Friday, August 26, 2011

rainy day 5

For today's Friday 5, Sally has outlined some ideas for a rainy day 5, and I'm lovin' the baptismal imagery along with the way it evokes some wonderful memories that bring along with them hope for future rainy days, hope for a world that has learned to steward water well and the anticipatory hint of my own life bringing me the essentials I need to be healthy and well again.

On a historical/contemporary note, as I'm typing this in southern California and the mid-morning sun it starting to shine through a few clouds, the almost unprecedented power of hurricane Irene is slamming the eastern coast and parts inland from Canada through the Caribbean Islands, so many of us are praying hard.

Sally asks about our activities on a rainy summers day:

1. Concerning a rainy day at home, if I don't need to leave the house for work or church or another commitment, I still cannot tolerate staying at home, but if it's raining so hard that venturing outside into the weather would be dangerous and unpleasant, I'll try to find ingredients for an extra-tasty meal and if it's not too hot and humid, probably bake something, too.

2. When it's a rainy day in my local area, again assuming not having workplace work and/or its not being a Sunday worship day, how about checking out sales at the big mall or strip mall and having lunch at a less-expensive sit-down restaurant? I'm about 5 miles from the beach, and if it's light rain or heavy mist, a slow walk on the side alongside the ocean is a great idea—also followed by lunch out, of course!

3. When it rains and I'm away on holiday that probably would lead to a museum or museums, lunch, a little shopping or window shopping , and in some places, thrift stores!

4. I can't think of a specific rainy day read, but rain and mist outside my habitat sometimes creates a great environment for sorting and sifting through my books, deciding what to read again, discovering books and chapters that remain unread and planning for the future. Unlike a lot of people, I'm not a compulsive reader and often I'm not in process and progress of reading anything.

5. I don't know that there's a particular piece of music/ a poem/ story that cheers me up, but just as a rainy, quiet time sometimes leads to a little book sorting and even house cleaning, it's also a great time to pull out a few CDs I haven't listened to in a while. That answer was kind of fuzzy, but it matches the landscape's appearance and impression when it rains.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

24 August Faith, Order & Witness opening prayer

Holy God, in love your gracious Word called into being all that is.
From the beginning of Your gift of time
You have delighted to journey alongside all creation;
in the power of the Holy Spirit of life,
Your gracious Word has formed us and called us,
the Church of Jesus Christ,
to live as Your redemptive and reconciling presence amidst creation.
We thank You for granting us another opportunity to discuss our own perspectives
and even our differences
that the people we meet and the creation we steward
would recognize Jesus Christ in us.
In Jesus' Name we pray, amen!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

9 years all in one (2)

caper 2This is not a hunter-gatherer society; this is the early 21st century. Meaning yes, I do need to use my education, gifts and experience to benefit others and no, I cannot be well unless I'm doing so. I'm longing for the dignity of participating in life to an extent reasonably related to my abilities; I'm looking for the redemption of love.

Here's the second of my previously 9 posts eclipsed into only two.

Regarding my own future prospects. Walter Brueggemann says "bright, skilled educated people are valued and sought after." He also speaks of people feeling nullified, which exactly has been my experience for too long now, though I haven't been feeling much of anything forever, and recovering reasonable emotional responses is one of my major goals for the future. Related to which and related to the past, I know my use of tools and interventions such as psychotherapy and 12-step processes has been usefully practical. I've taken them for what they're worth and have become adept at eating up the apple and spitting out the core and most of the seeds.

I read somewhere that "being over-responsible is neurosis (does anyone use that word anymore?); being irresponsible is character disorder--you really can't help being a little of one or the other at times." Like many women, I tend toward the over-responsible/neurosis end and struggle not to assume agency for everything that happens in my life. How-some-ever, I do realize that for structural and other reasons, the small parish typically will not be able to offer me the opps I need and want, and for the most part that's where I've tried hanging out.

I'm a theologian so I do ambiguity and paradox very well, but many many situations are not at all paradoxical or ambiguous.

Cornel West speaks of "dangling people:" I don't have the exact context, but would describe it as folks with no organic connection to anyone or much of anyone else. Organic connection means you're part of something living, you're attached to it in more than a single sense, you receive from it and you give to it in something related to a symbiotic one. The rest of the "organism" recognizes you as part of them, knows you need to participate in their life and realizes they need to participate in yours (in mine). They basically know who you are! People do the best when and where they get the most support.

When a person moves to a new geographical area, whether because of marriage, school, work or all three, it takes a while to start connecting, but after all this time… Another faith, order & witness committee member observed with a sense of surprise that amongst homeless, street-bound populations a social order evolves. I commented, "of course—that's a given!" It's also a given that in a complex society where everyone is involved in several, sometimes dozens of places (family, church, work, school, clubs, professional organizations) no one will assume a place and a role in every one of them, but needs to know who and where they are in at least a few.

I describe the kind of theology I do as the interface of church and society, Christianity and culture but given that I'm not doing much of anything out there in the world (but need to have mercy on myself, because when you're constantly in scratch for life survival mode what can you do), meaning I have almost nothing to think about or write about. I'm thinking if I get out there in various venues, I might meet people and have experiences that would lead to some great blogging and even people and communities that might be interested in me--or at least curious! When singer Amy Winehouse died a couple weeks back, a lot of media talk commented on guilt, responsibility, mutual guilt and inter-responsibility (impossible to tease out much of anything) and someone said other people had not made life worthwhile enough for Amy or for others who either OD'd accidentally or directly committed suicide. For sure memories, symbols, images and (particularly scriptural) texts and previous experiences all take a part in literally mediating our current experiences.

Some New Age and other self-improvement types speak of needing to find happiness, fulfillment, etc, within oneself. That is so wrong! Needless to say, a person needs to do the "inner work," sometimes in a formal sense like psychotherapy or 12-step groups, but ultimately a person finds the plain and simple, bread and butter state happiness and the deeper, more resonant reality of joy in service to others. Some situations are ambiguous; many aren't. Some experiences and lack thereof are not quantifiable, but quite a few easily can be counted.

What can I do to help revitalize my own life? Nothing, really, but I can tell people what I need and what I want; I can ask them for what I need and what I want. I fully expected to return to full participation in mainline church and mainstream society and as I've previously written, I very much still desire aspects of both, and would be more than satisfied with a few opps to dance around their edges.

You know it isn't, "but I prepared to be: pastor of Riverside Church; CEO of Apple; Cleveland Orchestra Music Director; Attorney General of the USA… became so very qualified and someone else got the job." In real life I prepared for a life of service to church and world that would use the gifts God gave me in a variety of ways; wisely, I wasn't necessarily focused on serving in a single particular venue, but assumed most of the skills I developed were transferable and translatable into many. For example, if I'd insisted on a career teaching Sanskrit at the graduate level in a Brazilian University, that would have been opening myself to an eventually probably not happening, but that's not what I did.

But remembering and literally re-visiting and re-visioning times with friends, times of service, times of shared meals, working on various kinds of projects is part of helping realize what might be, even in the very near future. There were a lot of good and healthy times in the past, a lot of events that helped create community and even helped the participants become more who God created them to be. So a list? Not right now, not at this time, but I'm working on one. Peace!

9 years all in one…(1)

caper 2This is not a hunter-gatherer society; this is the early 21st century. Meaning yes, I do need to use my education, gifts and experience to benefit others and no, I cannot be well unless I'm doing so. I'm longing for the dignity of participating in life to an extent reasonably related to my abilities; I'm looking for the redemption of love.

A few weeks ago I wrote and published 9 posts in 9 days for my 9-year blogoversary, but then unpublished them and may or may not blog them once more. Given that, I'm attempting to consolidate the sense of the 9 posts into only two.

The original ministry model that attracted me keeps hunting me and chasing me down. As a very young kid I planned to be an artist, "but a greater Love drew me."

Forever I've had a thing about houses, so I'll begin by remembering when I was in high school walking past another fire-gutted building, yet another boarded-up house and grieving for the lives they'd once held and celebrated, yet sensing hope for the futures they still might contain if circumstances would change for them. Exactly like neighborhoods, people do the best where they get the most support, when they're in an environment where they can experience interdependence and trust, when have human and other connections that help provide literally vital (life-giving, life-sustaining) nutrients. The health of a house, the health of an individual depends upon the health of their environment and on their having life-giving nutrients flowing into them.

A few years ago I blogged about many kinds of poverty in addition to the no-brainer $$$, and how much more evident and visible those poverties seem to be in some areas than elsewhere. I'm using the analogy of decaying, declining, inner-city/working-class suburban neighborhoods that once had trees, amenities, services, people, street furniture, national retail outlets and hope but declined to complete dysfunction, fear and hopelessness as each of those features left moved out, broke and wasn't fixed or replaced or crumbled into total decay. No one can survive long, stay alive or be revived without being connected to sources of nourishment of all kinds.

Like anyone, telling myself how much worse everything could have been has been a major survival tactic for me and occasionally you gotta do that but it's always very very easy to find people worse off (in one or more aspects) and people who are better off (in one way or another). For sure, I'd taken a huge hit but just as true, many people have come out on the other side of far, far worse. But everything depends on my finding a community that welcomes me and my participation; in the history of the world it never has happened otherwise, because it cannot be otherwise.

Retrospectively glancing not only at the social, financial, occupational and assorted "other" poverties of the past too many years, I also need to assess and celebrate my accomplishments. Despite relative poverties of context and connections - human basics I need to find again in order to plain ole survive - I've accomplished lots more than simply keeping up with the laundry. However, my cry and question remains if what I'm asking is so unique, impossible and undoable, why have I observed people all around me doing exactly the ministry I prepared to do and still feel called to do? Why have most of my offers been refused and rebuffed? Why do other people have reasonable social context? This being a navy town, I often watch homecomings on the news and long for homecomings of my own. Part of me wants to discredit a couple of dozen people informing me that my abilities and level of accomplishment have been getting majorly in the way of my participating. So true that only Jesus saw everything clearly all the time, but even allowing for their vision being a tad askance, I know they're correct. Ages ago I made a scrapbook poster for myself that said, "Follow your heart--the best is yet to come! But you've got to be an expert!" And that I've become.

To be continued.

Friday, August 19, 2011

trippin' on the road again 5

Jan hosts today's road trips 5:
"Tell us about five road trips—in your childhood, in your family, in your recent past, with friends, and/or hoped-for-places-to-drive-to. Don't forget the one that stands out as the BEST or as the worst time."
1. Boston to MontrĂ©al and back with 5 college classmates during winter break—I especially loved stopping for lunch in Hanover, New Hampshire and checking out Dartmouth College. Snow everywhere and it was clean, white, near-pristine!

2. Salt Lake City to Zion National Park

3. Salt Lake City to Capitol Reef National Park—"The Spirit of Capitol Reef..."

4. ...and also to Bryce Canyon National Park

5. The four I listed all were great, though just maybe the Utah National Parks were the best. I listed only big ones that entailed traveling some distance, but I have happy memories of taking short drives up the coast, down the coast, to the Canadian border and to the Mexican border and trust there will be more, both day trips and long ones.

Friday, August 12, 2011

grateful 5

for today's Friday 5, Terri hosts 5 about gratitude:

1. I'm living in the paradox of an open end

2. surprise! I haven't been annihilated—as someone pointed out to me, "not s single door has been permanently closed"

3. I'm learning to ask for what I need

4. God's last Word always is a big "Yes, Amen!" to life itself

5. I am so loving the summer fruit, summer berries and summer veggies

Friday, August 05, 2011

projects in progress 5

Officially, today's host Kathryn calls this edition 5 about What To Do, What To Do... and asks, "I'm wondering if anyone else out there takes a week off of work to do a different kind of work:"

1 Have you ever 'staycationed' in order to work on a project? If no, would you?

No, never, but I just might if/and I again have employment that offers vacation time, but it would need to be something somewhat like I'm saying in 2,

2 What project did you or would you tackle first?

Painting the walls of a room or two (kitchen and dining area still have the paint from when I moved in here), refinishing or painting a piece of furniture (or two or three). Happily, I've (re)painted all the furniture of that type (I LOVE painted furniture) in about a dozen colors all told; I've also refinished quite a few pieces!

3 Any other projects?

I've been doing very very well about keeping closets cleaned out and contents recycled through the local thrift store. Over the past few years I've also freecycled 100+ things, all in good condition, that potentially would be valuable to other people and families.

4 What are the pitfalls of a staycation for you?

Possibly getting so tied up in anxieties nothing at all gets done. I'm well aware that a moderate amount of effort gets the best results and no, I'm not trying too hard and no, I'm not lounging back and waiting for life to come to me, but for most of my life I've lived with a severe compulsive-style disorder that makes being alone intolerable and next to impossible.

5 Never mind this staying at home business, where do you want to go and what do you want to do there?

The beach - any beach - and the desert - any desert - let's throw Morocco and Singapore into the mix, too! Thanks, Kathryn!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

responding to dirty feet and more...

Yesterday I commented on a blog post, "Dirty Feet" by Anne Jackson (original page no longer online). After rereading what I'd written more than once, I knew it was just right for this blogsite, a great beginning for the 8th month of August's blogs and a solid way to continue my 10th year of blogging. Since I'm quoting myself I won't blockquote indent, so here's what I said:

hmmm… interesting. I have a related story I’d love to tell you. Maundy Thursday evening 2007 I was in worship at the PCUSA where I’d become reasonably active. In many ways my life and ministry that truly had disintegrated was starting to reweave (it’s gone way downhill again, but that’s another narrative for later).

maundy thursday posterDuring that Lent I’d facilitated a 6-part course on theology of the cross I’d developed for the Sunday adult bible study group; the interim pastor and I had planned and celebrated eucharist at noon every day in Holy Week and I’d even provided the piano prelude music for that Maundy Thursday evening’s liturgy. In addition, I was excited because I knew that later on Pastor Scott would be praying a eucharistic prayer I’d written, but it was time for foot washing, a long-standing practice in that congregation; they encouraged everyone to participate. The quite a bit older person I was sitting beside asked if I was going to be washed and to wash others; I told her no, I had an embarrassing foot condition and needed minor foot surgery. Immediately she asked me, “but would you let Jesus wash your feet?!” hmmm… interesting! If he doesn’t wash us, we have no part in him…

…once AGAIN I’m in the midst of again wondering if and how I can continue doing life on my own…

However, the liturgical /lectionary semi-purist (only "semi" because in real life I have a fairly wide low-church streak and because more often than not these days I worship with a congregation that follows LBW liturgy, hymns, and lectionary rather than Revised Common Lectionary like most of the rest of the world) protests but right now we're in the midst of Ordinary Time, that green and growing and well-ordered liturgical season that parallels and replicates are own growth in the Spirit as individuals and as community. After all, Anne's blog and my comment both are anecdotes from Holy Week, before Good Friday, before Easter, before the Day of Pentecost that initiates a long, winding, greening, browning trek in the Spirit and in the flesh through orchards, valleys, cities, alleys, fields of gold, and dark places manifold.

During that aforementioned theology of the cross course I led during Holy Week 2007 and also the following summer at another church, for one of the classes we prayed together this beautiful observation from Paul Hammer:
love one another

Jesus, how common can you get? Foot washing, bread, wine!
If you're going to be religious, at least use something special.
No, my friend, I came not to perform special religious rites
But to touch the daily life of everyone
With God's love in the commonest of things.

O.K., water, bread, wine.
But isn't foot washing a bit ridiculous?
And what about "this is my body"?
And "this cup is the new covenant in my blood"?

Foot washing is the work of the commonest servant—I came to serve.
But it points beyond to the "washing" of the cross—
God's self-giving service in me to cleanse away estrangement
And heal the distortions in people's lives.
The bread points to nourishment in that same self-giving of God
At work in my body, that is in me.
And the cup points to the new community drawn together and nourished
In my blood, that is in God's total self-giving in my death.

Do you mean that this common stuff of water, bread and wine
Becomes in you the very focus of God's love for me and for the world?
That there is no excuse for my not loving my common neighbor?
Because you have shown the depth of God's love for me?

You've got it!
But it isn't a love for special occasions.
It has to be that daily love that's as common as water, bread and wine!

Originally I posted that on this blog here.
If Jesus doesn't wash us…

In Acts 6 we hear about the young, newly birthed church's first act of ordination. They did not ordain elders to govern and steward the church or ministers of word and sacrament to interpret scripture, preach and teach the gospel, to administer sacraments and ordinances in historical continuity. They first laid hands on and set apart deacons, that order of servants that historically has represented the church to the world in direct service, what a Facebook and blogger friend refers to as "basin and towel ministry." In baptism God re-creates and rebirths us into Jesus' image, the image and reality of the One who walked among us to show us the Servant God. 'nuff said?! Probably so!