Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mothers and Daughters

She's back!

And as it happens and in spite of myself, I've been doing a lot of thinking about mothers and daughters and loss, no doubt in subconscious preparation for the start of CPE on Monday.

I've talked about this before: after the initial shock of my mother's death, I more or less went on with life. Not my old life, but the one I'd suddenly inherited. I did not dwell on loss or change; those are matters with which adults occupy themselves, and I was seven. I was aware for many years, of course, that I was the only child and then adolescent and then young woman of my acquaintance who did not have a mother, but that was what I knew and I more or less accepted it, moving forward with little curiosity about the woman who had vanished from my life so quickly and so completely.

When I became a mother myself, I was very consciously stunned by the wave of awareness that washed over me. I remember distinctly sitting in my hospital bed one morning when the boys were a couple of days old, staring down at the tiny blonde heads propped on pillows in my arms, and thinking: There was once on this planet someone who loved me like this. I had had no idea that there was such love loose in the universe, and the thought that I had once been its direct object, but for only a brief and barely-remembered period of time, was almost more than I could absorb.

I have been, as a mother, frequently and attentively alert to a sense of gratitude. Not as something to blather on about, and not in times of confusion and despair. But much more of the time than not, in a form of silent awareness. I would glance out int the back yard while three children were constructing something out of nothing, or peer into the sunroom when they were playing a game, and think to myself: You are absolutely enveloped by good fortune. As my children grew, and especially as they passed the ages my younger brother and I had been in 1960, I often thought of my mother and what she had missed. The big events, of course: the recitals and plays, the graduations, the first jobs and, someday, the weddings and babies. But more poignantly, the little moments: all that back yard construction and deconstruction, the sand castles, the late night walks, the hours and hours of reading aloud, the soccer games, the tea parties for cats.

For the past few months, I have longed for my mother as an advisor and counselor, as a source of insight and sagacity. I have depended for most of my life on the support of other girls and women, and have usually had a close circle of female friends, starting with the girls I met when I began boarding school at the age of twelve, but I realized a few weeks ago that, at the moment, the people upon whom I most rely for advice and encouragment are all male. It's an odd situation for me, and I wish my mother were here. Of course, my mother did not live long enough to become the fount of wisdom for whom I long; I have lived nearly twice as long as she did and have far more to share in the way of experience and contemplation thereon than she had the opportunity to gain. But I wish that things were otherwise.

Yesterday the Lovely Daughter and I made the six-and-one-half hour drive home from Chicago. We listened to WICKED, which I have been waiting to share with her -- I knew that as a one-time peformer in and techie for musicals, she would "get" it. And we talked nonstop for the rest of the trip. About seminary and new friends and new dreams (me). About Czech restaurants and roommate challenges and the Gaudi cathedral and senior year and the possibility of future employment related to international study (her). About churches and sermons (me). About Auchswitz (her). I gave her some advice. She gave me some advice. We talked and talked and talked. And talked.

I wish I could be the daughter of a mother.

I LOVE being the mother of a daughter.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Not the Friday Five


I'm up -- I'm on vacation (sort of) -- and the Friday Five is up, too -- but it's about garage sales, which are definitely not my thing. In fact, my thing this summer is the opposite (sort of) and I'd love some help. Herewith, then, my own Friday Five:

You've lived in your house for 24+ years and you suffer from Packrat Syndrome, no doubt due to deeply rooted fears of loss, dislocation, and turmoil, as well as the equally well-established deadly sin of Sloth. Your first mistake was purchasing a home with a basement and three (!) attics as well as a library (not to mention the aforedescribed rotting soffits and dangling gutters, which have now been repaired at a cost equal to all Third World Debt). Your storage space houses children's materials ranging from the artwork of three-year-olds to the college acceptances of eighteen-year-olds, books and magazines on virtually every topic under the sun, clothing in enough sizes to restock an entire boutique featuring styles of the past two decades, the debris of a lifelong addiction to photography, and numerous items of indeterminate origin and classification. And you are by nature, sadly, a piler and not a filer.

It's a good thing you hate garage sales because they would be toxic for you.

You have three months, with maybe an hour a day available to tackle the challenge of liberating your home and yourself from your unfortunate tendency to accumulate and preserve. You know that you need an underlying methodological approach, you would like to keep those things which have true meaning and/or use for you, and you would also like to be able to move into your dream house -- a 1200 square foot bungalow -- at a moment's notice.

Suggestions welcome!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

High Tech High Competence

The Lovely Daughter may have navigated eight countries this past semester, and Chicago Son may have had a year of success at a high-tech job, but at the moment they are wandering around O'Hare unable to find one another and calling me, the boring and staid mom sitting at home and watching tv, apparently in the hope that my Glinda wand will reunite them.

Just an observation, that's all.

My Own Little Desert

Given the opportunity, I would almost always choose one of two activities early in the morning: a long walk through a world in which almost no one else is about, or sinking into a heap of pillows with a fleece blanket pulled around me for a good read in bed. Today I began with with the latter, starting Beldon Lane's The Solace of Fierce Landscapes for the second time through. It's a book that calls out to the interlocking textures of my own life, as he reckons with loss through the lenses of the contemporary desert of the American southwest, the ancient desert of the church fathers and mothers of Egypt, and the inner desert we all navigate, regardless of outer terrain.

Out of one desert experience and into another, and carrying a third around inside. Out of a first year of seminary, an experience that jolted me far from my comfort zone in ways I had not known to take into account a year ago. Into the experience of clinical pastoral education (hospital chaplaincy) that awaits me next week, one that I am assured will offer another detour from comfort. And inside, a life of prayer shaped by largely by the tradition of Ignatian spirituality and the Exercises, which I recently read described as "the Jesuits’ centuries-old secret weapon, their portable desert peopled with angels and demons."


Realizing that the gutter guys might show up at any moment: a quick break for a shower and to empty and vacuum the car, which yesterday I filled with the clutter from my room at seminary and tomorrow will drive to Chicago. Unbelieveable as it seems to me at the moment, the Lovely Daughter is presumably somewhere over the Atlantic and will touch down on American soil tonight. Her brother will retrieve her from O'Hare and tomorrow I will be with them both! I haven't seen him in the months since Thanskgiving, which he has spent constucting his first version of an adult life, and I haven't seen her since she got on that plane in January for a semester that would land her an apartment in Prague and visits to seven (I think!) other countries.


I had a plan for today. It involved sleep. But there is an online orientation for CPE that I have got to get to, a manuscript to read for a friend, a meeting at church this afternoon, a house in disarray, a daughter's room to prepare for a homecoming. And the gutter guys want to spend more money, so I guess I need to go out and win the lottery.


All of it in the desert, which looks suspiciously like the suburbs. I am feeling wistful at having left my behind my new community at seminary, surprised to realize that I have made a life there, surprised by how many people there were to hug yesterday. I am a bit perplexed as I think about The Quiet Husband and I, re-making a life together here after nine months of my being more absent than present. I am apprehensive about CPE: me, the girl with early memories of a hospital room permeated by the staggering loss of a mother and brother.


And I am grateful for those Jesuits, who have taught me that everything is prayer.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Geese in a Heap

Slightly older cousins of the ones I wrote about yesterday -- sixteen of them piled up alongside one of the Little Lakes.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Did It

Two finals last Wednesday. Three papers since then.

I have some clean-up editing to take care of tomorrow, but I have written about the second half of the New Testament, post-Enlightenment philosophy and religion, first century Christianity and Judasim, that ever-present issue of suffering, and 18 pages of Greek exegesis on John 21.

I so rock.

And. . . drum roll . . . one evening last week I got a call from the guys who finally showed up after nine months to work on our gutters, telling me that if they continue with the work on the garage it will probably fall down. Because of the previous inhabitants, velociraptor-sized carpenter ants. I cannot think about velociraptor carpenter ants at the moment, I muttered, I have to think about Karl Barth. Call my husband, I said. And I wouldn't be so concerned about the insects, I added. When you get to the front of the house, you may find that every racoon in the city has moved into the crawl space under the eaves. I was sort of kidding.

I came home a day later to find the entire front of our house encased in scaffolding and the front overhang lying in the yard. It was a little bit of a shock. Oh -- and apparently the guys had been a bit upset the day before when they discovered that they had to fill a 20-gallon bag with racoon -- ok -- excrement --, discovered behind the falling down soffit. But their sense of humor had reportedly returned with the re-telling of the story -- although I notice they've taken the entire week-end off.

But you know what? I'm good with all this. Because I rock.

I cannot imagine how we are going to pay for the reconstruction of what is left of our house. I wish the guys had shown up a year ago; I might have decided that I needed to keep my job and forego seminary had I known what lay around the bend. Oh well; too late. I suppose we will figure it out. But it really is something of a disaster out there.

And you know what? It's all OK. Because I spent part of this afternoon and evening standing around the Little Lakes with a small crowd of people watching Canada goslings hatch.

How cool is THAT?

Oh, Why Not a Friday Five on Sunday?

Here's what Sally over at RevGals had for us:

1. Getting ready for summer, do you use the gradual tanning moisturisers ( yes gentlemen you too can answer this!!!), or are you happy to show your winter skin to the world?

I did not know there was such a thing as a gradual tanning moisturizer. Always contemporary and trendy, that's me. And actually, given my risk for skin cancer, I cover up as much as possible.

2.Beach, mountains or chilling by the pool, what/ where is your favourite getaway?

Why do these people always ask us to make impossible choices? I choose beach and mountains and pool. And as you can see above, I am perfectly willing to share my beach with cows, provided that the beach is on Iona.

3.Are you a summer lover or does the long break become wearing?

I've always loved long, lazy summer days. When the kids were little, a group of us used to take them all to a nearby lake for long days that ended when the park finally closed at 9:00 pm. Some of my favorite memories include those evenings as the shadows lengthened and we convinced little ones to come out of the water and got them changed from swimsuits to jammies for the hour drive home.

This summer, with CPE starting at the beginning of June and running till mid-August, and the Lovely Daughter transitioning between her summer job in North Carolina and her senior year of college in Oregon at that point, and a busy week-end retreat for my spiritual direction program followed by a niece's Labor Day wedding, the best I can do for a break is my four or five day retreat in Michigan at the very end, right before I go back to school

4.Active holidays; hiking swimming, sailing, or lazy days?

ANOTHER one? I choose all four, plus all the other travelling things I like to do.

5.Now to the important subject of food, if you are abroad do you try the local cuisine, or do you prefer to play it safe?

I'm not sure what "play it safe" entails here. We go to cafes and we eat. Although I have to admit that, when the kids were middle school age, we found a fabulous pizza and pasta place in Paris and ate there four or five nights in a row. The Lovely Daughter was having a difficult time with the local cuisine concept. I believe that this past semester in Praha she's had to learn to adapt.

No bonus this week unless you can think one up!!!

OK: If you could fly to any city in your own country for a long week-end this summer, where would you go?

ANOTHER choice? Since I made it up, I guess I have to choose. I haven't been to the Southwest in way too long, so I chose Albuquerque.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Teddy Kennedy: Such Rough News

I am so very saddened to read the increasingly grim news about Senator Edward Kennedy's diagnosis. It sounds as though his cancer is a particularly vicious one (if there is such a thing), a direct attack on intellect and humor and energy.

There aren't many politicians of his ilk remaining. And whether your views and his are in sync (as in my case) or not, his passion and his energy for his work are, to use a tired phrase that in this case is true, awe-inspiring.

Robert Kennedy was the first politician who caught my attention, providing me with a vision of what politics might mean and accomplish. On the day that he was killed, I went to the town pool to do something that terrified me. I climbed to the top of the high board, looked down at the water which seemed to be about five miles beneath me, and decided that the only way that I had to honor his life was to dive in. Over and over again. I've never felt the slightest desire to dive off a high board since then, but that afternoon it was a means by which a small-town fourteen-year-old could demonstrate just the tiniest bit of courage in response to someone who had looked as though he might challenge our country to big things.

I wish I could make a high dive on behalf of Teddy Kennedy today.

Monday, May 19, 2008

OK, Just This One

Two exams and four papers by next Tuesday at 4:30 pm. All in progress. But, OK, one meme from Law and Gospel:

Ten years ago: I was practicing family law very very very part time and homeschooling the Lovely Daughter through fifth grade. Off the top of my head, what I remember about that year is many afternoon hikes, an involved study of China, the I-don't-know-how-many novels (50?) she read, pottery, flute, horseback riding, ice skating, making our way through fractions and decimals -- and an endless custody case in which I served as the guardian ad litem for five children whose family had imploded.

Five things on tomorrow's to do list:
1. Study for church history exam the next day.
2. Study for New Testament exam the next day.
3. Steering committee meeting to plan next fall's Peace and Justice events.
4. Meet with church history professor to discuss material for exam the next day.
5. Take a L-O-N-G walk.

Things I'd do if I were a billionaire:
1. Pay off the debt. Three kids in college and one mom in seminary over the course of five years? The results are not pretty.
2. Build that cottage overlooking the Matanzas River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, somewhere near St. Augustine.
3. Cameras, lenses, related stuff, and the trips all over the world to go with them.
4. Set up a fund at the small rural college with which my family is involved to provide consistent support for mothers returning to school. It serves a diverse Appalachian population for which higher education is usually a pipe dream. I have often thought that my own mother, had she lived, would have found an educational home there when we grew up and she discovered that she had aspirations beyond the two years of college she had completed before she got married.
5. And you know what I'd really love to do? Set up an interfaith center for expression and dialogue through the performing and visual arts.

Three bad habits:
1. I wash the dishes when I run out of them.
2. I don't take care of things like getting the dishwasher repaired.
3. I leave things where they fall.

Five places I've lived:
1. Vero Beach, Florida
2. Southwestern Ohio.
3. Western Massachusetts.
4. Providence, Rhode Island
5. Where I live now.

The five first jobs I ever had:
1. Mother's helper on Cape Cod. The summers of 1969 and 1970, which should give you some definitive clues as to my life then. Paul: be quiet.
2. Motel housekeeper. Most important tip for handling stultifyingly dull work: Clean the bathrooms and vacuum during the commercials so you can watch the soaps as you change beds and dust.
3. Waitress at Chautauqua Institution hotel. Great way to spend a college summer.
4. Hasbro Toy Factory assembly line worker making GI Joe flashlights. Probably the worst job of my life that I actually kept for awhile.
5. Drugstore cashier. Another tip for handling a boring job: Become an aficionado of magazines. Every single one on the rack. Use your imagination; I kid you not.

I tag: the other writers over at Women On... .

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Life as an Unkempt Nonentity

One of my friends has been selling silver jewelry via the house party plan, and yesterday she hosted just such an event for the purpose of going out of business. Wanting to support her efforts and thinking that she might have a little something that would make a nice welcome-home gift for the Lovely Daughter (eleven days, but who's counting?), I stopped by for a bit.

"I just don't seem to have any sense of style about jewelry," said another of her customers as she tried on a necklace. "I'm sure I could wear more than one piece at a time but truthfully, I wear almost none. I don't seem to know what to do with it."

"Ahhh..." I sighed. "You live here in Hippie City? Have you noticed that other women in the world are more, uh --"

"Put together?" she suggested.

"Exactly," I said.


One of the doctors at church offers a blood pressure check most Sundays after the service. Blood pressure having become something to which I need to be attentive, I usually stop by. And when I do, I wait in the doorway of the room where he is working, trying to stay out of view and earshot of whomever else he might be talking with.

Today, for the second week in a row, as he finally finished up with the person ahead of me, someone else, not someone waiting behind me but someone who had been nowhere in sight, sailed in from the hallway, brushed right past me, rolled up her sleeve, and announced that she was ready.

What am I, the doorstop?
I wondered.


And now what I want to know is: are these two things related?

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Over time, a spiritual director becomes your teacher. At first a listener, then a guide in prayer, a confidant, a sounding board, a source of support and encouragement. And then, somehow, a teacher -- not just in the usual sense of suggesting an approach or a question or a passage to pray with, not just via the usual means of that favorite spiritual direction phrase, "You might want to give some thought to..." -- but by way of coming to know you well enough, having listened intently to you over a long period of time, that he or she offers something that is exactly what you, as an individual, need to start hearing and learning right then. Sometimes it seems to happen unconsciously, on both sides of the equation.

A few weeks ago, my director sent me an email in response to something going on in my life (there's always something, right?) and ended by saying, "I'll be praying for you and with you."


I don't think I've ever heard anyone use that preposition there before, and I've been pondering it ever since.

What a wonderful thing to say. To do.

Don't get me wrong. Praying for someone is a good thing. But so often, when someone offers to pray for me, the prayer that emerges is theirs. Not mine. Not God's. There's a certain inescapable preesumptiveness there, which can be a very good thing indeed, but can also make it more rather than less difficult for you and God to be present to one another.

Someone praying with you, on the other hand -- what an arresting, moving, hopeful idea. Someone in solidarity with your longing for God's presence, with your struggles in discernment, with your hopes and your questions, with God's movement in your life.

This morning, as I was out walking, I tried very consciously to pray with, rather than for, the people who were on my mind. As I did, what bubbled to the surface was a very distinct awareness of the ways in which each of them encounter God, and how varied and multilayered God's approaches are. Of the seven people with whom I was specifically concerned, five of them do not, to my knowledge, believe in God in much of any way and two, being priests, are engaged rather intently with God all of the time. Not that that made any difference -- it merely highlighted the reality that God speaks in all kinds of ways to all kinds of people, regardless of the degree to which they are or are not consciously aware of it, and that by praying with them, we can see that in their lives. And then, gradually, the prayer becomes God's prayer with us -- which, I suppose, is what it has been all along -- and we discover that we are praying with God.

If you are reading this, perhaps you find the use of the preposition with in this context as striking as I do. Or perhaps not. But I think that I have started to learn something that is (to me, anyway) new and wonderful. I am much taken with this idea of praying with, instead of or in addition to for.
And I'm very grateful that someone offered it just when I needed and was able to hear it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Five Part Two

I've spent most of the day writing a paper on the Book of Revelation. It's actually been a surprisingly fascinating exercise. This morning it all suddenly came together in my head so, instead of dragging it out over the whole week-end as an alternative to studying for finals, I just whipped it off. (Meaning, I spent a couple of hours outlining and a few more writing. But that's a big improvement over the four days I spent on a five-pager a couple of weeks ago, when the thoughts and words just would not jell.)

However, the Friday Five (see prevous entry) has been in the back of my head all day, and I now have an addendum. My question for myself: Suppose you learned that you have exactly two weeks left on this planet of ours and, while you must spend the second one with your family, you are also required to spend the first anywhere that you like with all the friends and family you want to bring. One place. Money no object.

And so:

I think my choice is the
Cinque Terre. Right about this time of year. Several consecutive days of walking the paths among the villages along and above the Mediterranean,broken up by boat trips and kayaking IN the Mediterranean, and sunning on the rocks jutting out into the Mediterranean. Lingering over long lunches and longer dinners -- a different cafe and a different bottle of wine every time. Standing on the balcony OVER the Mediterranean and under a full moon every evening. All of it with a rather large group of all the people I love most.


I would cheat.

I would get there by flying to Paris and taking the train to Chartres first.

I need to see those windows again almost as much as I need to breathe. Yes, they are that wonderful.

Friday Five Travels

My favorite kind of daydream!

Name five places that fall into the following categories:

1) Favorite Destination -- someplace you've visited once or often and would gladly go again:

I'm supposed to choose ONE? I don't think so!
Chartres, Paris, the Cinque Terre, Florence, Rome, Prince Edward Island, St. Augustine , Cannon Beach, Iona, Toronto, Cumberland Island, Norway, Chiricahua Mountains ~ do I have to stop?

2) Unfavorite Destination -- someplace you wish you had never been (and why):

Las Vegas ---eeeeyyyuuuucccckkkkk! One of the first places I had to go as a young lawyer, for a week of pre-deposition investigation. It would be difficult to describe the sense of depression that overwhelmed me as I walked through casinos in the middle of the night watching people utterly entranced by pointlessness.

3) Fantasy Destination -- someplace to visit if cost and/or time did not matter:

Oh, come on! There's a limit? St. Petersburg, Nepal, Alaska, British Columbia, all of the Pacific Northwest Coast, Newfoundland, Lindesfarne, Madeleine Islands, there's that whole African continent... .

4) Fictional Destination -- someplace from a book or movie or other art or media form you would love to visit, although it exists only in imagination:
I think I have enough to do with the real places.

5) Funny Destination -- the funniest place name you've ever visited or want to visit:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Last year, having finished a year-long Ignatian 19th Annotation retreat, I was able to spend eight days in glorious silence at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Guelph,

This year my summer is packed with activity from beginning to end, and I had given up all hope of repeating my Guelph experience. But with the realization last week that my fall classes don't start until well after Labor Day, I discovered that I have a week to myself that I didn't know about. The Monday holiday is an unfortunate intrusion in this case, but starting on Tuesday I will be here for five days.

I plan to spend time every day until then looking forward to the silence and the prayer: long walks alternating with hours and hours and hours of immobility. A silent Ignatian retreat is total gift. I am basically ecstatic.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Tuesday Morning Musings: Fashion Edition

Yes, I've been shopping. I'm doing CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at Famous Giant Major Hospital, starting in three weeks. The barely acceptable parts of my current wardrobe consists of:

long, LONG skirts from my Jewish school teaching days,

long and comfy sweaters to pull on over tank tops and said skirts,

the jeans and cords that I slouch around in at seminary,

some capris that are sort of cute but hardly qualify as working wardrobe material.

My preference:

elegant linen pants that reach the tops of my shoes, not a few inches above and not eight inches below (I'm 5'3"),

tops with necklines that do not require creative new undergarments for each one and/or broadcast the message that there is really only portion of my anatomy of significance,

well-cut jackets long enough to cover my rear rather than bisecting it horizontally.

What's out there?

Prints so ugly, offered in an even worse color palette, that I'm astounded the designers are still employed,

Cute little empire tops that look absolutely adorable on the Lovely Daughter who will turn 21 this summer,

stiff and uncompromising pants that do not flatter anyone shorter than 5'8" or heavier than 100 pounds,

and absolutely lovely skirts and dresses designed for all those garden parties I will be attending night after night.

In a word, virtually nothing remotely acceptable for the woman past thirty who would like to come off as reliable and competent and self-restrained; someone who feels (on occasion at least) confident and attractive with no need whatever to display her shape or her skin; someone who adores her daughter but would prefer to look like herself.

I don't see much point in venturing into any clothing departments or stores for at least another season. Maybe by fall they will be displaying something for grown-ups.

(Cross-Posted at Women On...)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Miscellaneous Thoughts on a Monday Morning

Over at a new blogring of which I am a member, it was suggested that we write about the election. I find that I have little to say. I am intrigued by the fact that my brother, a businessman and lifeling Republican, tells me that McCain is a "no-way," that he could get behind Hilary without much of a problem, and that he is utterly frustrated by the apparent reality that the Dems are choosing Obama, whom he views as "maybe ready in another eight years."

Over at
Faithstones, there are a couple of posts on a book called UnChristian, which apparently reflects the reality that many young people view the church as hypercritical and judgmental and anti-gay. That's how my own three young people view it, which also intrigues me, since neither my church nor my church friends nor I could be described in that way. (Well, okay ~ I'm their mother ~ I suppose they might see me as critical at times.) The power of the media? Again? Which I hold responsible for the Obama/Clinton phenomenon? Why have my children, who have heard a lifetime series of sermons, talks, and discussions about the radical inclusivity of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and who have spent their lives in and out of the orbit of Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish friends, including a community of nuns and various members of the clergy, who have welcomed them at every turn, come to see the church as the polar opposite of the values they cherish?

This past week-end, I received a handwritten letter from a lifelong friend of my dad, who just wanted to tell me how delighted he was that I am studying for the ministry. I think he has every reason to guess that we are on opposite sides of The Issue referenced above, but he could not have been more gracious. I am always going to treasure that communication.

Our church was about to burst with the Spirit yesterday. You might have thought we were Pentecostals instead of the Frozen Chosen. Several young people from the local high school's award-winning choral program, which includes a phenomenal gospel choir, have begin to grace our sanctuary on Sunday mornings. I don't know which was better: the music, the communion, the preaching, that atmosphere of ~ ahem ~ radical inclusivity . . . I suppose it was the whole conglomeration, which actually caused a crowd of decently-and-in-order Presbies to break into applause several times.

OK, denial at work. Can you tell that I am making my major Greek presentation in a few minutes? The outline alone is 13 pages. (Things got a little out of hand this past week-end.) And would you be surprised that my take on John 21's breakfast on the beach has something to do with hospitality and inclusivity?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

I never much cared for Mother's Day as I was growing up. My real mother was gone and there were all those stepmothers and real and step-grandmothers and it was a lot to juggle.

But I've heard from my own three children today and the news has all been excellent, which has turned out to be a lot to ask when the number three is involved, so I'm good with this one.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Can You Tell What It Is?

It's been so long since I've posted that I had a hard time remembering how to upload a photo.

But I have been walking in the cemetery. So: mausoleum stained glass window, two angels ~ the one in the back is shielding her eyes with her hand. Kind of works for Pentecost.

Two days and two weeks left in my school year, but who's counting? It's been a very good year, but it could have been a month shorter. I'm just about out of steam, and I still have a presentation, four papers, and two tests. I might have a lot to say about the whole experience if I ever get my head above water.

In the meantime: anything you want to know about John 21? Anything at all? No? So just enjoy the window!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

You're Welcome

I picked up a prescription at the drugstore today. The pharmacist technician rang it up and tossed it in a bag with my two bottles of nail polish: bright red and sparkles for my toes ~ summer's going to come again; I'm almost sure of it!

A few hours later, I dumped the contents of the bag on my kitchen counter and wondered idly about the second little paper pharmacy bag inside. Had they divided my prescription in two for some reason? I picked it up and discovered that they had given me someone else's in addition to my own.

At that point I realized that I was in possession of some rather personal information about someone whose last name follows mine alphabetially. Her full name, for instance, along with her address, phone number, and the fact that she takes antidepressants. I was also, in fact, in possession of a bottle of Lexapro. What might one do with a windfall of SSRIs?

I thought the pharmacy might be in something of a compromised position. If I were the real designatee of said meds, I would not want someone else reading up on my private life via a drugstore bag.

So sometime later, as I left town, I took my newfound little treasure back from whence it came. I thought the pharmacy tech might be a tad relieved ~ even grateful. I had not, you know, dropped the meds off for their real owner, which might have been more convenient for me, and I did not suggest that the tech and her colleagues might be more careful in the future. I just said that she had given me an rx by mistake, and waited for her to say thanks.

Instead, she narowed her eyes and looked at me accusingly. "We wondered where these had gone!" she said.

OK, then, I guess you're welcome. Next time I plan a drugstore heist, I'll be more circumspect. I won't, for instance, return the booty.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Present or Absent?

My dear friend Bean asked me what I meant by God being present in absence, and I decided to make a stab at an answer. I put it in the comments, and then thought maybe some other people would want to chime in, so I am moving it up here:

Bean, I am thinking about how to explain that. It might take awhile. I'll think about it this summer when it is warm and not so hard to think.

I guess I could start by saying that for much of my life God seemed profoundly absent, by which I mean that I had a sense of intentional absence on the part of God. And now I have a deep and abiding sense of the very powerful and very intimate presence of God, which in a way that I can't articulate seems to confirm the former experience.

I have no idea whether God actually withdraws or whether at times I perhaps have an extraordinarily limited capacity for relationship with God. Or perhaps there is another explanation that hasn't occurred to me yet.

I do know that the ease and comfort which many people seem to have with a life of faith eluded me for a very long time (and still does in many respects as far as I can tell), and that as a consequence I am very aware of the jagged and empty places between us and God. But I have come to see that experience as a gift as great as its opposite. I think it is a good thing to know how really difficult those places are, because they are often overlooked or minmized when in fact they represent the deepest, and sometimes only, religious experience of many people.


And now I want to add one more self-reflective thing, because the above sounds kind of depressing:

If you ran into me, I would probably be leaning against a wall or hanging around outside, wearing jeans and a sweater, my sunglasses pushing my hair out of my face, and I would be laughing over a great conversation. I have a very, very good life in which I make enormous investments in people and committments that are returned to me a thousand-fold. I am dazzled, constantly, by the magnificence of creation and the creativity and goodness of people and the here-ness of God.

But there is another way of experiencing all of it, sometimes simultaneously and sometimes almost overwhelmingly. I'm just saying that, and I'm saying it in part because so many people have told me that they stay away from religious institutions because their realities are not honored there. And I'm just saying we experience God as both present and absent, sometimes one inside the other. And that we do need to honor that experience in and for each other.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Friday Five Prayers

From Sally at RevGals this morning:

Part of the Ascension Day Scripture from Acts 11 contains this promise from Jesus: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Then he was taken from their sight into the clouds, two angels appeared and instructed the probably bewildered disciples to go back to Jerusalem, where they began to wait and to pray for the gift Jesus had promised.

Prayer is a joy to some of us, and a chore to others, waiting likewise can be filled with anticipation or anxiety....So how do you wait and pray?

1. How do you pray best, alone or with others?

I'm not sure that there is a "best." I suppose that it is much easier for me to listen for God when I am alone. But I often hear more clearly in the presence of others.

2. Do you enjoy the discipline of waiting, is it a time of anticipation or anxiety?

Is there someone out there in the universe who enjoys waiting?

3. Is there a time when you have waited upon God for a specific promise?

There have certainly been times when I have waited for God's promised presence (days, weeks, months, years), and have had to conclude that God is often present to me in absence.

4. Do you prefer stillness or action?

I usually pray when I walk, or walk when I pray; I have kind of given up on stillness at this point in my life. Of course, that could change as soon as tomorrow.

5. If ( and this is slightly tongue in cheek) you were promised one gift spiritual or otherwise what would you choose to recieve?

I really do try to be attentive to God in all things. I fail continuously and consistently. I'm not sure, though, now that I think of it, whether I prefer the gift of attentiveness or the gift of failed attentiveness, which offers graces of its own.

My own personal bonus question: What's your favorite book on prayer?

Beginning to Pray, by Anthony Bloom.
One of those books that you read, and re-read, a few sentences at a time.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Good Samaritan

So today I'm driving home from seminary and a guy yells something unintelligible at me as he passes me on the highway, and so I sigh and think, "Another flat?" (third one this year)(and I have 100 miles to go) and pull over and so: sure enough. So I get off at the next exit and drove a little way on what is, I quickly discover, yet another toll road, until I find a sign that tells me (1) what road I am on (2) what direction I am going (3) how far from an exit I am and (4) what town and routes will be waiting for me if I ever get there.

Yeah, pretty clueless, but, you know, I thought I needed to give AAA some idea of where I was, which as it turns out I didn't because when, information in hand, I called them up, the cell phone died in the middle of my attempt to get help, which involved two periods on hold and then the woman on the other end repeating every word that I said, even thought my first sentence had been, "Listen carefully; my phone's about to die so I'm giving you the details as quickly and completely as I can." So I didn't need the directions for AAA after all, because there wasn't gonna be any AAA.

A two-mile walk to the exit. Sigh. So I think maybe I can get some help, and get out and wave down the first car that came by. Hippie kinda guy with long gray hair in a white van. I explain that my phone died as I was calling AAA to get someone out to put the donut tire on and ask if I could borrow his cell phone. "I don't have a phone." No, of course you don't. "But I could change the tire for you."


Changing a tire is kinda like cooking for me. One of life's many great mysteries. (We are all so so lucky that absolutely nothing in this world depends upon my existence.)

As we walk back to my car, I allow myself to think for maybe a second that it's possible that something really really bad is about to to happen to me and no one will ever see me again, but there's not a lot I can do about it, so I am going to hope that this guy is as genuinely nice as he seems to be.

Which he is. Fifteen minutes later my car is driveable, and without a word he drives very slowly just ahead of me to the second exit, puts on his turn signal to let me know that this is the one I want, and then disappears up the highway.

Thanks, Doug! ~ Doug from somewhere in the boonies of the next state over.