23 September 2010

The Theological Implications of Rollercoasters

We all know the familiar feeling, gut-wrenching or exciting or maybe both: when we get into the little car (or heaven help me, sit on a bench and let our legs dangle!) and get strapped in, waiting for what seems an eternity until there's that lurch and off we go. Up, up, up the hill that looked so manageable when standing in line, but that looks so amazingly huge now... then that suspended moment of EEEK! as we crest the hill... then AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!! as we go flying down the other side, possibly into a dark tunnel, or around a steep curve. Some hang on for dear life with their eyes closed. Others wave their hands in the air and scream in release, looking around to catch every fast-flying moment. Few of them are longer than five minutes, and nowadays they are so well-engineered that there are few bumps unless they're intended.

Sometimes... sometimes life is like that. :) Sometimes one's walk of faith feels the same way--only it seldom lasts for a puny five minutes. Today, as the last hours of summer wane toward the Autumnal equinox (tonight at 11:09 PM in the Eastern US time zone where I live), I find myself on the brink of changes and pondering the theological implications of living life on a rollercoaster in the fast lane.

This year has been difficult, and not just on me. Much has gone on in many places. We have but to open a newspaper or log on to a news site to see how busy everything has been. Natural disasters, military actions, mine collapses, oil rig explosions... political upheaval at home and abroad, and OH so much fear. It seems everyone with whom I've spoken feels exhausted already, as we lean toward my favourite month of October. We still have three whole months to go--with the ever-busy season of Thanksgiving, Advent, Hanukkah, Islamic New Year, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the whole end of the calendar year Silvester/Western New Year thing to get to, the time when traditionally few of us have time to breathe, much less sit in holy silence for the good of our spirits. Eeeeek, indeed!

I won't go into the long, gory, sad story of my own summer; I'm just glad it's coming to an end soon. I've come down the big hill, we're well into the steep turn, there's a dark tunnel at the end there but I can see the light coming. Soon the car will come back to the starting point and I can get off this ride, wobbly-legged (literally, for part of my summer has involved an unpleasant leg injury!) and glad to be on solid ground. I know some of you out there probably have had astonishing summers as well, and may well have a busy holiday season coming up on you as I do. So here's a thought or two:

1) Do you LIKE rollercoasters? Then fit some more of them in between now and the end of the calendar year. Adrenaline is good for you sometimes, and we can all use the occasional shaking up. Plus, this sort of thing can be fun when you're in the right frame of mind.

2) Do you NOT like rollercoasters? This is my category... :) I prefer to know things, I'm not good at surprises or heights with long, fast drops, but real life doesn't always work that way. If you don't like them, try to think of it as a moment for faith. *grin* Sit down, strap in, hold on, and try to enjoy the ride... there just might be a message for you somewhere.

3) If (like me) you don't do well with surprises, try not to let that make you crazy. I did, and am a bit annoyed with myself for wasting the effort this summer. I'm going to attempt in future to see the surprises, the rollercoasters, the big drops and the huge rushes, as places where I need to take notice of what's going on with myself spiritually, and see if maybe, just maybe, I can stop screaming long enough to hear the message Spirit has for me. :)

Yes, life will continue to rocket around big curves, steep hills, dark tunnels and the like. But the Lord of Heaven is there in the car with us, holding on to us as we hold on to the supports, letting us know it will eventually be all right. Even the worst situation eventually ends, and healing doesn't have to wait until the car stops in order to begin.

Know that if you've had a rough summer or even a whole rough year, or if several years have ganged up on you and you're about to go flat to the floor because of it, someone somewhere is praying for you. And as for praying for yourself? Do it. Even if the only prayer you have the strength to utter is a soft, sad "Help?" at the end of a difficult day, believe that it is heard. Believe it will be acted upon.

Now step out of that rollercoaster car with me; let's stagger out of here and get a frozen lemonade and a fresh-baked pretzel. :)

Happy Autumn, everyone!

06 August 2010

Memories, Memories Friday Five

Sally writes:

This year Tim and I have planted and nurtured a vegetable garden, and I have just spent the morning preparing vegetables and soups for the freezer, our veggie garden is producing like crazy and it is hard to keep up with, that said it'll be worth it for a little taste of summer in the middle of winter :-). That got me thinking of the things I treasure, memories are often more valuable than possessions. How about you, can you share:

A treasured memory from childhood?
A teenage memory?
A young adult memory?
A memory from this summer?
A memory you hope to have?

Bonus- a song that sums up one of those memories

Ahh, summer and memories... how they seem to go together! My veggie garden isn't doing nearly as well as Sally and Tim's, but I do cherish each struggling little grape tomato and blueberry that managed to make it through the very odd heat we've had this year. :) So let me see...

Childhood memory:

Possibly because my son recently adopted an adorable, mischievous black-and-white kitten to fill the void left by the passing of his beloved Tilly-woo some years ago, I find the first thing that pops to memory is the similarly-marked kitten I had as a very little girl. I had just seen Pinocchio (Disney version, 'when you wish upon a star....') and decided to name the kitten Figaro. I have one photo of him; he is crawling up my father's plaid shirt, while Daddy looks bemused and I stare in fascination, keeping hands in lap so I can hopefully get my chance to hold the wiggling bundle. Figgy didn't stay with us for long, he went to be with another family whose mom did not need to sleep during the day... but he's always been there in my memory, just one thought away.

Teenage Memory:

This is a tough one. I want to focus on positive memories, and my teenage years were... seldom positive. However, recent events in my life do bring forth something all the more precious now because half of the couple is gone and the other half has memory impairment. I met my in-laws long before they became such, while I was still in high school. They did many things for me, taught me things, helped me with problems, gave me a place in their hearts. My father-in-law passed away on Ash Wednesday this past February, but I will always remember how he taught me to once again find my dignity, my sense of self-worth, made me a stronger, better person. His wife aided in that task in many ways; she is alone now, half the time not remembering he is gone, the other half of the time remembering all too well. She is teaching me new lessons now, all unawares: patience, the simple grace of living in the moment, and learning to let go. Important, special memories, those....

Young Adult:

This one is easy. :) I was twenty-six, still clearly a young adult, when my son (who will be 28 this October) was born. He arrived 12 days after my birthday and 8 days before his parents' wedding anniversary. I remember as clearly as if it were yesterday what it felt like to have him move inside of me; when he came out and I held him for the first time, he moved deeper inside of me than he already had been, to take root in my heart. The photographs do not do justice to the absolute moment of gob-smacked adoration that hit me when I looked into his little red face.

This Summer:

Hmmm... we have a couple of weeks to go yet, and what I suspect will be the most memorable time has not quite yet come. I've been asked to be the celebrant at the wedding of two wonderful people who I have come to love dearly, the brother of the one I love and his delightful fiancee. I am looking forward to it with great joy, and expect to remember the event for any number of memory-worthy moments. I love doing weddings, love being privileged to be a part of someone's great moment of hope and joy. So I'll say that the happy memory (so far) from this summer is anticipation, the best sauce, as the wedding draws ever nearer....

Hope to Have:

Someday I hope someone will look at me the way I see him look at her, and will want to be with me as they want to be with each other. Until that day, I will cherish the memories I have and continue to hope.

Bonus Round: A Song....

I'm pretty sure it would be "Memory" from Cats:

I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I musn't give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin....

As for us all, may our memories be sweeter as we grow older and wiser!

03 August 2010

Sometimes... Things Break...


Those things that break are hearts.

Mine is broken at the moment. Hearts are sometimes reasonably resilient things; sometimes they heal. We live in hope. Insert little brave smile here, pick up, keep going, rinse and repeat.


Today my prayers will be for all those who are suffering because of heartbreak. Whatever the reason, whatever the root cause, it matters not. God knows who you are and what you need; the prayer is there, God is there, somehow it will be all right eventually.

Please pick up and keep going. I will if you will. We'll all get there together.

If you want specific prayers for specific heartbreaks, or just want to let me know you need a prayer, leave me a comment; it doesn't have to be anything more than the word Yes. But even if you don't leave a comment, the prayers are there. Have one. It'll do you a world of good.

Please say one for me too....

26 July 2010

Finding God's Mercy

Those of you who may have been reading this intermittent blog for some time--or are willing to page back through to see what the heck this is all about--may have noticed that one recurring refrain in my spiritual walk is this: "Is this year OVER YET??" At my age especially, one hates to wish away one's days, weeks, months, and years. So I have decided that my focus for the rest of 2010 is to try and alter that refrain to something more positive, by attempting to find in each day something good, uplifting, or even just of shorter duration than it might have been otherwise.

Of course, the Universe being what it is, the very moment I make such a decision there arises a challenge.... *wry smile*

Well, I've been doing it again. Wondering if 2010 is over yet, foolishly believing 2011 will somehow not have its own challenges. This time I believe the universe is not letting me get away with it.

Last Sunday I was awakened by pain. I'm not good with pain, but I'm pretty good at hiding it; not always for the best of reasons, but hey, if you're good at something and there's even the tiniest bit of positive spin to it, go with it. :) Nevertheless, the point of the comment is this: I don't usually let pain get the better of me. But this pain fit all the hallmarks of a heart attack, and for once I decided to listen.

Here's the end of the story first: it wasn't a heart attack. Thank you, Lord, for that! What it was, however, brings its own interesting challenges: it was a return of the stress-related attacks I had a few years ago when my life decided to take WAY too many new directions all at the same time, like puppies pulling toward every quarter of the compass at once. Shortly thereafter--a matter of days--I was gardening and got nowhere NEAR poison ivy, but somehow got it all over myself again. Just like the last two Julys.

Oh yay.... :)

All right, yes, to be honest, fair and just, the crisis was way overdue. I've been living on air and about 4 hours of sleep a night for far too long, and losing important bits of myself in the bargain. Had I been my own counseling client, I'd have known precisely what to say and in exactly what tone of voice--but how often do we give our own selves that interesting grace?

Oh my yes... Ἰατρέ, θεράπευσον σεαυτόν, physician, heal thyself.... a proverb known in Jesus's day, as he quotes it to the crowd in Nazareth in exactly those terms: "And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country." (Luke 4:22-23, KJV) We know, as did they, that Jesus meant we should look to our own problems prior to judging those of others--a proverb he would gently push home in another way when suggesting we remove the log from our own eyes before worrying over the speck of dust in the eye of our brother or sister. Oh counselor, look thyself in the face in thy morning mirror and take a dose of thine own medication... :)

Hence the whole idea of trying to do just that, wrapped up in the concept of joy no matter what. So I have to crawl out of bed somewhere between 03:30 and 04:00, hit the road as soon as possible, and drive safely/mindfully to my tentmaker-job? So what! I get to see the lovely full moon riding the skies amid the cloud-ships, where others miss it because they are asleep. And I get to leave before rush-hour traffic becomes horribly bad, which is also a plus. I get to learn afresh that my body's immune system really DOES work, oh boy does it ever, and that all the signals point to upcoming challenges. Joy!

But I also need to heal myself by getting to bed earlier... eating more healthfully and at less odd hours... reclaiming time here and there to do the things that feed my own soul.... And I need to believe and claim that I have as much right to health, rest and joy as anyone else. Not to mention... *gulp* making myself realize that the mercy of God is something that pertains to me just as much as anyone else.

There, I said it. Yes, sports fans, I have come to the understanding that I fell victim to one of the biggest traps that beset people in ministry: a delight and longing and joy in sharing with others the loving mercy of God, and a serious difficulty in applying it to my own self. The reasons don't matter, because they are so different and so people-specific.

Maybe you were told as a child that you were of little worth, took it in and believed it, spent your life so far helping other people because it fed some of the ache in the centre of your own being. Maybe you were abused, belittled, bereft; maybe you grew up in a normal household where helping others was a joyous way of life, and you got so caught up in the process that you forgot to look in the mirror from time to time and thus missed the need in your eyes. Whatever it is/was/continues to be, it doesn't have to have been a bad thing (though it all too often is/was)--it was just a distraction at some level. You went along, kept going, one foot in front of the other, whatever was needful to feed your desire to help, be loved, whatever.

I know I did it, for my own reasons. Some of those reasons I knew about, others I didn't, I just... did it. Gave space to it in my heart. Some of it is there and remains joyful, though I will be working on balance with it from now on. Some of it is there and is clothed in anger, sorrow, loss, grief--and I will be working on balance there, too.

Some of it... Lord help me, some of it is badness done to me or by me that I have forgiven but not released, hurt and dark things I have acknowledged and released but then not completely let go of. Those things will be worked on immediately. With lots of prayer and mercy-searching. With as much honesty as I can muster. Ἰατρέ, θεράπευσον σεαυτόν.

New Year is not the only time to make choices, declare intentions, slip your hand into God's on one side and Destiny on the other. But then again, the calendar New Year is not the only new year season we receive, either. Our ancestors believed the new year came at the dark of the season, when autumn's leaves were burning and that veil was thinnest that separates us from Spirit. So even though Summer has a high hand in charge where I live, I am very aware this week that autumn is coming. The days are already getting shorter; the heat's back will be broken, and the Lord will have many a message for me.

This time... O Lord, this time let me not only listen--but let me hear. Bring on the Mercy and help me to say yes this time.

19 July 2010

Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

Good morning friends,

I have set my comments permissions to moderated status because of an interesting spammage influx of late. For those of you leaving kind, relevant commentary, thank you... for those leaving comments that are inappropriate, and that link me to porn sites, pleasse know I am a priest and don't "do" porn. ;)

Please leave comments IF they are relevant. Please stop with the porn spammage. You have been reported, and you know who you are. :)

In all things love... but love with Moderation. *snicker*

BTW, thanks for all the good thoughts. The Cardiac Incident this past weekend turned out to not be a heart attack, but we still don't know exactly what it was. Continued prayers are very much appreciated!

14 July 2010

Ends of Eras

What stunning timing.

On the very morning of the annual All-Star Game for baseball's best and brightest, a life came to an end--a bare two days after that of another baseball giant--and both of them affiliated with the same team. The universe has an odd sense of existence, I swear...

Those of you who read this blog are probably reasonably aware that I am not a fan of the New York Yankees. Rather, it is in my blood to consider them The Ultimate Opponent: in my home they are referred to as Those People (much as Robert E. Lee used to call the Federal troops, and for much the same reason: he knew they were human beings, people he was once part of, deserving of the love of God as much as anyone else--but just "not us"... a non-nasty way to refer to persons with a different mission from oneself, if you will!) when they are not being referred to by other far less compassionate names. *wry smile* No doubt my team suffers the same name-calling in homes across the land as well, for few things polarize baseball fans like the Auncient and Especiall Rivalrie Betwixt the Red Sox and the Yankees....

But right now is not the time for partisanship. Death has hit the Bronx in a hard way, so now is the time for compassion and caring.

On July 11, Bob Sheppard--The Voice of Yankee Stadium--passed away at the age of 99. Had he made it to October 20, he would have attained the great old age of 100. His life is a remarkable one for many reasons: his service to his country, his love of his family, his work as a broadcaster and what he considered his most important work: that of Professor of Speech at his alma mater, St. John's University, NYC. But to those of us who love baseball, a team's "voice"--the person who announces the games in their home park, knows the players, the stats, the game--is a special and sacred vocation. When we lose one, especially a classic, courtly one like Bob Sheppard, we lose something much, much more than can be easily described.

Bad enough; a hit to the heart, of that there is no doubt. But then two days later on July 13, early in the morning of All-Star Game Day, death visited the Yankees once more. This time it took "The Boss," George Steinbrenner, who has been the owner of the team since 1973. It was a quick death: a massive heart attack, occurring at his summer home in Tampa, FL just as the day was dawning.

Many will eulogize him in the weeks to come. A man who was both loved and despised is being spoken of in hushed tones, granted (as we all are at such times) graces he may or may not have possessed in life. His positive traits are magnified into super-virtues; his faults kicked under the rug, and realistically speaking, there's nothing wrong with that. He lived a long, controversial, powerful life, and made an undeniable mark on his generation. Like the passing of Tom Yawkey of the Red Sox in July of 1976, Steinbrenner's passing marks one of those occasions where one can truly say we will never see his like again.

Time enough later to tell his story, turn the spade of history through the garden of his life. Right now and for some time to come, I would like to suggest that we simply do this: Say a prayer for the souls of Sheppard and Steinbrenner, pray for God's peace and presence for their families, friends, team and fans as they deal with a monumental double loss, and find it in our hearts to have charity in all things.

At the time of death, we are all equal. All else is details.

Requiescat in pace, Mr. Sheppard, Mr. Steinbrenner. For even at the grave we make our song:

"Good evening... ladies and gentlemen... and welcome... to Yankee Stadium!"

03 June 2010

Oh Look, She Lives....

I am SO sorry to have been gone for so long. :( Life has been interesting; it still is, but I'm starting to come back from the long dark, into the light.

There will be something much more interesting here very soon, I promise. Thanks for all the prayers; they have been appreciated deeply!

Love & blessings,