Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Contemplative Halloweens and the Holiday I'll Actually Have

I am having one of those autumn seasons where I want to slow down time or go back a few weeks so that I can properly savor it all--but that's every autumn season for me.  It seems that Halloween creeps up on us, and suddenly we see an explosion of decorations on houses and displays of candy in the stores.

I would like a more contemplative Halloween.  Here's how my ideal day would be:  I would gather a variety of pumpkins and candles and sip my coffee while reflecting on the beauty of the pumpkins and the flickering candles in the pre-dawn.  I'd spend some time writing and thinking about the various costumes that I've worn in stages of my life while thinking about the coming years and the costumes I'll need.  I'd punctuate these times of contemplation with meals with friends to discuss insights we've had.  I'd end the day like I began it:  with candles and pumpkins and contemplations and maybe some candy.

But that won't be the kind of Halloween I will have.  I will go to spin class where we will finish our month long competition to see who can ride the most miles.  If I hadn't missed the Friday and Monday when I was at my retreat, I'd win.  I'm likely to come in second, but that's fine.  The challenge has given me motivation to ride harder than I've ever ridden before.

Today's spin class teacher will have Halloween music.  It will be great.

At school, it will likely be a day of many meetings, like every Wednesday tends to be.  My campus Executive Director only comes to our campus once a week, which means we try to get a lot of business done in one jam-packed day.

But we will have a Halloween costume contest, which is always fun.  It will remind me that today is my 2 year anniversary of coming to the campus. 

This evening I'll walk over to a friend's house.  Will it be a time of reconnecting or will the mad rush of this holiday overtake us?

Let me try to inject some contemplation into the day.  Let me think about the various ways that we can bring light into the gloom of our current world.  Even a world lit only by candles is cheerier than one without.

Let me remember to bless people along the way today, silently of course.  We are all yearning for sweetness, even if we're too old to go trick-or-treating.

Let me keep striving to balance my need for contemplation with my need for connection.  Let me keep thinking about my ideal life and the direction of my yearnings.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Standing in the Need of Prayer

It is the kind of morning when I feel I should pray not write.  But since I often pray by writing, let me pray here in this space.

I pray for my mom who is stranded in Spain and will have surgery this morning (perhaps right now, since it is already morning in Spain) to have stents put in her arteries.  I pray for my dad who is also there.  I am grateful he is there.  I am worried about them both.  I am trying to trust that they are in God's loving hands and all will be well.

I pray for my church, who had one of our members die in a car accident on Friday.  We are all grieving.  He lived with his mother, also a church member, who needs him fiercely, and now he is no longer here.  I pray for wisdom for her, and for comfort for us all.

I pray for all of us who are grieving the violence of last week, the violence that culminated in a shooting in a synagogue in Pennsylvania.  I pray for comfort.

I pray for all the schisms in this nation.  These months have shown us the depth of these fissures, and I pray for healing.  I have no vision for how to help with this healing, but I pray to be of use.

My prayers return to my mom and to all who face surgery, either in their home hospitals or far away.  I pray for the ones undergoing surgery and the family members who love them.  I pray for those facing surgery alone.  I pray for the world, and all the surgery the world needs.  Let us find the sutures to stitch our wounds.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Poetry Monday: "Reformation Day"

I spent part of the night feeling chilly, and not because I set the AC too low.  Finally, a cold front has arrived to rescue us from the infernal October heat!

Yesterday was Reformation Sunday; Reformation Day itself is October 31. It put me in mind of a poem I wrote with images pulled out of the Reformation narrative. It was written years ago, during another annoyingly hot October, where I thought about weather and social change--and this poem emerged. It appears in my first chapbook. Enjoy!

Reformation Day

The catholic heat holds us
in a tight embrace for what seems an age.
We participate in the sacraments
designed to make us forget the hellishness
of everyday life: afternoons at the pool,
barbecues, beach trips, and for the fortunate few,
a trip to the mountains, a retreat, a pilgrimage.

We pay alms as we must: electric bills,
pool chemicals, cool treats. We pay indulgences
when we can’t avoid it: the air conditioning repair
man, the pool expert who keeps the water pure,
men versed in mysteries we cannot hope to understand.

Finally, the heat breaks. A cold front swoops
down upon us from the north country, a Reformation
bringing with it the promise of other Protestants,
more weather systems to overthrow
the ubiquitous heat, to leave
us breathless with the possibilities of change.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Loss and Reformation

It will be interesting to see how various churches approach Reformation Sunday on this Sunday that caps a week of loss and fear.  One approach could be to continue with one's sermon regardless.  It's timeless, after all, right?  We've been hearing sermons about Martin Luther and those 95 theses for 500 years, right?  Why change?

And yet, if one was going to change a Reformation sermon, a shooting in a synagogue yesterday would justify the change.  It would be an easy change to visualize--a 96th thesis, calling for the end to this violence or perhaps a larger vision, calling for a transformation of our culture while steeps people in fear and hatred and gives them easy access to weapons of mass killing.  The fact that this shooting came at the end of a week of pipe bombs being mailed to prominent Democrats could reinforce the Reformation message of a need for deep societal change to heal the brokenness that has become impossible to ignore.

It's been a week of other types of losses too:  some of the great theological thinkers of our time have left us this week.  I began the week hearing about the loss of Eugene Peterson, most famous for The Message, his translation of the Bible into very modern language.  I wrote about him earlier this week in this blog post.  I see his writing as part of the very heart of reformation--give the people scriptures, in the language that they understand, so that they have the most amazing good news directly available to them.

I ended the week reading this article about the Thomas Keating, the monastic who taught so many the art of centering prayer.  I confess that I haven't done as much with centering prayer as I wish; I've studied the practice, but not practiced the practice--at least not for any amount of time.  Here, too, Keating seems very suitable for Reformation Sunday--give the people a spiritual practice that they can do, whether or not there's a church official anywhere nearby.

Last night I read about the death of Ntozake Shange, most famous for her play, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf.  I remember the line of the play which seemed so revolutionary when I heard it at a performance I saw in grad school (early 90's): “i found god in myself / and i loved her / i loved her fiercely.”  My grad school feminist mind glommed onto the idea of a god as female.  Only later did I think about the other idea in this quote, the idea that we find God already inside us.  It reminds me of much spiritual teaching, that we already have everything we need.  Some traditions take an opposite approach, that we're born broken and only when we heal our brokenness will be be redeemed/find what we're looking for.

It's been a week of tremendous loss.  But in the heart of these losses, it is good to remember the breath of Reformation that blows through all of history and how often that breath is rooted in loss.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

When a Memorial Service Is So Much More

I did not watch the livestream of Matthew Shepard's memorial service yesterday while I was at work.  I try my hardest not to cry at work unless there's a very good reason to let people see me weep; otherwise it's too alarming for people to see a lead administrator cry.

I love this article on the NPR website which explores how Matthew Shepherd's ashes came to have their final resting place at the National Cathedral.  The first openly gay bishop, Eugene Robinson, says, "It's the cathedral saying some churches are different. Some churches have been on this journey with you, and we will not only welcome you, we will celebrate you."

The Episcopal bishop of Washington D.C. closes the article: "'There will be young people from all across the country, having tours here and being educated here,' she said. 'When they pass by, they will see a plaque in his honor. They will see that this is a church that has learned from the example of violence that we need to stand and be counted as among those who work for justice and the full embrace of all God's children.'"

I was surprised by how many people went to the service, which was at 10:00 on a Friday at the National Cathedral.  It says something to me about the gaping wounds that people are carrying, about our deep needs that we have inside us.

Well done, Episcopal church.  Thank you for this beautiful example of how to lead in this time of turmoil.  Thank you for this service and for knowing how to serve.  Thank you for this witness. 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Pumpkin Preaching

Yesterday, we had our second annual pumpkin decorating day at school; see this blog post for more on the process.

Most people seemed happy to see the pumpkin decorating opportunity, even if they didn't all participate.  I was interested in how many people wanted to know if/when we would judge them.  Most people accepted my answer:  "Nope.  It's just for fun."

In the late afternoon, one of the Admissions reps said, "But why not judge them?  Why do all this work if we're not going to judge them."

Throughout the day, I had been thinking of the pumpkins as being a good metaphor for humans:  on some level, they're all so much the same.  But on another level, they're as unique one from another as snowflakes are said to be.

I've been thinking about the message of retreat centers:  the idea that God loves us just as we are, not because we're on the road to being something else.  I've been sitting with the radical-to-me idea that my own Kristin-ness might be just what is needed for this time.

So I smiled and said gently, "There's enough judgment in the world.  Why not just accept each pumpkin for the gifts it has to give?"  I thought about adding more, about how it's the process not the product that's important.  I could have added so much.  But I said something to this effect, "When people think of this day, I want them to remember the joy of creating.  I want them to try to create a similar attitude each and every day in their lives.  I want them to remember my joy at putting this event together just for the fun of it, and to similarly channel this energy, not a judgmental energy."  I may have also said something about innate goodness and serenity.

I noticed others looking at me, even though the break room wasn't packed with students.  I think most of them liked the idea of creating just for fun, except for the Admissions rep, who would have been happier being the judge of a contest. 

I thought of all the societal institutions that tell us that we're only good enough if we win competitions.  I thought of all the ways we're judged and come out lacking. 

I know that the Church has often been part of the problem.  But we could have a powerful message if we channeled it.  It would take a lot to drown out the larger cultural messages.

In fact, we're not likely to ever be successful at being louder.  Perhaps the change can come from those of us who go out into the world, organizing pumpkin decorating events in our workplace, telling people a larger message embedded in the gourds:  we are marvelously made.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

RIP Poet Theologians

I am seeing Facebook posts that Tony Hoagland has died.  While I enjoyed his work, he was not one of my touchstone authors.  This essay about race and the U.S. and cancer wards seemed amazing when I stumbled across it this morning while looking for confirmation that Hoagland had died.

No, this week my thoughts return to Eugene Peterson, who died on Monday.  Peterson was about 2 decades older than Hoagland; his death at age 85 might make many people shrug and say, "Well, he lived until a ripe, old age."

In fact, I could make the point that he didn't really start doing some of his most important writing work until later in his life.  Peterson is most famous for his translation of the Bible, The Message, which puts the Bible into a modern English that retains the poetry of the original, unlike those 1970's versions of the modern, Living Bible, which stripped the poetry out (that's my analysis--you may disagree).

The Peterson obituary in The Washington Post chose this example:  "The King James version of a passage from the Gospel of John begins 'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' In 'The Message,' it reads: 'The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes.'”

He didn't publish his translation of the Bible until he was in his 60's.  He'd written books before that, but none of his works approached the readership of The Message.

Consider this summation of a man's life, from The Washington Post obituary:  "Rev. Peterson never led a church of more than 500 congregants, rarely appeared on television and seldom made political pronouncements from the pulpit, yet he quietly became one of the most influential religious thinkers of his time."

I was late to discovering Peterson's version of the Bible--when I started going to Create in Me retreats in 2003 and 2004, I heard about it, and was instantly skeptical, as I usually am when hearing about something wildly popular.  But Peterson's language (and finding out that he had serious academic training in his youth--in other words, he could read some of the original languages of the Bible) quickly persuaded me to put aside my doubts.

Here's a translation that my father loves, along with some of the youngest adult Christians I know.  I am in awe of a man who can translate the whole Bible, while still leading his small church of non-readers for whom he wrote those translations.

This morning, I'm hearing his message that it's not too late for any of us creative types, even though we may have to keep working our full-time jobs.  But perhaps those full-time jobs can lead us to the work that will be the most important.

Let us all take heart and do the work that calls to us.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, October 27, 2018:

First Reading: Jeremiah 31:31-34

Psalm: Psalm 46

Second Reading: Romans 3:19-28

Gospel: John 8:31-36

Here we are at another Reformation Sunday. As we celebrate the actions of Martin Luther centuries ago, you may be wondering what we’re experiencing right here.

Maybe you’re in an angry space; maybe you’re saying, “Hey, I have some theses of my own that I’d like to nail to a nearby church door.” It’s been a tough few years for many of us, as we’ve watched our families, our denominations, and the nations of the world wrestle with various issues.

Maybe you feel a bit of despair this Reformation Sunday as you think about the Reformations you thought you were witnessing. Maybe you’re wondering what happened to all that reform. Not too long ago, we might have thought that technology would transform us—or maybe we were ancient-future folks, hoping for more contemplative elements in our services, more praying of the liturgy of the hours, more pre-Reformation elements.  Maybe we wish we were Quakers and could just sit in silence.

Maybe you’re feeling irritated as you wish we could just go back to being the church that we were in the 1950’s, before so many denominations lost their way. Maybe you’re tired of being the only one at work who’s living a liturgical life.

Or maybe you’re feeling joy. Maybe you’re delighting in hearing about different kinds of intentional communities. Maybe you’re seeing a different way to do Christian education which inspires hope for the next generation of believers. Maybe you’re feeling your creativity enhanced by your spiritual practices, or maybe it’s your spiritual life that’s enhanced by your artistic practices.

No matter where you are this Reformation Sunday, take comfort from the knowledge that the Church has always been in the process of Reformation. There are great Reformations, like the one we'll celebrate this Sunday, or the Pentecostal revolution that's only 100 years old, but has transformed the developing world (third worlds and those slightly more advanced) in ways that Capitalism never could. There are smaller ones throughout the ages as well. Movements which seemed earth-shattering at the time (monastic movements of all kinds, liberation theology, ordination of women, lay leadership) may in time come to be seen as something that enriches the larger church. Even gross theological missteps, like the Inquisition, can be survived. The Church learns from past mistakes as it moves forward.

Times of Reformation can enrich us all. Even those of us who reject reform can find our spiritual lives enriched as we take stock and measure what's important to us, what compromises we can make and what we can't. It's good to have these times where we return to the Scriptures as we try to hear what God calls us to do.

Once the dust settles, each of the previous time periods of Reformation has left the Church enriched, but enriched in ways that no one could have predicted--that's what makes it scary, after all. As we approach Reformation Sunday, I'd encourage each of us to tap our own inner Martin Luther. What is the Church doing well? What could be changed for the better? What part can we play?

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Brief Retreat Retrospective

I thought I would have more internet access across the week-end than I did.  On Saturday night, the wind howled all night, and by morning, part of camp had lost power, and all of camp had lost wi-fi.  And before then, I couldn't pick up the wi-fi in my room. 

In a way, that was good.  I was happy to be away and mostly happy to be offline.  But it would have been easier had it been the way that it is at Mepkin Abbey--there is no wi-fi unless you're working in the library.  Once I know that there will be no access, I quit looking for it.

It was good to be away, but it's also good to be home.  Let me make a quick list of h--ighlights of the week-end; perhaps I shall dive in more deeply later:

--For the most part, the drive, while long, went well.

--I liked the retreat.  I had hoped I might get some sort of epiphany that I couldn't get any other way, but if I've had one, it will take some time to realize it.  But it was good to be reminded of the kinds of simplifying I can do and should still keep working on.

--It was great to reconnect with old friends, both along the way and at the retreat.  It was wonderful to have hours to spend catching up, not just a meal.

--I had hoped to see more autumnal colors, but it's been a warm season in the southeast, so I just saw some leaves here and there.

--A retreat friend and I spent part of Saturday afternoon at the arboretum.  It was beautiful. 

--I didn't go to my favorite orchard, but I stopped at an apple warehouse on my way down the mountain.  I've munched on apples for several meals.  Delicious!

--I took far more stuff than I needed.  The retreat was not set up for sketching, so I could have left those supplies at home.  I brought more books than I needed, even with limited Internet access.  But that's one of the joys of traveling by oneself in the car--I can take supplies I may not need.

--In short, I'm glad I made the effort.  Being away makes me appreciate being home--and helps me to remember all the options I have for how to live my best life.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Traveling Mercies

I am not sure what my writing time will be this morning, but I did want to record this thought that came to me very strongly in the car yesterday.  Actually, it's been ringing in my head off and on in the months since the 2016 election--and to be honest, off and on my whole life.

I was thinking in terms of life changes, vocational changes, as I listened to various news shows on NPR.  What skills/talents/occupations will be needed to rebuild the country, not just to tear it down as so many are doing these days. I was thinking in terms of a poem, but also life changes--what should we be studying/learning right now so that we're ready when the country needs us.

Part of me thought, "You've already covered this material in a poem"--I thought of the ending of "Exercising Freedom" (you can read the whole poem here):

"You hear the voices of the ancestors,
colored with both reason and panic.
Go faster, they urge.
You are needed up ahead."

I haven't come to any radical illuminations/conclusions about any of these issues, but how interesting to frame the question of life's purpose differently:  in a few years, when the country is ready to stop ripping itself apart, what types of people will be needed?

The poem that I'm writing will go a different direction--the poem won't assume that the country will present itself as a torn fabric ready to be repurposed.  Will we wish we had learned to shoot our father's guns?  Will we wish we had learned more about canning and putting food away?  Will we wish he had bought a house in a neutral country or learned to ride a motorbike so that we can deliver relief supplies to hurricane ravaged shorelines?

How interesting to scroll through Facebook this morning to learn that others are thinking similar thoughts:

Carrie Newcomer:  "Speed of Soul Thought - We are not the resistance.We are not the resistance. We are the new world, the better kinder world, a world that is coming and already here. We are the world that cares for one another, cares for the earth, welcomes the stranger, extends and lives out radical and revolutionary love, the new world that doesn’t just tolerate diversity but values and celebrates diversity. We are the new world that is being born in travail and troubled times. We are not the is those who in fear or anger or misunderstanding would try to hold us in 1950‘s or 1930’s ideas of power and privilege. No we are not the resistance. We are the new world that is coming and already here."

Parker J. Palmer:  "We've presented this show five times, and we’re constantly struck by how hungry people are to explore, in words and music, all that its title implies. We live in hard times, but we can still live in hope—hope for what's possible when people reach deep within AND come together in community to follow our “better angels” toward caring for one another.

Despite the American myth of “rugged individualism,” no individual, no enterprise, no nation ever made it alone. We need to draw on our own resources, of course. But we also need collaborations of many sorts—which means staying rooted in the trust that collaboration requires.

Let’s fend off the “divide and conquer” politicians who sow seeds of distrust to disempower “We the People,” so big money and bigotry can run the show. Let’s turn to one another across all lines of difference, and work together toward the “more perfect union” the U.S. Constitution was written to help us achieve. What we need IS here—it's within us and between us!

I’m sharing these pictures not only to let you know that we had a grand time in Richmond, VA. I’m sharing them because that audience reminded me that many, many Americans share the values and hopes that can and must be reclaimed as this country’s North Star."

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Feast Day of Saint Luke

On October 18, we celebrate the life of St. Luke, a creator, an evangelist, and a healer. Some churches might have a healing service in honor of Luke’s role as patron saint of doctors and surgeons. But St. Luke was so much more: he’s also the patron saint of artists, students, and butchers. He’s given credit as one of the founders of iconography. And of course, he was a writer--both of one of the Gospels and the book of Acts. As we think about the life of St. Luke, let us use his life as a guide for how we can bring ourselves back to health and wholeness.

The feast day of St. Luke offers us a reason to evaluate our own health—why wait until the more traditional time of the new year? Using St. Luke as our inspiration, let’s think about the ways we can promote health of all kinds.

Do we need to schedule some check-ups? October is perhaps most famous for breast cancer awareness month, but there are other doctors that many of us should see on a regular basis. For example, if you get a lot of sun exposure, or if you live in southern states, you should get a baseline check up from your dermatologist.

Many of us don’t need to visit a doctor to find out what we can do to promote better health for ourselves. We can eat more fruits and vegetables. We can drink less alcohol. We can get more sleep. We can exercise and stretch more.

Maybe we need to look to our mental health. If so, Luke can show us the way again.

Luke is famous as the writer of the Gospel of Luke and Acts, but it’s important to realize that he likely didn’t see himself as writing straight history. He was maintaining a record of amazing events that showed evidence of God’s salvation.

It’s far too easy to ignore evidence of God’s presence in the world. We get bogged down in our own disappointments and our deeper depressions. But we could follow the example of Luke and write down events that we see in our own lives and the life of our churches that remind us of God’s grace. Even if it’s a practice as simple as a gratitude journal where each day we write down several things for which we’re grateful, we can write our way back to right thinking.

As we think about St. Luke, we can also look for ways to deepen our spiritual health. In popular imagination, Luke gets credit for creating the first icon of the Virgin Mary. Maybe it’s time for us to try something new.

We could experiment with the visual arts to see how they could enrich our spiritual health. We might choose something historical and traditional, like iconography. Or we might decide that we want to experiment with something that requires less concentration and training. Maybe we want to create a collage of images that remind us of God’s abundance. Maybe we want to meditate on images, like icons, like photographs, that call us to healthy living.

St. Luke knew that there are many paths to health of all sorts. Now, on his feast day, let us resolve to spend the coming year following his example and restoring our lives to a place of better health.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, October 21, 2018:

Isaiah 53:4-12

Psalm 91:9-16

You have made the LORD your refuge, and the Most High your habitation. (Ps. 91:9)

Hebrews 5:1-10

Mark 10:35-45

Imagine being one of the 12 disciples; imagine the possible rivalries. Every so often, as with this Sunday’s Gospel, we see the very human side of the disciples.

Most of us, from the time we are little children, we want to be loved best in all the world. Unfortunately, many events happen to convince us that love is rare, and that if one person is loved, it means we must be loved less. Humans tend to see love as finite and to feel like there’s not enough to go around.

If Jesus was a different kind of leader, he might have decided to pit the disciples against each other, so that he could feed his own ego watching them compete for his favor. Those of you from dysfunctional families or Machiavellian workplaces have probably seen this technique in use.  Sadly, it's not uncommon at all.

Happily, we don’t worship that kind of God. We might expect Jesus to be a leader of comfort and compassion. We might expect Jesus to figure out a way to respond so that everyone gets to feel good about themselves and be assured that Jesus loves them all exactly the same.

We don’t worship that kind of God either.  We may behave like three year olds, but Jesus treats his disciples like the grown ups he expects them to be.

Jesus reminds them that they don’t know what they’re asking. Again and again, Jesus tells his disciples, and centuries of believers to come, that the last will be first. Again and again, Jesus stresses that we're here to serve. Following Jesus isn't about self-empowerment. We don't follow Jesus because we hope to become rich. Other religions, like Capitalism, might make that promise, but not Christianity. Christianity is NOT just a big self-improvement program.

Sure, we might become better people, but not by the route that the larger world offers us. Christ tells us that we fulfill our destiny by serving others. It goes against most everything else we've ever learned. We're not supposed to look out for number one? We're not supposed to be most concerned about ourselves and our families? No, we're not.

You might feel as much despair over the need to have a servant’s heart as you did by last Sunday’s Gospel about giving away all our wealth. But here again, we can change our trajectory by taking small steps.

For some of us, if we really start to live a Gospel life, it will take practice and undoing of a past life of bad habits. Start small. Do good deeds for people that you like. Practice radical patience. Be on the lookout for all the people who need your smile or a kind word.  Leave a bigger tip. Add some more prayer time to your day to focus on the needs of others. Go through your day as the monks do, offering prayers for the world periodically throughout the day.

Ask God to show you how to have a servant's heart.

Maybe God will call you to heal others, like St. Luke, whose feast day we celebrate on October 18. Maybe we will have a different apostle as a role model. There are many ways to serve, and a vast world in need of our service.

Who knows where this path may lead? But we know that Christ calls us to follow it. By imitating Christ, we can change ourselves, and in the process, we can change the world.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Subtle Seasonal Shifts

As I've been driving home, I've been noticing more houses decorated for Halloween.  I remember last year, amidst hurricane wreckage, seeing a house decorated here or there and feeling like we had lost a whole season, post-Hurricane Irma.  This year we have yet to have our first cold front make its way down here, so it's disconcerting to see the Halloween decorations and to reflect how late in the year it really is.

And yet the light is shifting.  Yesterday morning, as I walked up the outside parking garage stairs at school, I realized that the sun is rising more to the south now, and the building blocks the light.  In the summer when I climb the stairs, the sun is blinding.

The shift in seasons is VERY subtle this far south.  Some years, it's the scent of a cinnamon broom in a grocery store that first alerts me.  Other years, it's the arrival of pumpkins that transforms a church yard or a scarecrow keeping watch, even though there are no crops or crows.

This week-end, I will experience a much more wrenching seasonal shift.  I am off to a retreat at Lutheridge in the mountains of North Carolina, while my spouse stays here to take care of teaching responsibilities.  I hope to return with mountain apples and other goodies.

Once, I made this trip more often, but it's been a few years since I made an October trip--so I'm really looking forward to it.  The retreat is a 50 Forward retreat--a series designed for people in their 50's as they think about midlife and what's beyond.  Each year there's a different theme--this year's theme is "Simple Enough:  Living More with Less."  At the Create in Me retreat back in April, I saw the theme and had a pastor friend tell me that I should really attend this one--and so, I am!  I'm happy for all the help I can get, as we make choices about this house and about the future.

As I move about my mostly normal life, I'm deeply aware of all of those who have been disrupted during this severe hurricane season.  I feel more than a bit of survivor's guilt--it could have been me, and I'm so glad that it hasn't been so far.  As I make coffee in the bathroom each morning, I reflect on how much my mostly normal life continues to be disrupted by last year's severe hurricane season.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Poetry Monday: "Blistered Palms"

Before we get too far away from last week, and the week before that, let me record 2 publishing successes.  I got my contributor copy of Gather, which published my article "Praying with Medieval Mystics."  In it, I explore Hildegard of Bingen and Julian of Norwich--longtime readers of my blogs know that I've explored the lives of those women before, but I like the ways I wove the ideas together.

I also got my contributor copy of Adanna, which published my poem "Blistered Palms," which I wrote in the aftermath of last year's hurricane season.  It was one of those strange moments, reading the poem, when I recognized the inspiration for some of it, but not the rest; I don't remember the writing process, the way I do with some poems.  I remember driving by the huge piles of brush which had shreds of trash blowing in a breeze.  It was close to Halloween, and at first I thought I might be seeing a Halloween decoration that had migrated, a ghost in those branches.  I remember the time when it seemed that every morning, a different piece of jewelry broke.

Do I see this poem as hopeful?  Yes, in a way.  I also see some of the spiritual elements of my Christian tradition, that direction to try fishing again, maybe from a different side of the boat.  And of course, there is the title, which talks to me of both the palms of hands, whether they be crucified hands or hands blistered from clearing away hurricane damaged palm trees.

Blistered Palms 

When the last china cup cracked,
we found the courage to face
the future. The oracle couldn’t tell
us, but we knew.

We needed no tea leaves; the blisters
on our hands gave the palm
reader all the information needed.

In this month of broken jewelry
clasps and missing wedding rings,
tattered ghosts haunt the hurricane wreckage.

Branches claw the debris piles of our hearts.
We see the water marks even though the floods
have receded. The decaying mums
keep watch.

I have dined on stinging nettles
before sunrise. But I am ready to jettison
this suitcase of loss and longing
that I’ve been lugging
through the fading autumn light.

I will steal a sailboat
and glide to the place
where the deep
waters of the ocean meet
the mouth of the Bay.

I will cast my nets again
into the depths.
I will wait for new fish.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Romero and Me--and All of Us

Oscar Romero is now officially a saint.  I've written about him many times before, but I can't resist writing about him again.  When I made this collage card, I couldn't believe that he'd ever be canonized:

I was alive when he was martyred, but I didn't hear or read about it.  I remember reading about some of the more famous murders, particularly of the nuns, and wondering why people would murder nuns or missionaries who were there to help--I had yet to learn of the horrors of colonialism throughout history.

In my first year of college, I was asked to be part of a service that honored the martyrdom of Romero, and this event was likely how I heard of him first.  Or maybe it was earlier that semester when our campus pastor took a group of us to Jubilee Partners.

Jubilee Partners was a group formed by the same people that created Koinonia, the farm in Americus Georgia that most people know because they also created Habitat for Humanity--but they were so much more, in their witness of how Christian love could play out in real practice in one of the most segregated and poor parts of the U.S. south.  In the early years of Jubilee Partners, when I went there, the group helped people from Central America get to Canada, where they could get asylum in the 1980's, when they couldn't get asylum in the U.S.

My consciousness was formed by these encounters and by other encounters I had throughout the 80's.  I met many people in the country illegally, and I heard about the horrors that brought them here.  Then, as now, I couldn't imagine why we wouldn't let these people stay.

At the end of my undergraduate years, just after Platoon came out, my college had a screening of Oliver Stone's Salvador--what a powerful movie.  Stone does a great job of showing the importance of the Catholic church in that war-torn decade of that country.

Many of us may think that those civil wars are over, but many countries in Central America are still being torn apart by violence.  The words of Romero decades ago are sadly still relevant today:  "Brothers, you came from our own people. You are killing your own brothers. Any human order to kill must be subordinate to the law of God, which says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. No soldier is obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God. No one has to obey an immoral law. It is high time you obeyed your consciences rather than sinful orders. The church cannot remain silent before such an abomination. ...In the name of God, in the name of this suffering people whose cry rises to heaven more loudly each day, I implore you, I beg you, I order you: stop the repression."

But his teachings go beyond just a call for an end to killing.  His messages to the wider church are still powerful:  "A church that doesn't provoke any crises, a gospel that doesn't unsettle, a word of God that doesn't get under anyone’s skin, a word of God that doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed — ​what gospel is that?"

And even those of us who are not part of a faith tradition can find wisdom in his teachings:  "Each time we look upon the poor, on the farmworkers who harvest the coffee, the sugarcane, or the cotton... remember, there is the face of Christ."

If we treated everyone we met as if that person was God incarnate, what a different world we would have!

But for those of us who are tired from the work of this weary world, here's a message of hope and a reminder of the long view:  "We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own."

On this day that honors a man who was not always honored, let us take heart from his words and from his example.  Let us also remember that he was not always this force for good in the world; indeed, he was chosen to be Archbishop because the upper management of the church thought he would keep his nose stuck in a book and out of politics. 

In these days that feel increasingly more perilous, let us recommit ourselves to the type of love that Romero called us to show:  "Let us not tire of preaching love; it is the force that will overcome the world."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Self Help from Saints and Others

Yesterday's leadership conference simulcast was about what I expected:  lots of self-help "you can do it" talk, with some nuggets of usefulness, with inspiring stories, with very little here is how you do it plans.

It was interesting to start the day by thinking of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who will be canonized on Sunday, Oct. 14, and then go to the leadership conference--such different leadership styles.  I thought of how much I would have to pay for the leadership simulcast, if I hadn't gotten a free ticket because of my faculty status at Broward College.  I thought of Romero, who broadcast his homilies on the radio so that all could hear.  I thought of John Maxwell, who feels we should invest in ourselves so he doesn't offer scholarships to his conferences.

Such different leadership styles.

I thought of Oscar Romero who used his platform to become a voice for those who had no voice.  I thought of his pleading for us to be better, his insistence that the killing must stop.  Romero had a vision of how his country could be a better place.  I thought of the presenters at the leadership conference who explained how they had become better, and how we could all be better--but not much talk of societal transformation.

Such different leadership styles.

I thought of Oscar Romero, who was chosen to be archbishop because he seemed like the bland kind of priest who wouldn't make waves or find trouble.  I thought of Romero, who could have had a fairly cushy existence as archbishop, but who couldn't ignore the call to do more.  Some of the speakers in yesterday's simulcast had a somewhat similar trajectory, most specifically Tyler Perry, who could have retired long ago and spent the gobs of money that he's earned--but he feels a responsibility to all the people who work for him.  There was a hint of the larger world, and I wondered what he might say if he was speaking in a different environment.

Such different leadership styles.

As I watched the simulcast while thinking of Romero, I thought I might be too judgmental.  Maybe the many people watching the speakers would transform their leadership styles, which might make the world a better place.  Maybe if we had hundreds of workplaces that were more "transformational" and "leadershift" styled, maybe that would be enough.  After all, at this point, most of the U.S. doesn't find itself facing the kinds of challenges faced by Romero's El Salvador.

And yet . . . and yet . . .

Friday, October 12, 2018

Spiritual Questions On Columbus Day

On this day in 1492, October 12, a lookout on one of Columbus' boats saw land after almost 2 months at sea. I’m always amazed at what those early explorers accomplished. At Charlestowne Landing (near Charleston, SC), I saw a boat that was a replica of the boat that some of the first English settlers used to get here. It was teeny-tiny. I can't imagine sailing up the coast to the next harbor in it, much less across the Atlantic. Maybe it would have been easier, back before everyone knew how big the Atlantic was.

In our spiritual lives, we may be feeling a bit like Columbus. Let’s ask some questions prompted by Columbus Day, questions that may lead us to some meaningful meditations.

Below, when I talk about our spiritual lives, I’m talking about our individual lives and expressions of spirituality, as well as our corporate spiritual lives, the lives we live in the company of fellow believers.

--In our spiritual lives, are we the explorer or are we the native populations of new continents? Or are we members of the Old World? In other words, are we always striking out for new lands? Or are we waiting to be discovered? Are we so tied to our traditions that we can’t even imagine how our lives could be different?

--As spiritual people, how long are we willing to be at sea? I’m part of a church tradition, mainstream Protestantism, that looks back longingly to the 1950’s, when it seemed that everybody made time for church. Many of us hope that we will soon return to a time when church returns to its central location. But we may have only started our time at sea, on a voyage of discovery. Can we trust God? Can we continue to hold onto our faith when we're in the middle of a vast ocean, with nothing but our instruments and the stars to guide us, with no sense of how far away the land for which we're searching might be?

--We may be certain we’re on a quest to find one kind of wealth. In the process, we may discover something completely different, something far more valuable? Will we recognize the value of what we find?

--The explorations in North and South America changed our cooking forever. Imagine a culinary life without corn, sweet peppers, tomatoes. Imagine life without chocolate. What ways can our spirituality enrich our cultures?

--Of course, if I was looking through the Native American lens, I might say, "Imagine life without smallpox." What are the possible negative impacts implicit in the collision between secular culture and sacred culture? Can we mitigate those? Should we mitigate those?

--These explorations wouldn’t have been possible without the patronage of the wealthiest of society members. In our current world, many of us are some of the wealthiest people on the planet. North Americans may not feel like it, but we’re the Isabella and Ferdinand of our time. What projects should we be funding? What spiritual projects will make the kind of lasting legacy of funding the voyage of Columbus?

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The lessons for Sunday, October 14, 2018:

First Reading: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15

First Reading (Semi-cont.): Job 23:1-9, 16-17

Psalm: Psalm 90:12-17

Psalm (Semi-cont.): Psalm 22:1-15

Second Reading: Hebrews 4:12-16

Gospel: Mark 10:17-31

So, far, this month is proving to be Tough Text month. I suspect most Americans will have more problems with this text than with the divorce text of last week.

We've spent centuries rationalizing our way around the demands of this text. We talk about how the needle's eye is really a gate in Jerusalem (something that scholars doubt), so that we can convince ourselves that one could be both rich and righteous, even if that might be rare. We return to our stewardship messages, reminding each other that Jesus calls us to be generous. We consider a tough stewardship message one that asks people to give away more than 10% of their income.

No, Jesus has the tough stewardship message: sell what you have and give the money to the poor.


I've had this argument with believer and non-believer alike, who say, "You can't really believe that Jesus means that literally."

Yes, in fact, I do. And of course, the next question: "Why aren't you doing that then?" Well, sadly, I'm as attached to my possessions--and their symbolic security--as the next person.

So far, this century has taught us much about the danger of counting on our possessions for security. We've seen how quickly wealth can be liquidated--and for what. I remember getting an account statement after a particularly volatile quarter. As I considered the drop in value, I thought of how much happier I might be had I given that money to the poor instead of hoarding it for my future. Now it's vanished, gone, like steam. No one has benefited--except, perhaps, for the people who made a profit off my money before it vanished. And I'm fairly certain the poor didn't see the benefit of that.

Jesus returns to this message again and again: our attachment to money is spiritually dangerous, the biggest spiritual danger that most of us face. Comparatively speaking, he doesn't spend much time at all on other sins. He never talks directly about homosexuality, the issue that's splitting so many churches. But he returns again and again to the message that the rich must share with the poor.

Jesus calls us to radical generosity. We are to do more than just follow a set of laws, like the young man was so capable of doing. We are to jettison our stuff, so that we're more able to follow Christ. Jesus calls us to give away our wealth, so that our grasping hands can be open for the blessings that God wants to give us. We are to unclench our hands, release our money (and fear), and trust in God.

But the good news of this Gospel is that Jesus loves us where we are. So you're not radically generous right now. Start where you are. Increase your giving by 1%. Pick up the check more often when you go out with friends. You've got a lot of possessions gathering dust, and you probably know some young people just starting out who could use them. Leave larger tips. Quit complaining about your taxes.

Like every other spiritual trait, we grow stronger as we practice. Unclench those greedy, grasping hands. Open your hands and your heart to the gifts that God wants to give you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Prayers for a Day of a Historic Hurricane

And so we wake on what might be a historic day in terms of weather:  the strongest hurricane ever to hit the Panhandle of Florida approaches.

There's not much that can be done right now.  Hopefully those on the coast have gone inland and up.  This storm looks like it will be pushing massive amounts of water onshore.

After the storm, we will all be needed.  Even if we can't be there to help with the rebuilding with our hands, we can give money; I like Lutheran Disaster Response, but we have plenty of options.  And if we can't give money, we can pray.

I'm not suggesting that we pray that the hurricane change paths; I don't believe that God sweeps in at the last minute because x amount more of us woke up this morning and prayed for that.  If my house gets hurt by a hurricane, does that mean that I didn't pray hard enough? Or that I'm spirituallly lacking, so that God pays no attention to me? Or that other people prayed better?

Those questions also show us the crumminess of a theology that says that if we just pray hard enough and believe enough and behave in certain ways, then we can control the world around us and control God.

We can't. That's the hard truth of the world we live in. No matter how good we are, hard times visit us all.

The Good News of the Bible is that we have a God who loves us so much that our God would come to our difficult planet to hang out with us. The Good News of the New Testament is one of grace: God will love us no matter our behavior.

Hurricanes are not punishment. On some level, hurricanes are the way the planet deals with extra heat and energy. Yet even those who would blame hurricanes on global warming (and thus see them as a fitting punishment for errant humans) would do well to look back to remind themselves of how hurricanes have always swept across the planet, even before we warmed it up so dramatically.

On this day when most of the southeast U.S. faces an extraordinary threat from Hurricane Michael, I'm not suggesting that we abandon prayer as a response. In fact, on a day where most of us can't do much more than watch and hope, prayer seems like a perfectly appropriate response.

Prayer for the Day the Hurricane Makes Landfall

Creator God, who fashioned this astonishing planet of atmospheric swirls, help us remember the abundance that our habitat usually offers us. Be with those who suffer from fear and anxiety. Remind us that you are with us, and help calm our fears.  Be our shelter in the storm.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Reformation Collage

On Sunday, I was in charge of the interactive worship service.  I thought about the upcoming holidays--no, not those holidays (Advent, Christmas, New Year's, Epiphany), but the holidays at the end of the month:  Reformation, All Saints, and the various harvest festivals we might celebrate.  Oh yes, and there's Halloween and Day of the Dead.

I decided to think about Reformation by way of collage.  It's been a tumultuous time in nationwide politics, so I wasn't sure I wanted us to think about Reformation in a larger, nationwide sense.  I suggested that we think about Reformation of ourselves and our smaller communities.  What needs to be reformed?  We talked about the differences between reforming and just throwing away and starting over.

We started with prayer.  I prayed for insight and openness, and then I suggested that we go through the pile of magazines that I brought and just rip out what was appealing.  Then we'd see what might be revealed.

It's a variation of vision boards, of course.  I've always wondered what kinds of collages we'd have with a completely different set of magazines.  I had a half year's worth of  O (Oprah) and Eating Well magazines.  I had some Country Living and some religious titles.  It may not surprise you to see what we came up with.

Mine looks very ragged.  We didn't have enough scissors for everyone, so I just tore a bit with my fingers.  You don't need a degree in Psychology to interpret mine:

I really liked this approach from one of my fellow creatives:

I like the spirit of the Rilke quote of course, but more than that, I like the willingness to do something different:

As we worked on our collages, we shared our highs and lows.  At then end of our creating, we talked  a bit about what leapt out at us.  We finished with communion.

If I was doing this again, in addition to praying first, we'd read some scripture.  But overall, I'm pleased with how the service went.  I'm not sure that Martin Luther would approve; he might argue that we should be reforming institutions, not our individual lives.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Pet Blessing Service

Yesterday, we had a pet blessing service.  I haven't been to a pet blessing service in years.  Once I belonged to a church where the pet blessing service was part of the regular Sunday service in the sanctuary.  My current church has the pet blessing service on Saturday in the fellowship hall.

Last Sunday, my spouse was asked to participate in the pet blessing service as a musician.  We didn't have Saturday plans, so we decided to both go.  I'm so glad that I did.

It was a delight to see the dogs interact with each other:

The choir sang some fun songs, like the one with this lyric:  "All God's children got a seat in the choir, some sing low and some sing higher."

As I watched our pastor lay hands on every pet, I thought, if more of our church services were like pet blessing services, more people might like church.

Our pastor even blessed pets that couldn't be with us--ah, the wonders of modern technology (the cell phone) and old-fashioned prayer!

It was refreshing to be at a service where we had Bible verses that reminded us of the love of God for all creatures.  It made me wonder how fire and brimstone churches would handle a pet blessing service.

We also had a eucharist of sorts--with treats for both humans and animals.  The food wasn't formally consecrated, but it felt sacramental anyway.

I returned home feeling incredibly happy, even though I have no pets of my own.  The love of people for their pets made me feel hopeful about the future of humanity.  In our pet blessing service, I caught a glimpse of God, who delights in all creation.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

What If All of Our Meetings Were Like Retreat Planning Meetings?

This morning, on our 2 Create in Me Facebook pages, I made this post:  "Two weeks ago, we'd have been in the middle of planning the Create in Me 2018 retreat. I love planning sessions that involve Bible study and art supplies. And of course, snacks and treats!"

It's not the first time that I've thought about how much better planning sessions would be with Bible study, art supplies, and treats.  Of course many of us don't work in places where a Bible study would be welcome--or for that matter, art supplies. 

Still, it's an interesting thought--could I create such things around the meeting, for myself, even if not for the whole group?

How would meetings change if I read a Bible lesson before leaving my office to go to a meeting?  How would meetings change if I said a prayer of guidance silently before the meeting started?

If it's a long meeting, would we get more done if we took a break for art?  If it's a short meeting, would we get more done if we worked on an art project together while we did the work of a meeting?

I find myself wishing for a devotional book that gave Bible readings and prayers for different kinds of meetings. I wonder if such a thing exists.  I wonder if I could create it . . .

So many writing project ideas, so little time.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Awake Before the Moon

I have been awake before the moon.  This week, sleep has not come easily to me--I fall asleep easily, but I've been awake between 1 and 2.  I usually get up and get some work done, whether it's online teaching work or writing.  I've had a lot of online assignments coming in this week, and this morning, I'm finally caught up.

There are benefits to being up before the moon.

Of course, the disadvantage comes around 11:00 in the morning, when I start to feel a crushing tiredness.  Yesterday, for a brief moment, I thought about taking half a vacation day just to go home and sleep.

Instead, I placed a lunch order for our campus for next week, and then I took a camera (by way of a Kindle Fire) and wandered around the campus.  Our social media coordinator has requested that we take more video, so I asked students if they'd be willing to be filmed talking about the first week of school.

I asked some basic questions:  "Tell me one interesting thing you learned this week" or "Tell me a highlight of your week."  I was surprised by how my mood perked up as I did this filming project.

As I often do, I thought about the parts of my job that I'm liking most.  It's been a week of issues that seem unsolvable.  These are not the kinds of problems that delight me.   But walking the halls and asking people to describe week 1 was a delight.

I thought about the elements of work that have brought me contentment this week:  serving as a historian of sorts, as I recorded a particular moment in time and setting out the day old baked goods for students to enjoy.

Historian and Hospitality Coordinator (I wrote Hospitalian, a word I made up)--I'm not sure that job title really exists anywhere--perhaps on a cruise ship?

I thought about the Faith 5 techniques that so many people I know practice to some degree.  One of the central tenants is to talk about the highs and lows of each group member's day.  As I walked around campus, I felt like I was crafting a variation of that exercise.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

A Meditations with Photos for the Feast Day of Saint Francis

Today we celebrate the life of St. Francis. We often remember St. Francis because of his work, "The Canticle for the Creatures." Many people see him as one of the early environmentalists. I have no problem with animal rights crusaders and the environmental movement, but it's important to remember that St. Francis spent many years of his early ministry living with lepers and caring for them. He gave up everything he owned--and he was rich--in a quest for a more authentic life. He inspired others to follow the same path, and he founded two religious orders that still thrive.

Who are our modern day lepers? The homeless? The mentally ill who can't find medication? The elderly? What modern sicknesses scare us the way that leprosy scared us for hundreds of years?

Lately, I've been thinking about the care we offer our pets and contrasting that care with the amount of care we give ourselves. We often do no better at taking care of ourselves than we do of taking care of the poor and outcast of our society. I've known more than one person who cooked better meals for their dogs than they do for themselves. You can probably offer similar examples: humans who make sure that their pets see dentists, even when the human members of the family don't take care of their teeth, dogs who see therapists, pets who get wonderful treats that humans deny themselves--the list could go on and on.

Will your congregation celebrate the life of St. Francis by having a service where pets are blessed? Will it be its own service or will it be a bring-your-pet-to-church service?

What do we do about the animals that aren't so easy to love? How do we handle humans who aren't so easy to love? St. Francis shows us a model; can we follow it?

Why is it so hard to achieve balance in our societies? Why can't we take care of the destitute in the same way we take care of our pets? Why does self-care often fall to the bottom of our to-do lists? Why do we practice self-care and then not do the larger work of caring for the world? Why do so many of us care for creation so badly or not at all?

What would we be willing to give up if it meant we could have a more authentic life? What benefits might we find? What paths should we consider that we haven't pondered yet?

Here's a prayer that I wrote for today:

Creator God, we don't always take good care of your creations. Please give us the generosity of St. Francis as we wrestle with the best way to use our resources. Please open our hearts the way you opened the heart of St. Francis so that we can take care of the members of our society who are at the lowest levels. Please give us the courage to create communities which will allow the light of Christ to shine more brightly.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, October 7, 2018:

Genesis 2:18-24

Psalm 8

You adorn us with glory and honor. (Ps. 8:6)

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12

Mark 10:2-16

If you read the Gospels carefully, you'll realize that Jesus rarely addresses the pressing social issues of our day. Global warming? Nope, he never talks about it. Abortion? Nope. Homosexuality? Not a word: the Bible verses that may address homosexuality, depending on how one interprets certain Greek words, come mainly from the Old Testament and Paul.

But here Jesus talks about divorce. How curious, especially in light of other chapters, where Jesus seems to downplay marriage and family, where he seems to instruct people to abandon their families to follow him. Here he seems to tell husbands and wives that they must stay together, regardless of the circumstances.

Many scholars see the social justice side of Jesus here, the man who cared for the most outcast of society. Almost no one had fewer options than a divorced woman who lived during the time of Jesus. Then, and to a certain extent now, fewer things were more likely to plunge a woman with children into the bottom economic realm of society than divorce or widowhood.

In today’s Gospel reading, we see the concerns of Jesus with the most downtrodden of society: women and children. As our society becomes more and more stratified, we can all use this reminder.

It’s also a reminder that God wants something better for us. God doesn’t want us in societies that are so stratified that we only see people who are just like us. God doesn’t want our personal differences to drive us apart. God doesn’t want us severed apart from each other, if we can avoid it. Even in situations where divorce is the best option, the legacy is one of pain and a variety of new problems. God wants reconciliation.

God also recommends that we approach the world as well-adjusted children do. I think of some of the delightful children I've met through the years. I love to watch young groups of children dance. Their enthusiasm encourages the adults to join in. I love the phase when children learn to draw and they haven't learned to judge yet. I love that sheer delight in the art supplies.

I imagine God is much the same. We've got a wonderful world here, and we often forget how fabulous it is. We get so hung up on all the ways we think the world has gone wrong that we forget what is right. We spend time creating laws to try to control behavior, when we might do better to simply accept people for who they are, which is a major step towards loving them. We want to see the world in strict colors: black, white, no gray. We forget that the world is variegated. If we can leave the land of Law behind and enter the world of Love, we'll see a world washed in color, all of it good.

We'll know what God knew, way back in Genesis, that the Creation is good, very good.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Weariness Prayers

I have a deep weariness.  It's interesting to pay attention to my levels of weariness, which are often only somewhat connected to how much sleep I'm getting.  This week's weariness has to do with last week's news, and the realization that this level of bad news of our incivility and worse is the new normal--or are we just back to what was always normal?  This week's weariness has to do with the fact that we're at week 1 of our new quarter, which means longer hours at work.  This week's weariness has to do with the home repairs, which are progressing, but we're still far from done.

I'm so weary that I can't even envision what would fill my well.  I want to write, but my brain feels dehydrated.  It's been awhile since I had a good meal, but nothing sounds appetizing.  I'd like to sleep, but in a room that doesn't also contain a refrigerator and other items stored there for a home remodel.

I realize that I might sound like I'm depressed, but I'm not depressed so much as I am just bone tired.  And have I mentioned that our daily temperatures are still in the 90's?  People in Social Media Land are beginning to post their lovely pictures of apple orchards and pumpkin patches, and I am so tired of all my summer clothes.  And my summer clothes take up most of the space in my closet.

Part of my brain says, "Let's shake off this weariness!  Let's remind ourselves of the ways we're blest."  I think of what has just happened in Indonesia, with the earthquake and tsunami.  My home repairs are nothing compared to that.  I remind myself that I have a job that I like and various communities that care about me.  I will write again--why, just last week, I was exulting over my first piece of flash fiction that actually works.  Along with my weariness at the thought of eating has come weight loss.

Let me go out to the cottage where my clothes have been hanging since July, when our Great Flooring Project started.  Let me choose some clothes for today.  Then I'll go to spin class. 

But first, let me say a prayer:  Creator God, today I am so tired.  Help me to avoid the mistakes that might come out of my tired state.  Please guide me through this weariness.   My weariness leaves me open to your inspiration.  I am ready.

Monday, October 1, 2018

September Steps of Progress

It is already October--hard to believe.  It is the first day of the fall quarter, both at my current school and at my old school--but for the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale, it is the first day of the last quarter that the school will be open.

Ordinarily, I'd be changing out prayer books today.  I use Phyllis Tickle's 3 volume set, The Divine Hours, although in this summer of upset schedules, I haven't used it as much as normal.  I remember packing up the bookshelves and putting the other 2 volumes of the prayer books in the box.  I said to myself, "Surely the floors will be done by October." 

The floors are almost done, but I'm not sure of the timeline for when we'll have everything back in the house, the books back on shelves.  When I think about how much we've gotten done, I feel happy--how far we have come.  When I think about the tasks that are still left to do, I feel overwhelmed if I linger on that list.

Let me continue to go one step at a time.

Speaking of steps, let me record a different type of progress.  On Sept. 1, as I took my morning walk, I reflected that it was the beginning of the month.  I said to myself, "What would happen if I resolved to get my 10,000 steps every day during this month?"

I knew that there would be some challenges, including my quick trip to Lutheridge.  But I made the resolution anyway.  And yesterday, I completed it!

Not much time to write this morning--there are day old baked goods to get from Publix on my way to spin class.  It's not really on my way.  But I still feel like it's helpful to have the baked goods available to the students.  I've had more than one share with me that they find it helpful to have some free food because they don't always know where they're getting their next meal.  So, they can get some goodies and a loaf of bread.

As with the house repairs and the moves towards fitness, sometimes the steps seem very small.  But the important part is to keep taking the steps.