Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Where have you been?

Got a call from a dear friend today, asking in the gentlest and most loving possible way where the hell I've been. Since it was 12 hours later when I got her message, and too late to call back, I wrote her a long email. And, having read Christine's comment in my last post, thought you might be curious, too. So here is a section of my email to her, typos and all.

I'm sorry to be such a lousy correspondent this week -I am stretched to the limit at the moment, time wise. Last night, I made a list of all I had to do today and realized that I was feeling so stressed because there was absolutely NO WAY to fit everything I had scheduled into my waking hours, so this morning I had to make several calls from the car to cancel stuff. Then I felt better, but sheepish that I got into this binge/purge situation of overbooking and then cancelling, which is right in "women who do too much" - hmm, maybe I should be reading that, huh?

We've also been van shopping, which mostly has involved me driving all over puget sound** IN THIS HORRIBLE RAIN (have I MENTIONED how the WEATHER is getting me down ALREADY? Sister, it's not even December yet!!), and going to Yelm (!!) today to get one! Which means that everything will be much lighter for me in terms of LOOKING for a van, but also that I'll be doing more driving, as I'll be transporting Jeff to and from work some days.

Our new van, btw, is GREAT. It's very low mileage, and we got a good deal on it, mostly by what felt to me like taking advantage of a guy whose mom had just died, but which felt to him, I think, like a big relief. Anyway, it's a red ford windstar, with all bells and whistles, including a funny button that brings the brake pedal closer to your foot (in case you're such a princess that you cant bring your foot to the pedal, I guess) and a 6 CD DISC CHANGER! (LIke I"m not distracted enuf in traffic...)

LUCKILY, work is lightening up considerably. Coming up- tomorrow (Weds), I am preaching at our neighborhood THanksgiving service, then leading worship on Sunday, then --whew-- I can scale back my job some to it's actual size! I'm not on the calendar to preach at all into the near future, and no special services either, and no big crises that I KNOW of (knock on wood), so I'm feeling hopeful that I can actually do my actual job without thinking - "ok, next week I'll make up this extra time by taking a day off..." Because if you do that for weeks and weeks it kind of stops making sense.

For Thanksgiving, which I usually make a big fuss over, we are keeping it tiny this year - going to volunteer at a soup kitchen here in Ballard in teh morning, then we'll stop at our good pals' in teh afternoon. It feels good not to have people here, and all the prep that takes, to add to my List.

Ok, gotta go now and get that sermon ready about how we are not really feasting at God's table, because we're too busy running around nibbling at the edges. Preach whatchya need to hear, I guess...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Forgiveness

Hey, pastors, does anyone have a guided meditation on gratitude or thanksgiving - either on hand or in a book? Does anyone have a copy of Sharon Moon's book The Healing Oasis? If so, is it worth trying to order from our friends Across the Border?

I'll trade you this one that I wrote for an interfaith women's retreat a couple of years ago on forgiveness. In fact, so ahead and use this freely, even if you don't have one thanksgiving for me to use. But if you DO have one, that would be SO GREAT.


(edited to add: I forgot to say that I didn't put in too many of those ellipses that things usually have. Feel free to add them yourself wherever you need them. Don't rush through it.)

Intro: Forgiving the past is like extending unconditional love to the future. Guided meditation to lead you in safely forgiving something that needs it – please remember that you control this time – there are some things that are not ready to be forgiven – so don’t feel that you must go somewhere you don’t want to go.
Let the spirit guide you.


Close your eyes and take a deep breath and another.
imagine yourself rooted to this earth,
to the energy and the solidness contained in the soil and the rock.
Take another deep breath.
Now imagine yourself standing, beginning to walk,
walking, and (sustained by the energy of the earth) never tiring.
Imagine that come to a hill and you begin to climb, noticing the terrain around you.
It is the most beautiful kind of hill you can imagine
What does it look like?
Is it dry dessert and rock? Rain forest? Mountain meadow? Glacier?
Imgaine this beautiful hill and imagine yourself climbing it – never tired in your body, never tired of looking around at this beautiful place.
Now imagine that you get to the top of the hill, and the view of the valleys and plains around you opens up. You can see a long way.
Imagine that the place spread before you is the country of your life.

It is populated with all the people you have known and every place you have ever been and everything you have ever done. As you look over it, you can see it at a disance, yet you can see it all clearly – the country of your life.
Take a few moments to locate someone precious, or something that brings you joy, or someplace that brings you peace from sometime in your life. Enjoy your memories and feelings as you look upon that beloved person, object or place….

Now turn your gaze. Somewhere in the vast country of your life, there is something that still feels out of place. It is time to look at thing that it is time to forgive. From your safe place, high on the hill, you can look at it with fresh eyes. You can see that thing for what it is – one thing in the country of your life, but not the whole of it.
You know what it is – this thing that needs forgiving…..
Is it something in yourself? Or in another? …..
Is it some regret? Some broken promise? Some act of violence? ….

Look at it from this distance and with this clarity. See again how the thing that needs forgiving is only one place in the country of your life – one part (whether large or small) of all the vastness that you have seen and known.

Allow yourself to imagine how it would change the geography of the country of your life if you were to forgive the thing that needs forgiving…. Would the thing change in shape or color? Would it reflect or absorb the light in a different way? …. Would it become smaller? Would it disappear altogether, leaving room for something new? …

Allow yourself to imagine forgiving that thing. Allow yourself to imagine that it is already forgiven, and that all you must do now, from your high, safe spot is it to say the word….

Although you have felt strong and powerful, grounded, on all your long walk, you might notice that you feel lighter now. You feel satisfied about the future of the country of your life. You know there are new places still to explore, new relationships to be savored, new life still to be lived. Renewed, you return back down the hill. You might find yourself walking more quickly now – almost running, your feet almost flying off the ground.

Imagine you come to the bottom of the hill. Imagine that you return to this place, to this land, to this sacred circle. You return to your place, settle your body again. You rest. At last, you rest. (Silence)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More about incarnation, from a real expert


Elijah's toy cars are talking to each other:

Car #1: Hey, can I hang out with you?
Car #2: Ok.
#1: I think poop is funny.
#2: What?!? (pause) I think poop is funny, too.
#1: OH-KAY!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard, the abuse of power, and the worst swear you ever said.

That which I would not do, I do; and that which I would do, I do not.

Songbird posts wisely (really, "wise" goes without saying when we're talking about Songbird, don't you think?) about what pushes our buttons about Ted Haggard. I started to comment over there and it got out of hand, so I'm throwing in my two cents here.

She says (I'm paraphrasing wildly, here, so correct me if I'm wrong) that this whole thing is really about power, and the abuse of power, as much as it is about sex. She also says that sexual sins upset us so much because they are hidden, unlike other sins which are right out there.

I agree that those reasons are part of why we are upset. (If you're not upset about Ted Haggard, I guess you can go ahead and stop reading right now.) And I would go further. This kind of thing dismays us so much because we don't, any of us, really understand incarnation. We don't really believe the mystery and the wonder that God came to us in a body, in the person of Jesus, which means that it is a cornerstone of our Christian faith to love our bodies as God-given gifts. In fact, most of us kind of hate our bodies when it comes right down to it. And yet, there we are, in our bodies pretty much all the time. So anything that smacks of body-ness both repels and fascinates us, just like our own bodies do.

But really the thing that gets us about Ted Haggard is that, for all the outrageous celebrity of the key players, the whole thing hits kind of close to home. We could be the wife in the passenger seat of the SUV, with the reporter's microphones in our faces. And we could be Ted, too.

Ok, maybe we're not snorting (shooting? smoking? what is it exactly you do with meth anyway?) or hiring prostitutes. Don't get me wrong. I'm with you in thinking that what Rev. Haggard did is a terrible betrayal to his family and his ministry. But the fact is that all of us, all of us, at times do things, even if they're small in comparison, that would shock or dismay those who rely on us. (If you think I'm wrong about this, think about the nastiest swear word you've ever said. Now imagine the sweetest lady in your congregation being there while you said it. See what I mean?) None of us can live up to the standards of the Christian people we want to be all the time.

You're saying "Yeah, okay, so I swear (or your gentle little sin here) sometimes. Big deal, it's not like I'm cheating on my wife, all the while telling thousands of people every week how wrong it is to cheat on your wife." All I'm saying is, it's just a matter of degree. And, okay, the degree here is taken to such an extreme, that it seems impossible that we could ever go there. But I'm betting ol' Ted didn't start out paying for massages. I'm betting he started small.

In his letter to his followers, Haggard says, The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. I'm taking that as a piece of advice. Here's what I'm reading between the lines: Be authentic. Keep praying, not that God will make you different, but that God will make you more of what you are already, only better. When you think you might be getting into trouble, tell someone about it. "Love God and your neighbor as yourself" means you gotta love yourself. If only Ted could read between his own lines like that. Now he's in the clutches of James Dobson and cronies, and I'm afraid the only way to come out of that little trip to the head shrinker is even more full of self-loathing than before. And self-loathing never healed anyone, as far as I know.

Last spring, I was at a workshop on Clergy Misconduct (er, that is, "Prevention Of")and this week, I keep remembering the message of that day: "Don't get too tired. Don't get too stressed out. Find some people who can really hold you accountable. You are responsible not to make yourself vulnerable to the possibility of mis-conducting." Here's the bottom line. It's not just power hungry megalomaniacs who sin, my brothers and sisters. It could be me. It could be you.

People with bodies doing things that we are capable of? That's why it upsets us. That's why we can't stop blogging about it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

something I did a while ago and just found again


Which Classic Female Literary Character Are you?





You're Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen!
Take this quiz!








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Friday, November 03, 2006

today's question

What I want to know about Ted Haggard is, if it's all true and it seems like some of it must certainly be, what I want to know is when did he have the TIME?

I mean, I've just got this dinky little job, only one kid instead of 5, and I'm not the president of any major organizations of any kind and I can just barely make time to get a PEDICURE once every couple of months.

sermon writing avoidance aka friday five

from the rev gals

my mind is on the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.

Please share your thoughts on the following:


1) The Tooth Fairy
Since I'm soon to become one, I guess I should develop an opinion soon. I'm pretty anti-Santa (much more about THAT in the months to come I am sure) but I have absolutely no feelings about the tooth fairy one way or another.

2) Flossing
Twice a day. And I surprised a friend recently by revealing that I carry floss in the car. Just because, you know, you could have a broccoli situation at any time.

3) Toothpaste Brands

Always Tom's. Cinnamint if they have it.

4) Orthodontia for Adults
I try not to, but I always think "Oh, that's so cute!" when I see an adult in braces.

5) Whitening products
Hmm. Never tried 'em.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

pruning back

I'm not much of a gardener. In fact, today I threw the last remaining houseplant, the one that had somehow survived our alternate smothering and starving for all the years in Seattle before finally giving up the ghost this week, into the yard waste bucket.

Since I can't even keep one hardy house plant alive, you can imagine that I dont know much about what to do in the garden. And to tell you the truth, the garden here doesn't require as much as you'd think. It's a big jungly mess, which somehow works as part of the Pacific Northwest aesthetic. Still, every now and again, on a sunny day, I get out the big pruning sheers and whack everything back.

My sporadic fits of pruning always throw Jeff into a mild panic, and I can't actually say I blame him. "What if it doesn't come back?" he'll worry. Then, a few weeks later, "Well, I guess you really killed it this time." Depending on how I'm feeling, I either nod gently or sigh with exasperation, "You're a BUDDHIST, remember? Impermanence of form and all that..."

I'm pruning back these days, and not just in the garden. It's so hard to have faith that if old things are cleared away, they'll either come back bigger and better or new ones will grow up. It's counter-intuitive and risky. It's hard to believe that growing things have to lie fallow before they can grow, that those bare twigs will yield flowers, and that which once was green will be green again.

It's hard to believe it, but you gotta, don't you? I sure do.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

One more from Ordinary Time

Here's today's Ordinary Time devotion, (edited very slightly to get rid of some little stuff that's always bugged me about this piece.)

Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Mark 10:51-52


Jeff was already in a wheelchair when we crossed the lines of friendship to become lovers, but at the time I hardly noticed. What I did notice was his indomitable intellect, patience, beautiful eyes, depth, candor, artistic talent, remarkably deep speaking voice, air of complete trustworthiness, spiritual curiosity, unexpectedly vigorous laugh, the surprising sweetness of the sound he made when sneezing, and the kissing. I’d done quite a lot of kissing before, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t really get the point of it until I bent near Jeff to pick something up and he put his hand on the back of my head and kissed me for the first time.

I don’t know what usually happens to people when they marry into a disability, but I can tell you what happened to me. At first, I was all about fixing everything. I knew intellectually, of course, that there is no fixing muscular dystrophy, a muscular and neurological disorder that causes muscles to weaken slowly over time. By the time Jeff was three, his family noticed that he harder time getting up from a fall than the other kids. By the time he was 18, he was using a wheelchair to get around most of the time. By the time I first knew him, six or seven years later, he was in an electric wheelchair for good.

So I didn’t really believe I could fix him in the one one-day-he’ll-walk-again-by-God sense. Not really, anyway. I did, however, think of him as a project that needed doing. I come from pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of people, the kind of people who call you up and ask what you are doing, not what you are feeling. My people believe in hard work, and in efficiency. They are not as joyless as this makes them sound but they like action, and they rely on it. Also, I knew from countless girlhood re-readings of Heidi and A Secret Garden that all Jeff needed was more spunkiness, and more time outdoors and maybe less time brooding and before you knew it, his life would be better.

After it became clear that there was no fixing what was wrong with Jeff – namely, that he was always going to move more slowly than anyone I will ever know – I got really really sad.

We were newly engaged on my first really sad day. We sat on a ferry in Jeff’s van, cars parked in neat rows all around us and no way for Jeff to lower the ramp of his van and roll his wheelchair out. I really wanted us to go out to the deck together (that fresh air, you know). I wanted to get out of the van with him, but he couldn’t get out and no amount of spunkiness was going to fix that. I cried that whole ferry ride, and the whole rest of what was supposed to be a romantic getaway day.

I was sad for awhile. Then I got mad. I stomped around our tiny apartment, in my head a list of escalating “can’ts” that only increased my fury. Can’t pick up a phone book. Can’t pump his own gas. Can’t get too tired or he’ll get sick. Can’t get too sick or he’ll die.

I seethed on the way to our one appointment with the therapist whose office was only accessible by a locked back door, which was half-blocked with boxes and broken chairs. I fumed in church as the others blithely sang When the Saints Go Marching In, a former favorite hymn that now seemed to be mockery. I ground my teeth in my seminary classes as we studied Bible passages like this one as if they were just some kind of academic exercise. Jeff was disabled, but I was the one who needed healing.

It was hard to let go of the myth that even with all my hard work and all my adorable spunk, I still was not going to be able to fix Jeff. Gradually it occurred to me that Jesus, who understood bodily suffering, might be able to help. In desperation, I prayed to him to release me from my unproductive grief and rage. It didn’t happen overnight, but so slowly that I barely noticed how it happened, some days I found that I was not trying so hard to fix Jeff.

Like so many clich├ęs that are based in reality, the less hard I try to fix him, the easier everything becomes. On those days, and there are more and more of them now, I see in the rhythms of our life together more of what is possible than what is impossible. I find reserves of patience I never knew existed. We laugh a lot more. And in my conversations with God I find I’m expressing less anger about the “can’ts” and more delight in the “cans.” Can take pictures of flowers that make me want to reach out and pick them. Can support me with his whole being, both emotionally and financially. Can beget the most remarkable child either of us have ever known.

Living with Jeff every day, I know how difficult it is for him to do many small things that the rest of us take for granted – pulling on his socks, taking a plate out of the cupboard, visiting the neighbor’s house. I love him as fiercely as I did in that moment we first kissed and I will help him when I can. But I cannot in a real fundamental way make him into anything different. It makes me less sad and less mad when I remember that if any transformation needs to happen, that’s between Jeff and God, not between Jeff and me.

This is a story about grace. And so, incredibly, is the story of Bartimaeus, although I have always misunderstood this passage until now. It wasn’t what Bartimaeus DID that changed his life. It wasn’t pushing his way through the crowd, approaching Jesus, or even asking for his eyesight that healed him. It was his faith, Jesus says, that made him well. There are many ways to describe faith, I suppose, but here’s the way I know. Faith is simply opening our eyes to grace. Faith is listening for the voice that is already speaking, that asks each of us, every day, every minute, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Whatever our level of ability or disability, it is the human condition to grieve and rage against those things we cannot change. Those are the times that Jesus appears to us, looks in our eyes, loves us and, reminds us as gently as possible that we are not as in charge as we think we are. Jesus asks, “What do you want ME to do for YOU?”

When that happens, accept the invitation to be healed and to follow him on the way.

Dear Friend, You see me, know me, heal me. I fall into your grace with joy and follow your way with gratitude. Amen.