be somewhat scant,
God doth supply the want;
As when the heart says, sighing to be approved,
‘O could I love!’ and stops, God writeth, “Loved.”
        George Herbert (1593-1633) Anglican priest/poet A True Hymn

Sunday, September 7, 2014

2014.09.07 Who/What Is God/Godde or god?

A wondrous tweenager I'll call Tweenie  got in a ‘tween-fight with other girls at school. What in the world would girls fight about but boys, or maybe fashion?  These girls were fighting about religion. Excuse me?

One of their number was from an Assembly of God tradition and had very clear ideas about religion. To her, God was Jesus, and you had to be “saved” to get right with God, not to mention the community. My Tweenie, having been less “carefully taught” in the Episcopal tradition, thought that her friend's brand of religion was the stupidest thing she’d ever heard of. The girls got heated in their dispute about salvation and ended up in the Principal’s office. (I bet it was the first time this principal had to arbitrate this kind of an all-girl dispute. Rather refreshing, don’t you think?) 

The Principal managed to extract what had happened and to arbitrate some mild reconciliation—with a bonus. Tweenie had said some very nasty things to the “religious freak.” There were witnesses. She was seized with remorse, so much so that she agreed to go to church with her freaky religious friend, at which point her mother called me—worried that her daughter would become a Jesus freak, or some kind of a politically incorrect fundamentalist.

I told Mom not to worry. Worse things than Jesus can happen. She wanted me to talk to her daughter.  I told tweenheart just to go to church and observe. Be curious. I explained about altar calls and told her that God had given her a good mind and heart and trusted her to make her own decision in matters of faith—something like, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, though you might feel pressured. I may have said Jesus wasn’t all that bad, but I don’t remember.
 So Tweenie went to church, and of course she came home with an "annunciation": “I am saved!”  Turning to her older sister, she added: “You really should be saved. It would help you a lot.”

Out of the mouths of tweenagers.............   Mom was relieved and told Tweenie she'd go to church with her the next week—good Mom. By the time next week rolled around, "salvation" was out and the mall was in. Annunciation # 2 and #3, just as vociferous, followed: “I am an atheist. I'm thinking about majoring in religious symbolism."

It’s easy to laugh at such innocence. It is quirky and wonderful. But I never scorn sincere confusion about God. You don’t have to be a teen to get confused. Many days I wonder myself.  I just wrote to a friend whose dear friend, a young woman of 45, had finally wasted away and died from cancer and its treatments. I’d met this woman, whom I will call BFF-Beloved, and had been praying like mad for remission. My friend has as many queries about God as Tweenie.

I had no good words except those of my Christian faith in the God of Jesus Christ, by no means an easy-answer religion. And I had the memory of a primary experience of this God I’d met under a table as a very young child who listened to my every word, even the nasty ones, and let me know I mattered. On these two poles I balance, most days precariously, like the spinning plates of a juggler, all my faith and all my doubt.

So I wrote: “I want to hold in my mind my memory of your friend's former vibrant self, which, by my faith, is still there and will be resurrected in God. God, you know, is only a name, a vocabulary word really, for the unfathomable mystery of Love. Most of us know how inefficient love can be, yet it is always effective. And most people believe in the power of love, finite and infinite. You loved well. love, Me"

Tweenie has loved well, too. Now 15, she is about to be a godmother. A GODmother?  I wondered what she’d do about the God she didn’t believe in. Still, she is honored to be chosen and proud to take on this role. Annunciation #4:  "I am now an “agnostic theist.”

Could you do better than that?