Sunday, October 30, 2005

Loose ends

Well, it's Sunday morning.

Daylight savings time had us all up way way way early.

Eli's playing with Uncle Jacob - just arrived from New Hampshire and happy for a scooter ride at 8 in the morning.

Jeff's in the shower.

I've swept the floor, done a load of laundry, worked out, had breakfast, thought about my part in worship for today.

I dont have to be at church for an hour and I actually have no idea what to do with myself.

Monday, October 24, 2005


When I was discerning a call to ministry 10 years ago now, I asked a hippie-Jesus-freak-convert-CatholicWorker-poet pal of mine how I could possibly work for a church with all that baggage in its trunk that Rachelle described here so eloquently.

"Look," he said, infinitely patient, "the official story is never the whole story. Somehow, the Spirit kept working in good, small ways in good, small people even while the powerful were abusing their power, just like they would in any system."

Which is not a way of getting out of the apologizing that needs doing, but a way of acknowledging that there's more to The Story than abuse, and also a reminder that there are those whose hunger for power will lead them to corrupt any system they find themselves in, not matter how good it may be at its core.

I know about the guilt of this this abuse in a real, personal way btw. My great grandfather was actually named Alleluia Iraneous, but he was called A.I.. He was a missionary in India who somehow one day talked his way into Gandhi's house (yes, that Gandhi) while that beloved leader was fasting and not receiving visitors and tried to CONVERT HIM TO CHRISTIANITY. "As Christ is to your people, I am to my people," Old MG said. Which A.I. heard as some kind of Savior complex, but which I'm pretty sure Gandhi (just months from his death at the time) understood in a suffering servant kind of way. AI considered it a failure for the rest of his life that when Gandhi was assasinated, his last words were a prayerful cry: "Hey Ram" instead of "Jesus." This is a true story. So when I stand in my metaphorical spiritual ancestor's shoes, (as Rachelle says) I'm standing in literal ones, too.

And I deal with it in both helpful and not-helpful ways. Making fun of an earnest and energetic but misguided person, dead now 50 years, on my blog? Probably not the healthiest way. But I do think that reaching out in healing love, like Rachelle did to Soeren, is healing, in a small way, those scars.

That one person at a time method seems like never, never, never enough, but personally, I'm trying to get over that piece-of-shit-at-the-center-of-the-universe view of myself that because I PERSONALLY havent saved the whole world, it's not going to get saved. Or, put another way, if I personally havent atoned for these sins, they're not going to be atoned for. Which, taken to the extreme, can be zealous in the same way my great-grandfather was.

All this doesnt get at the major apologies and reparations that need to happen, and the grief and guilt that all of us as Christians bear. I rejoiced, for example, when The United Church of Christ apologized for its role in overthrowing the Hawaiin monarchy and then put their money where their mouth is. I just think that in my own corner of the world, and with my own Savior complex to deal with, it's better for me to concentrate more on one by one by one person at a time,

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Elijah-logue, II

(Overheard while we were both out riding these cool micro scooters that we have gotten second hand, in separate events, from neighbors who seem to know more about what we really need to have a great time than we do.)

Him: Wow, Mommy, you're my best friend!
Me: still beaming 4 and a half hours later

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Who are YOUR jailers?

You know how you get all serious and intense and take about 1000 words to describe something that's really, you know, REAL for you and then someone else says the same thing but in a lighthearded way and in about 987 fewer words?

I got to see Jamal Rahman briefly on Friday at a workshop, and he told the group this story:

I asked my father, what is life all about and he told me,
"Whosever's approval you seek,
you are their prisoner."
And I thought about that and I thought I understood it
but then he said,
"Choose your jailers with care."

Friday, October 14, 2005

Stand in the place where you live

This friday five seems very hummable for some reason....

1) The weather in your location: It's Seattle. So it's cloudy and 50. And the forecast is "might rain. might not."

2) Where you are typing this: A room of my own.

3) Where you might like to be sitting if you could be anywhere: This is pretty great, actually! What a revelation THAT is!

4) A chore you have to do this weekend: Hmm, folding laundry is my least favorite household chore and I see some of that in my future. Hopefully I'll get out to the garden a little bit, too.

5) Something delightful you will do or would like to do this weekend: Watch Elijah sing with the kids in church for the first time. (And speaking of hummable, it's a song about Pharoah sung to the tune of Louie, Louie)

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Look, I dont know how to begin to write about this. I don't know who I'm writing it for, even. Is it God, or myself, or you, reader, whoever you may be? And I'm not sure what the outcome will be or should be. All I know is that every time to sit down to write about this, I write about something else instead. And every time I get up from the computer, I'm dissatisfied because I didnt say it again.

I really just want to say that lately I feel lonely. A writing mentor I knew once said the word "lonely" was probably wrong, and didn't really get at it. "it's more alike alone, in the cosmic sense, with the capital A, Alone." she would say. But I don't think that's it - I really do think it's lonely. I have great friends, a wonderful husband, a delightful child, a large and funny family, an abiding faith, meaningful work and still, still, still I feel lonely.

Once last summer, I went to hang out with some people I met on-line. I liked meeting them in person. It felt so cool that we had connected in this virtual, invisible way and now we could catch each other's facial expressions and play with each other's children IRT (as we cool bloggers say, and if you dont know what it means, I'm glad, because it means that I'M the IN one, even if it's just for a second). If I were still in the big small town of my childhood, reading about something like this happening in a big city, how wonderful it would seem! And how jealous I would feel! That, I would say to myself, THAT is real connection in the 21st century.

I'd always said, and always believed, that I wanted to live in Christian community. In my vaguely specific vision, I knew it involved a lot of prayer and eating together and celebrating and being very intentional about dividing finances and household work. It was about wanting to know each other on a soul level and being able to count on each other long term. And, most importantly, it would be supportive when I felt like company and it would leave me alone when I wanted some privacy. It was, as I see now in a way I did not see then, a complete fantasy, no more real than my adolescent imaginings of the perfect marriage.

Anyway, before I saw the unreality of it, I told those new virtual, real friends some of my hopes about living in community. As I talked, I thought about how this conversation always made me feel like a kid on a rainy night outside a candy store - looking in at all the people laughing and eating, and figuring they have the Kingdom of God all tucked in their pockets, and if only I could get in, I could have it, too.

One of the other women said something about some people she knew who lived in Christian community, how they brought all their hurts and wounds to it and expected them to be fixed, how disappointed they were when nothing was fixed at all.

The other woman talked about some plans she had for living together with a group of other people, and how the whole thing fell apart and now she doesn't even see those people anymore. And how she believes now that as urban people, we can't really plan our family lives around other families and make promises about forever and ever.

I nodded and smiled and I went home completely deflated.

The next morning, I talked to my husband while he was taking a shower. I sometimes do this to him, because he is (as he would tell you) unusually wise in the shower.

"We can't live in Christian community" I announced tragically. Never mind that the closest I'd ever gotten to the contentment of my ideal is right here in my own little family. Never mind that my attempts to really belong to communities in the past- the boys in my family, the jewish students at my tiny college, the lesbians the northern forests, the other moms at that little playground up the street - pretty much ended in, at the very least, a creeping sort of dissatisfaction. Never mind that it wasn't even REAL - the end of that dream was still tragic that day.

"What? Why?"

"Because. I only want to do it because of all my worst parts - mostly my pathetic, desperate loneliness. Nobody wants someone pathetic and desperate to be in their group. I have to heal this loneliness before I can even be around other people."

His eyes got all gentle and loving. "Oh sweetie. Don't stop being lonely. I love your loneliness. And other people love it too. That's why people are drawn to you. It's the thing that makes you want to gather other people around you all the time. It's good, really."

I was incredulous. But then I had a few more tentative conversations with people I trust and I started to really believe it. Maybe Christian Community didnt HAVE to be based on Acts (in that story everything went to hell in a pretty fast handbasket anyway) and maybe the sweet little weekly gatherings we have with friends could really be IT, even if we DO sometimes begin our meals with the theme song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang instead of something like a lovely Taize chant for the prayer, since that's the kids favorite song at the moment. Maybe those moments of contentment I sometimes feel with my family when we're all walking to watch the sunset together were really real. Maybe all of this, and me in all of this, could be enough.

For a while, my eyes were really open to the abundance around me, and I was so grateful.

Then, just recently, I threw my hat into this webring, which includes a sort of suggested daily reading list of noteworthy posts. Before I joined, I used to check the round-up of what others were writing, grateful to see what else was out there. With more than 70 blogs on the list, it's impossible for anyone to read them all, or list something noteworthy about every one, every day. But now I find that instead of finding the wisdom in others' words, I check the page with my fingers crossed. I'm 8 years old again and all sweaty in gym class, my brain going "Pick me, pick me, pick me...." Once someone DID pick me and I was so pleased that I couldn't even really say "thanks."

Instead of feeling like I'm part of something, I'm on the other side of the glass again (still?) and I'm not sure of the right words to get in. I'm still having that same fantasy I thought I was done with - the perfect community and me perfectly ensconced in it, in sight but just out of reach. And that fantasy is impeding my ability to embrace and enjoy the abundance that is actually available to me right here and now.

I said at the beginning that I didnt know what I was writing this for, but now I know why. I'm going to keep writing, but not because writing is some kind of ticket into a candy shop which doesn't even exist anyway. I'm going to keep writing because there's a voice in there that wants out.

When I close my eyes and picture my words now, they don't have to be, as I was imagining for a while, in the center of a circle with everyone jostling to see. We're not much into sacrifice in my tradition, but I see them now on a table, laid before God. Now I know why I am writing this. To bring me back around to where I always need to be brought around to - to trust. I'll put my words out here. I'll stop trying to make them a ticket to the Imaginary Kingdom. And I will trust in God, just as much as I possibly can, that these words will fall where they need to and heal who they need to - even if it's just me.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's embarrassing to spend time on a thing like this,

but still good fun. Google your name (or psudonym - yikes, spelling?) "needs" A selection of mine follows:

Juniper needs to start playing the big game
Juniper Needs to Buy
Juniper needs Euny’s powers to pull off this final quest
Juniper needs well-drained soil
Juniper needs to prove that this near £2.2bn purchase has not derailed it from its core competency in the service provider space.
Juniper needs to be deeply involved
Juniper needs sunshine
Juniper needs something different
juniper needs to be cut down more than halfway

Ok, that was fun and all, but SOMEBODY has to get those dishes washed, man. That'd be me, I guess. No more goofing around starting now.

Rush right over.... the Paris Project to read the most moving thing you've read in a long time about mommy-ing and getting it 97% right.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

On Reading and Watching and Taking It All In

I'm trying not to rush through Parable of the Sower, the first I've read by Octavia Butler and so oh-my-god! good that I want to gulp it down. Luckily there's a sequel...

We're easing into winter by watching Lord of the Rings, all 63 hours of it, again. It gets better and better every time. And tonight, in an attempt at family movie night and to delight our 3 year old boy ("You've worn the underwear, now see the moive!!") we got Robots. Which the grown-ups liked, but which gave the boy the willies and made it hard for him to settle into sleep.

He's kind of at a jumpy age, I guess, since he hasn't ever really been a nervous person up til now. The other morning, for example, he soberly informed me, "Mommy, Jesus is in my room." Struggling to wake up, all I could think to say was something brilliant like, "really?" And then he added: "Yes. And there are monsters in my closet." So for now, I've stopped telling him that he's safe in his room all night because Jesus is watching out for him, just in case, you know, that might actually be a SCARY idea. And a dozen times a day we have this conversation. "Monsters are just pretend, right, Mommy?" "Right." (repeat, repeat, repeat).

Question: How do you help your kids develop a faith life at that mystical age when there is no line between the seen and the unseen, and most things scare them half to death?

Open 24 Hours. Except when we're not.

So we're having this auction at church and in trying to be creative and all, I've been goofing around with turning some of my husband Jeff's lovely photographs into greeting cards (everyone needs 'em, right? right??? you better say yes when I'm talking to you, buster).

Said project has entailed way too many trips to Kinko's, including the one where the surly girl monotoned "yes, ma'am, we are open twenty four hours" and the one tonight in which I went to pick up the finally hopefully absolutely perfect cards and they were CLOSED! At 9 pm on a Saturday night! Not to re-open until Monday morning! And these are their regular hours! Don't they know that ministers have deadlines, too?

WHY should we put up with all that city life entails - the impossible gridlock, the noise and dust, and worst of all, the knowledge that we're horribly trapped in the materialism and inauthenticity that is life in the matrix if we can't go to Kinko's whenever we want? Sheesh.

This project is now officially Never Going To Be Done, and my own personal hell is going to be spent eternally filling my tank with $45 worth of gas and driving in endless circles around the copy store.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday Five

Havent posted in a week, and still not sure what to write about today - BUT thought this might be a kickstart from the RevGalBlogPals:

1) What is your earliest memory of church?
My dad (and pastor, but I dont think I knew that then - I think I was just relating to him as my dad) telling a scary story about being alone with his brother when they were small and his brother telling him a scary story. Which is weird, because church wasnt at all scary for me - in fact I mostly remember it being really safe and getting to do fun things like drinking all the dozens of tiny cups of leftover communion juice (we were Methodists in those days, natch) and one time, chasing a bat out of the sanctuary. But I still think the very first memory is the scary story.

2) How old were you when you first took Communion?
Hmm, are we counting the leftovers (see #1)? I guess I don't remember other than that. I find myself wishing here that this was a bigger moment for me.

3) What is your favorite Bible verse/passage?
This SO depends on the day. But ones that keep coming to the top are: Psalm 46 (especially the king james, but only for this one) or Romans 12 or the story of Thomas getting to see Jesus (don't call him The Doubter to ME, sister) or pretty much anything about Moses.

4) What verse/passage nicks you uncomfortably?
Well, I got kind of zinged during my ordination interview on "no one comes to the father except through me" and that one still always makes me kind of squirmy.

5) What's your favorite hymn or praise song?
Oh, geez, this is even harder than the Bible question. Not counting Christmas carols (my current favorite of which is Eli singing Hawk De Hewawd Angews Sing) Probably all time fave would be "Joyful, Joyful..."

But when I closed my eyes and thought "what's your favorite hymn, honey?" (SEE, you CAN be your own spiritual director!) I started humming "In the Midst of New Dimensions" which is #391 in the New Century Hymnal. Do the rest of ya'll have that one? Well, it's as good a vision as any I know of the Kingdom, and it has a pretty great tune, too. So I'll stick with that.

But ask me again in ten minutes and it'll probably be another one.