19 October 2007

Friday Five: If I Were Food....

LOL! I'm afraid what first went through my head was the tune of "If I were a Rich Man" from Fiddler: "If I were a foodstuff..." and on that silly note, here is this week’s Friday Five.

1. If you were a food, what would you be? -- probably a lobster. Boiled and doused in drawn butter. *drools delicately*

2. What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where? You didn't say it had to be GOOD memorable.... LOL! Thanksgiving Dinner, 1971.... the first I ever cooked completely on my own. My mother, then long-separated from Daddy, was coming with HER mother, Gramma; her younger sister, Aunt Marilyn; and Marilyn's eldest, Cousin Fred. No pressure.... Everything that could go wrong did, and Mom ended up taking over my kitchen (which annoyed me at the time and amuses me now, because Oh My, I've turned INTO her at this point...) and somehow dinner happened, but it was hardly the best I've ever had. *grins* The memorable good stuff about it was that was the one time I had the majority of my distaff family in one place at one time, and I miss that.

3. What is your favorite comfort food from childhood? Krafft macaroni and cheese in the comforting blue box... and fried clams with bellies. I grew up Nawth of Bahstahn, after all.... LOL!

4. When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit? Stuffed shells with home-made red sauce. Lots of cheese, lots of beef, big huge pasta shapes. :)

5. What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate? Eel. The rest of my tastes (well, possibly excepting the clams with bellies fetish!) are rather pedestrian.... :)

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal? German beer. Dopplebock. Drawn not bottled.

08 October 2007

Been Gone Too Long...

Hi folks,

Happy Autumn and a blessed October to you all! I love October... I wake up in October. *grins* I was born on October 1, married on the 21st, and our one surviving son was born on the 13th. It's a pretty special month!

This year will mark the 28th wedding anniversary... though there's really no marriage left to speak of. That is a thing of great sadness for me--but we have remained friends, and that is probably a far better outcome than I feared.

October is one of those months when we are betwixt and between. Down here in the Old Dominion, summer releases its hold only after much pushing; today it was 90 and humid, July weather in the opening days of the reign of the Winter King. The leaves have only just now started vaguely thinking about changing colour; we need rain, and the nights haven't yet begun to be cool for real. But they will soon. I can smell it in the air!

October generally means a time of reflection and serious thought. Some dear friends have chosen it as a time to pass on; some have chosen it as time to be married, or to give birth. For me this year October is a time of bursting energy and Muses re-awakened. More as the month wears on...

May you all have a great month! I've missed being here during the Dark Night of the Soul; I'm glad there are orange and yellow leaves in the sun at the end of the tunnel.

17 August 2007

Friday Five: Word Association

Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story.

1. vineyard

Hmmm... first thought that comes to mind is my favourite workplace: the vineyard into which my Savior has sent me, and where I am privileged to serve His people. Second thought, of course, is Virginia Wines... yum... :-)

2. root

The Root of my Being... my Lord Jesus, His Father, and Our Lady Sophia. These roots strike deep and wrap lovingly about the heart...

3. rescue

Oddly enough, makes me think first of my Dad, who was a radioman in the Coast Guard during WW2... but theologically speaking, rescue of course leads to thoughts of salvation. Rescued by grace, and saved...

4. perseverance

That lovely old poem, "Don't Quit"; Daddy had it hanging on the wall over his desk, and from time to time I have either thought of this poem as a lifeline in time of trouble--an inspiration, if you will--or a supreme annoyance, much like St. Hildegard's repetitive but true "all will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of thing shall be well..." *g* Here's the poem (author apparently unknown):

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road your trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and its turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about
When they might have won, had they stuck it out.
Don't give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the struggler has given up
When he might have captured the victors cup;
And he learned too late when the night came down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far;
So stick to the fight when your hardest hit,
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit!

5. divided

Hmm... the obvious ones come up first: divided loyalties, divided cities (Berlin...), divided families or friends... a house divided... but there's a lot of proto-positivism in this word. Jesus DIVIDED the bread and gave it to His disciples. He DIVIDED the loaves and fishes, and fed the five thousands. DIVIDED highways make for faster commutes, implying as they do more lanes in each direction... :-)

I guess the lesson there is, it's all in how you choose to look at things. Glass half full, or half empty? I have decided to champion it being half-FULL! So I can divide the contents among my friends, and share!

Happy Friday, y'all!


11 August 2007

Yoda Bumps

I'm sitting here with my back trying to put the kibosh on everything I do (three compressed discs, no waiting... *sighs*), clearly being taught some lessons in Intentional Living. As in, it ain't easy to stick with the intention of Living Intentionally when everything in the world suddenly turns into a Yoda Bump... *g*

Let me define and explain a bit. A "Yoda Bump" is some object, person or situation (size matters not! *g*) that suddenly seems to appear out of nowhere to try and mess you over when you've just done something virtuous (decided to be kinder, not eat too many desserts, quit slugging back so many empty-calorie sodas per day, or Live Intentionally--just as utterly unrelated examples, of course! *whistles innocently*). Yoda Bumps try your patience, push you, stay in your way no matter what direction you turn--until you face them, handle them, pull up your Big Girl Collar and deal, or whatever. If you ignore them or whine, they grow--like Pinocchio's nose. Once you let go, face them, hug them or spit in their eye... they go away.

Making room, of course, for the next one... *wry smile* But that's no nevermind.

Like all the pain-in-the-keester things Yoda did to Luke in the swamps of Dagobah before Luke KNEW this was the Jedi Master he should have been making nice to... Yoda Bumps try you. It's a test. Sometimes it's a bit harsh--like one's back going out on one, on the same day one had promised to help wrangle many entrants to a horse show. Sometimes they're downright pathetically nasty (sorta like locking yourself out of your house completely, barefoot, no contacts in, with only your cell phone to rely on--and the only person with a key who can be reached is your son, who is in bed asleep... at the house he shares with your ex, who is the only one who drives... and you live an hour and change away... again, not like, umm, that has anything to do with ME!! *whistles some more and toes the dirt a bit*).

In short, they exist to find out if you are serious. When you lit the candles on your personal altar and made Big Promises in front of God and Everybody, were you serious? When you said you wanted to manifest into your life the Big Dream you've had since you were a kid--and swore that you know it's not going to be easy--were you sucking up to the Jedi Master? Or do you have the Right Stuff to pull this off with the help of the aforementioned God and Everybody?

Cuz if you are... one crappy little Yoda Bump isn't going to stop you.

Is it?

I had a crawful of Yoda Bumps last weekend, but many blessings came my way once I stopped whining and kicked back. Or didn't, as the case may have been. The fair thing about Yoda Bumps is that whatever form they may otherwise take, it's usually pretty obvious how to handle it. If you're stuck and the only person who can help you is someone you've broken up with, or that you socially despise, or who has hurt you in the past--you have to suck it up and accept help from something other than a nice knight on a horse. If you're overwhelmed and the key to breaking the logjam is to say or do something you otherwise would rather pull out your entrails than do--take a deep breath and say or do it. And always, always remember what Eleanor Roosevelt once said: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent...

The thing for which I requested prayer on July 19 is still in progress, and I still feel very strongly that it will somehow happen. It is very near to the realm of miracles in terms of what will be required--but it is not impossible. However, because it IS so unlikely, and yet feels so right, there is much that I must personally attend to--and trust about--and thus, I am facing a veritable minefield of Yoda Bumps in every direction I look. IF I were to look at them as a whole, I'd give up now. *g* But I'm not going to DO that.

I will take them one bump at a time, one hurdle, one step, one breath... because that's the only way to do it. And somehow I will persevere. And it will be good. But at the moment, I think I shall go look at some nice pics of Amidala, or Leia, or (skipping fandoms slightly) Susan Ivanova, or maybe even Qui-Gon Jinn--because I'm really, really tired of looking at Master Yoda's little green visage. :-)

That's how things stand today at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, Aerodrome and Miracle Manifestation Factory... that's my story and I'm stickin' to it. See you soon!

19 July 2007

Been Gone a While...

We all have them: lengthy dry periods, or times when SO many fertile things are happening that it is practically impossible to track them all. :-) I've had both lately.

I have a special request to make today, July 19, 2007:

Wherever you are at the hour which corresponds to Noon in the Eastern time zone of the US, could you say a prayer and send me some energy? Something potentially very special is in the works--the possible actual happening of a dream I've had since childhood--under bizarre and tingly-good circumstances. I'll be in a meeting at noon in Warrenton, Virginia that could literally change my life in a VERY good way. It is not a job interview, and it is not a medical test of any sort. I'll explain later, I promise. God is working out some wonderful things, and I am trying to be as intentional as I possibly can.

Sharon +

22 June 2007

Friday Five: Oh Boy It's Summer!!!

Ahh, summer.... that magical season of no school... *g* Boy did THAT change once I got to college! But summer is the Time When Baseball Happens, and when life ramps up even MORE.... *g*

Here are this week's Friday Five prompts!

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s)

ribs, chili dogs (no onions, please!) and beer. Spaten Optimator doppelbock, bitte... :-) Now THAT'S beer!

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)

Take Me Out to the Ballgame (and/or the National Anthem...)

3. A childhood summer memory

Laying in bed late on a hot summer night, listening to the lulling sound of crowd noise and the dulcet tones of Curt Gowdy or Ken Coleman as they gave the play-by-play of any Red Sox game... the crack of the bat as a hit is made; the rising roar as the ball sails out of the park... Daddy whooping in the kitchen... Ahh, childhood....

Of course another memory is sneaking downtown on a school day, caging a cab ride on the B&M Railroad from some co-worker of my Dad's... spending my allowance on a bleacher seat at Fenway Park... going to the Ladies' Room during the 7th Inning Stretch, only to be accosted... by my Dad, who growled "What in H*ll are you doing here?" I paused, searched desperately for a response, then realized HE should have been at work. I put hands on hips, and growled right back: "What in H*ll are YOU doing here?"

We agreed to disagree on the topic of responsibility; he later drove me to North Station and told me which train to get, gave me ticket money, and told me to keep my trap shut. And to never sit with him when I play hooky. *g* And I never did... In all those years we never ONCE sat together at a Sox home game.

*wibbles a bit* I miss my Dad... he's been gone 20 years come this December.

4. An adult summer memory

Attending a Civil War re-enactment (something I've done a lot since I was 13) and going to the latrines at about 5:30 AM... it was nearly sunrise on one of those Virginia summer mornings where it is actually cold and there's a clinging mist rising from the hollows until the sun burns it off. I trudged across the field, did what was needful, then came out and wandered back toward my tent... when I encountered the Federal commander, in full uniform and mounted on the biggest darn Warmblood I'd ever seen to that point. Man and horse alike, they could have ridden into the heart of 1863 and fit in perfectly.... (OK, and it would have been my duty to capture them as a good Johnny Reb, but that's neither here nor there. *g*) I just stood there, stunned and delighted, taking it all in. There was NOTHING within visual range that hinted this was anything BUT the past.... it was a magical moment for sure.

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future. (weather, location, activities)

A friend and I rise before the birdies, head over to the farm and load up the horses... we've packed a picnic lunch and the cameras, not a laptop in sight, and the cell phones are present but not voting, turned off and tucked into the saddlebags. We drive the horses over to the Manassas Battlefield riding park, unload, tack up, and head out just as the sun is rising. The weather is gorgeous. The sky is that painfully, wonderfully clear blue against which everything stands out in perfect relief; only a few wispy clouds in the sky, sunny otherwise and just warm enough to be comfortable, but not a smitch of humidity. (Rather like the day we had today in Old Virginia...) We amble along for a while until lunchtime hits, then we dismount, untack the horses, and give them grazing room on a picket line while we eat. The food is yummy, and one of us manages to take at least one perfect picture before we head home. Neither horse throws a shoe OR a rider.

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.)

The Episcopal church where I sing is fairly laid-back (and what my deacon calls "a step above snake-belly Low" in liturgical style!) so casual clothing is pretty much a part of the landscape anyway. The parish I serve as pastor (St. Brigid's) is on hiatus until we figure out what we want to be when we grow up, so my own church is rather quiet these days. Considering how hot it was in the shared space we used to use, though, it was shorts and t-shirts under the vestments... *g*

15 June 2007

Friday Five... Ahhh, Books!!

Today's Friday Five is all about books! What a lovely topic!

Let's see now, hmmm...

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance????

Historical fiction, fantasy, some science fiction. I write the first two as well as read it; I tried writing SF, but was told I wasn't weird enough to do it properly. *snorts* I guess there's weird, and then there's WEIRD.... *g*

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly?

Depends on the book. If it's a massive tome and I'm short on time, I almost have to savour it; but I have been known to stay up literally all night because I cannot STAND to not know what happens next.

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why?

Rumer Godden's China Court, a book that I read almost by accident. I got in trouble with my paternal grandmother, who lived with us (perilously easy to get into trouble with her, really doggone hard to get OUT of it once in... so this was a frequent thing!). She locked me in the study and told me she'd be back for me later; she forgot completely, and in between sleeping, I read the only book I could find. *wry grin* It is nevertheless a stunningly beautiful, sad, hopeful book; glowingly written, memorable characters, and it struck a chord with me that resounds without hesitation even now as I think about it. I read it about once a year.

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book has influenced you the most?

I think I would have to say Julia Cameron's Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I have always been able to find my way back to my own creativity in the bad spaces when my muses have gone walkabout without me. She's also written a number of other books in the same vein, all of which I can recommend--but this one, the first, was life-changing for me.

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!)

There's a turnpike stairway at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC that is the absolute perfect place to read, regardless of weather--but I live 67 miles away, and cannot always get there. *g* So... I think the best place to read is either in a hammock in my back yard, or on the chaise in my living room. When in the LR, of course my favourite accessory is my cat Thranduil... :-)

14 June 2007

I've Been Tagged! :-)

I've been tagged by cpclergymama for my first random eight. This should prove interesting! *g*

I have to post these rules before I give you the Randomness:

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they are tagged and to visit your blog.

And now the Random Eight (sounds like a boy band... *g*)

1. I was born in Massachusetts, and still can produce a perfect Bahstahn Accent with very little provocation...
2. My father, grandfather, and older brother were all railroad men in their turn--and all for the same railroad, the Boston & Maine (B&M) though in my brother's tenure it is no longer known as that officially.
3. I own a marvelous horse named Jasper, who is a cross between a Foundation Quarter Horse (dam) and a Connemara "pony" (sire). His pic is on my profile.
4. I am a born and bred fan of the Boston Red Sox; therefore baseball is a religious exercise for me. *g*
5. I can tie the stems of maraschino cherries in a knot using only my tongue (clear sign of a mis-spent youth!)
6. I am honorary chaplain to an ROTC battalion based at a university in the District of Columbia; I adore my kids and their Cadre!
7. I write novels, mostly fantasy, in my *cough* copious spare time.
8. I'm a published historian in the field of World War One military aviation.

I haven't been around long, but these are some folks I've enjoyed reading so far. I tag:

1. Pastor Paula
2. Purechristianithink
3. Mrs. M
4. Mother Laura

01 June 2007

My First Friday Five...

1. Think back to the time you left High School, what were your hopes visions and dreams for your life/ for the world?

I wanted desperately to be a teacher and preacher. I wanted the world to survive long enough for my children to see peace...

2. Have those hopes visions and dreams changed a lot, or are some of them still alive and kicking? (share one if you can)

I finally got to be a preacher, but don't get much chance to practice... Teacher I've been, and wish I could go back to, but the lure of Mammon and a well-paid telecommuting position as a tech writer/editor has its hooks into me way too well.

My one surviving child is now a young man of 25; he has seen personal peace, but the world is in rather INteresting shape as he matures. Maybe he'll be part of the solution!

My dream of teaching is still alive and kicking though, and I will prayerfully explore that as I go. Preaching, yup... Have any of those things changed? Probably. I have changed a lot since I was in high school; it took me rather a long time to grow up properly (as opposed to the skewed way I did... *g*) but I think I'm on track now.

3. Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Comforting, challenging or frustrating?

Frustrating, I think... Hope has always been one of my hot-button words because of a rather, hmm, problematic childhood and bizarro marriage. :-) I like Hope, I try to cultivate it, but it runs away a lot and sends "Passive Aggressive Enabler" in its place for recess time. *wry grin* Based on that, if faith = substance of things hoped for + evidence of things not seen, I'm a little leery of seeing the outcome, if you catch my drift... In the end though, I have a strong belief in the faith that is in me--and I can easily wrap my brain around the concept of faith being the evidence of things not seen as a basic foundational concept. Maybe I need to stop trying to diagram Paul's sentences quite so much. :-)

4. If resources were unlimited and you had free reign to pursue a vision, what would it be?

Oooh... too easy to dream, too expensive to pull off, but you did say unlimited resources. *g* I had this idea years ago: that it would be way cool to move to an area where a large migrant worker community passes through, and establish a kind of "safe haven" and learning space for them and their families. Sort of a leg-up kind of place, so that while the able adults are working during the day, the elderly and kids can have access to teachers, computer labs, and stuff to enable them to get some experience with things they might not otherwise get. For all of them there would be clean, safe places to sleep, with temporary storage (to which they hold the key) for their belongings; everyone would get a good breakfast in the morning, and know that there would be lunch brought to the work sites (and fed on-site to the elderly and kids), with dinner available in community in the evening. Hot showers, stuff like that, also available...

5. Finally with summer upon us- and not to make this too heavy- share your dream holiday....where, when and who with...

:-) Anything involving horses, Wales, mountain and forest-type places to ride, and camping. With maybe an overnight stay in a few castles. Who with? Hmm... interesting thought that...

31 May 2007

Okay, St. Anthony, I *GET* It... :-)

Note to self: when a saint's been at his or her specialty for over 700 years, they probably have it "down" by now...

Interesting night. Lots going on. Must be that full moon.

The short version with salient facts is this: I was talking with St. Anthony tonight, because I mislaid two things I really needed. My tent-maker job is technical writing/editing and business analysis for a nice company in Northern Virginia. I had some important deliverables on a thumb drive (also known as a flash or stick drive)--and could not find the thing. There were two that I misplaced, and for all I knew my files could be on either. Couldn't find them. Had a long chat with the Lad from Padua, about all sorts of things--finding my way, helping friends and loved ones find theirs... I got out the envelope sent to me by those Franciscan friars I mentioned the other day... and started writing the check.

Guess what.

There, under the spot where the envelope and the prayer card with medal had been sitting for a couple of days... was one of the thumb drives. I swear I looked there a thousand times. I said to St. Anthony, "OK, one down... I refused to be disheartened by not finding the other one, I know you're on it." We kept conversing... I prepped the trash for tomorrow, then something seemed to be pushing me to look in my briefcase. Again. For about the tenth time.

The thumb drive with my files on it was there. In a place I know, know, KNOW I had already looked and NOT found it. I'm telling you, sisters and brothers, if I find the iPod I mislaid before I moved and have wanted many a time, I will be SO grateful to dear St. Anthony!!

Not the least because, while we were conversing, he helped me find the ability to weep again... :-) Funny thing to lose, priceless gift to receive back. Much needed.

Bedtime... for one very grateful person. I just had to let you all know.

in loving service,
Rev. Sharon+

24 May 2007

Open Eyes, Engage Brain...

...and perhaps you won't have a day like I did today. *rolls eyes*

Boy was I dumb last night... I was so tired that I accidentally set my alarm clock one hour ahead time-wise, then set the alarm for 4:15 AM... I got up, got dressed, went downstairs wondering if I'd had a power failure because I couldn't smell coffee.... The microwave clock, the clock on the stove, and the coffee maker all said it was 3:30 AM!!! No sense in going back to bed... so I made my coffee and drove to my day job. *zzzzzzzzzzzzzz* Normally I like my day job. Plenty of chances for ministry. But boy, I could not wait until 8 hours had been accomplished! I hope I can be coherent tonight...

I have recently moved to a new town, far away from the previous one, because my husband and I have split up after 28+ years of marriage. LONG story... the bottom line though is that I am settling down little by little, unpacking boxes, preparing for the visit of two dear friends early next month. (Nothing like a deadline to get me in gear!) Coming home is now a peaceful thing, and I know that any messes I see will be of my own making. THAT I can deal with. :-) But the split itself, though far less painful than I feared it would be, has still been fraught with sorrow and grief. It has been coming on for many a year; I daresay lots of my friends were convinced it would never happen at all. So was I. I would do it again if need be--but it has been like a death, and it hurts like a grief, and like a grief I laugh almost as often as I weep.

But there is grief, and there is grief. Tonight would have been--and still is!--the wedding anniversary of my friends Alex and David. They have been parted as well, but by the Ultimate Lover, Death. We were all stunned earlier this year when Rebbe David, only in his 40s and recovering so well from a heart attack, suffered another and went home to dance in a different field for a while. At the time of his passing all I could summon the strength to do was weep. It seemed so incredibly unfair! They were so much in love... so perfectly right for each other. Imagine an Independent Catholic Priest (Alex, a delightful woman with a quirky sense of humour and much music in her soul) and a Rabbi (David, also delightful, quirkily humourous, musical...) married to one another--and in many cases ministering in tandem harness, to the same folks and friends. It was the perfect partnership. But then David's time came, all too soon... and now Alex soldiers on alone. As anyone can tell you who has loved and lost, it just isn't the same thing to remind oneself that the parting is not forever... my usual answer (most of the time silently in a broken heart) to such a comment is a weak smile and an internal gut-wrenching scream of "But it feels like forever right NOW!"

The good news is, God gets that. Jesus made it possible for Him to get that.

The bad news is, it still hurts. But even there, good news abounds: pain, after all, is one of the quickest ways to know you are alive (though I most sincerely do NOT recommend it as a touchstone, unless you're living with chronic pain--and then it is sacramental...). You cannot feel, be it pain or pleasure, if you are no longer living.

When I limped home tonight, alone and lonely, tired (okay, exhausted!) and worn down from the day, I was hoping something would help me feel... something. Hopefully something good. When I fetched the mail I found a letter from the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement in Garrison, NY. They sent me a lovely St. Anthony prayer card and one of the prettiest medals I've seen in a long time: a little silver-tone heart outlined in gold tone, with the image in the centre of St. Anthony embracing the infant Jesus--the way Anthony is usually iconically depicted. The prayer card also surprised me into a moment of joy, for instead of the usual “Tony, Tony, turn around. Something’s lost and must be found” thing (which I adore, BTW, I don't mean to sound disparaging...) it has a prayer with which I am far less familiar. This is what it says:

Oh Holy St. Anthony,
Reach down from heaven and take hold of my hand.

Assure me that I am not alone.

You are known to possess miraculous powers
and to be ever ready to speak for those in trouble.

Loving and gentle St. Anthony,
Reach down from heaven I implore you and assist me
in my hour of need. Obtain for me (mention your request here).

Dearest St. Anthony,
Reach down from heaven and guide me with thy strength.
Plead for me in my needs.
And teach me to be humbly thankful as you were,
for all the bountiful blessings I am to receive.


I was extremely touched by this prayer, especially feeling as I am tonight. In the midst of my own sorrow I was already remembering Alex and her sorrows; I asked St. Anthony to obtain for Alex a sense of God's presence, of David's presence, and a lot of peace of mind and heart-healing. And I felt humbly grateful for the chance to come outside my own selfishness for a while, to think of someone else and pray for them--for in the act of prayer for another, we gain all sorts of wonderful blessings for ourselves.

God is rather... good at that sort of thing--that reciprocal grace thing. :-) And I for one am very glad He is!

Coming around full circle, there was a grace given me this morning at 00:DARK:00 when I drove down the street to head off to work. I am living way out in the country now, as opposed to near the city; one can see MANY more stars here, and so it was this morning. A waxing gibbous moon hung in the sky like a lover, with several brighter stars visually nearby--an absolutely lovely sight, and one I have missed. I made myself take a moment--had not an entire extra hour been gifted to me, after all?--to look at it, and though it was not the first or last star of the night, I made a wish anyway. I opened my eyes, I engaged my brain, and my spirit danced. I received reassurance I was not alone... none of us are truly alone. Some days it is harder to see than others... but we are never alone. As the song says in "Into the Woods":

"Sometimes people leave you
halfway through the Wood...
Don't let parting grieve you--
No one's gone for good!
You are not alone...."

Good rest to you, David dear... and good grief to you, dear Alex. May God fill the wait with many graces, and help you find your voice once more!

22 May 2007

On the Passing of Colleagues

We've all heard the old sayings: tell your friends now that you love them, don't wait until your only option is to send flowers to their funeral... if you cannot say something nice about someone, say nothing at all... do not speak ill of the dead... we've all probably got a million of 'em. We also tend to think of them when someone has passed away--think of them for good or ill, depending on circumstance.

When the deceased is beloved, words come rather easily. Fairly recently I lost two very dear friends--one a colleague in the world of writing, the other in the world of religion. Both are so easy to talk about; so easy to think that they are just around the corner or are at home awaiting a phone call. The hard part is thinking of them as promoted into the Choir Invisible, the cloud of witnesses that surround us all in spirit, in memory, and in heart. I know they're there; I cannot conceive of circumstances that would deny either of them. But they're not HERE, with us. I cannot call, cannot drop an e-mail, cannot stop by on my way somewhere else to pass a precious few hours in their company. Grief attends that concept, but it is muted with joy: they are past pain, they are free of fleshly encumbrances, they are dancing with God. Not a bad deal! We sorrow, but not as those who have no hope.

When the deceased is not necessarily beloved (at least not of myself!), words take longer. Perhaps we are taking that socially-mandated pause to ponder... if I cannot speak nicely, I should remain silent... but sometimes one must speak, because another living loved one is standing before us, or is on the other end of the phone line or e-mail server, hoping for a reply, waiting for wisdom. Death, after all, engages way too many neurons in us. It makes us weep or exult, depending... it stops us in our tracks. Even if it comes at the end of illness, there is still a slammed-door finality that hurts. "What do you mean, he's... gone?? I just talked to him this morning!"

And Lord knows... when it hits without warning Death is like taking that door right in the face in a physical sense. It feeds into so many things: myriad layers of guilt, anger, sorrow, shame, pain, tears. I can recall from many years ago the death of a friend whose spouse was left behind, suddenly and without any warning. As they say in the army, he went from duty to deceased in the blink of an eye: a stroke took him and he was gone from us before his body folded to the floor. So many who knew the couple expected there would be, amid all the other sensations, a feeling of relief for the survivor--for this couple had argued like cats and dogs with attitude many times, often quite publicly, over the years. The spouse's tearful, heartbroken response to everyone's surprise at their sorrow was an exclamation of pain: "But we didn't finish the argument!"

The nervous laughter that greeted this outcry occasioned more distress--and we began to realize how little we had known them, separately and together, despite all the years of history represented in their relationship. It was far more complicated than that they had loved to argue--for though there was an almost sport-like sense to it, they were loud, bitter arguments full of hurtful episodes. In the end it turned out that screaming and hurting was the only way they knew to communicate the meaningful things of their lives--which of course was another whole layer of pain in itself. It brought home with a vengeance the concept that sometimes the public face of those we love (or hate) is not always the True Self--in fact I would go so far as to say it very seldom is.

Recently a major religious figure passed away. Quite a lot of humour was leveled at the situation: now he'll find out if he was right... Look out, Heavenly Debating Society... Boy will HE be surprised.... The punch line is that we will never know his reaction, because... frankly, it's none of our business. How disappointing! A public figure of controversy--and we don't get to know how it all turns out in the end??

I would like to submit a thought on that score. I was not fond of him, and often (frequently painfully!) disagreed with him. In my opinion he had a tendency to speak without thinking; his words sometimes caused pain in many places and people, and occasioned much rolling of eyes. He prompted a bumper sticker that would have made me cringe, had I been the cause of it: "I love Jesus, it's His fan club I have issues with!" (Echoes of Matthew chapter 18 come immediately to mind, with great sorrow...) But at the end of the day, he was a human being--flawed, thoughtless, amazingly unkind from time to time despite his vocation and his education.

He was... human.

Just like me.

Just like you.

I think of the marvelous Jesus of Nazareth movie made several years ago by Franco Zeffirelli. The scene where the adulteress is literally dragged before Jesus by the mob is particularly memorable. We've all read it in scripture, but somehow seeing it on the screen brought an immediacy to it all: the terror-stricken woman with her running mascara and kohl from tears of panic; the furious crowd, some with leers, some with looks of triumph at bringing down the sinner... and Jesus, sitting off to one side toying with pebbles and stones. They demand his judgment: Rabbi, shall we stone her? She was caught in the act, taken in adultery! The Law demands....

Jesus sits there for rather a long moment, not looking up; the camera lingers lovingly on his strong hands as he plays with stones. Then he utters that one unanswerable truth: "Let one without sin cast the first stone." There is a moment of silence; some muttering... then rocks begin to fall from hands, and the crowd either stomps off or wanders away, some angry, some bitter, some amused, some just stunned by the implication. Not the least, the woman who was caught in the act... It is a powerful image, a powerful utterance--and a daunting thing to contemplate. Thus I shall keep my rocks to myself, because I know for a fact there's no WAY I am without sin.

Lately a couple of particular concepts keep floating through theological discussions I have had with folks: 1) that Jesus came into the world because God needed first-hand comprehension of what we were going through, in order to be able to save us from ourselves, and 2) that if we were perfect and never did wrong, we would not require the grace that saves us. The Recently Departed Person (tm) was a Christian; a believer. He had heard and studied the word of God, had made his informed decision, confessed the faith that was in him, and thus was saved. Jesus understands this man far better than thee or me could ever do--and in my heart of hearts I believe this man is now in the company of the Elect.

To believe any other thing would make it very hard for me to wrap my brain around my own personal hope of salvation; just because I haven't made my stupid moves as publicly as this man, doesn't mean I haven't made them. I have said things that could very easily have set people on the path away from Christ; I have hurt people, sometimes intentionally, and while I have dealt with those situations early or late, I regret them deeply. It is at times like these that I bless God all the more for Jesus's painful, bloody field trip into this life and death, because without that I have no great confidence that I could bluff my way alone inside the Pearly Gates.

If you believe in karma and reincarnation, I suspect you also believe nothing happens for no good reason. Whatever the choices this man made for the life he just completed, he made them because they needed to be made. We may never know the whys of it, just as we don't always know until Checkout Time why some of our own choices were made or why they turned out as they did. We could stretch and say that maybe somewhere, some impressionable child with a Destiny needed to hear a thoughtless, prejudicial remark in order to think it through and make some important conclusion--or, just as likely, someone somewhere needed to have the touchstone of prayer or healing offered publicly by this man in order not to commit suicide so they could be present for some important turning point or action. The ramifications descend from both possibilities like dominoes or water... we'd be here forever if we tried to think them all through.

But all he did, for good or ill, is now marked complete. The book is closed--for him personally. Was he a great man? Did he leave us object lessons, was he a good example or a bad one? I have my thoughts on that, but I hold them within out of deference to the fact that I don't have all the answers--and because I am hoping for the same loving, sanctifying, saving grace that redeemed his soul. Both of the dear friends I have recently lost would probably have offered (each in their own particular unique idiom!) their thoughts on it all--and in the end would have come to the same conclusion: What is done is done, and those of us left behind have to move on. If you loved and lost, and you do good because of his example--that's a good thing. If you loathed and lost, and do good despite his example--that's a good thing too. Just do it mindfully, I beg of you!

Embrace your humanity, forgive as you would be forgiven... then take a moment to call or write to a friend you have not seen in a while. Death comes like a thief in the night, like a lover, like summer lightning... you might have until Father's Day, or their birthday, or the high school reunion--or you might lose someone today.

Or you might go yourself.

It's worth a thought, after all....

In Service,
Rev. Sharon +

26 April 2007

Let's Try This Again...

*wry smile* Well... sometimes when life gets complicated, one's brain core-dumps--and I can no longer find my old blog. I've tried every means to re-create or unearth it, but for the moment, here we are. :-)

So, to re-introduce myself: I'm Rev. Sharon, a priest in the Independent Catholic Movement in the US. The church with which I am incardinated is Celtic in expression, which suits me right down to the ground. The parish I'm in charge of (more on that as the days go by!) is St. Brigid of the Gaels; because the physical parish downsized dramatically, I'm going to try an online incarnation. Should be interesting!

I'm a liturgist and heavily into recreational theology; I guess I'm also something of a liberal traditionalist. Whatever does THAT mean, I hear you cry? Stick around... like any good exegetical thing, the concept will reveal itself!

Blessings on you all; may your week be going well, and may your weekend be even better!

in service,
Rev. Sharon