Friday, October 29, 2010

Life Review

The other day when I was spending time with my good friend Oprah (my spiritual discipline this fall is to spend an hour with her every day while I can! :) Jane Fonda was on and promoting how important it is to do a life review.

She said that we need to go back and remember what happened and what we did and actually feel the feelings. All of this is so true and what i keep learning through spiritual direction.

It is helpful to have a companion in it. Today I visited one of our shut ins who is 93 years old and got to hear some of her story. What was interesting was that our conversation started - as it often does with people who are 80+ - with real concern about what is happening in their life. And her family has got some brokenness - a brother and sister who don't speak to each other, a granddaughter going through a divorce, a son who is alienated from his son. And then there is the brokenness and divisiveness in the media that is played out all the time. It seems like the first reaction to all of these issues for older people is to say - it wasn't that way in the past.

Until we start talking about herpast. And then remembering the divorce of her parents and the blessing of grandparents who helped to raise her. Remembering the time when her husband was in the war and she was on her own with children for 2 years. Remembering some very lean times financially and probably emotionally.And looking back she remembers that somehow she survived and they survived and even thrived.

I think it is easy to look back generally only at the high points and forget the difficulties and the strength that you found in the struggle. So that, when the next generation goes through their own version of difficulty and burden and struggle, we think it is something new and insurmountable. But of course, the God got us through our storms will get them through theirs.

A life review - maybe a systematic appraisal of where you have been and what you have been through. But often a conversation that touches on some of it and helps us to remember.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

G. O. D.

So I am coming into church this morning and there was a man sitting on the step outside of Fellowship Hall. Are you going to the meeting? He asked me.

No, I am the pastor - and I can let you in.

And then he talked about the fact that he used to have a key, but after a friend died, he stopped coming for a while.

We talked about grief and loss and I told him about how people sometimes don't want to come back to church after a death - too much sadness, too many tears.

And then he shared a story about God giving letting him know that the person was there - and he mentioned a butterfly, a fortune cookie and a tract from the watch tower. And he said G O D - Glimpses of Discernment

And, of course, what we see as God - others can so easily see as co incidence.

Then I came to my desk and read the meditation for today from Richard Rohr.


The mystical gaze happens whenever, by some wondrous “coincidence,” our heart space, our mind space, and our body awareness are all simultaneously open and nonresistant. I like to call it presence.

One wonders how far spiritual leaders can genuinely lead us without some degree of mystical seeing and action.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that “us-and-them” seeing, and the dualistic thinking that results, is the foundation of almost all discontent and violence in the world. It allows heads of religion and state to avoid their own founders, their own national ideals, and their own better instincts.
Lacking the contemplative gaze, such leaders will remain mere functionaries and technicians, without any big picture to guide them for the long term. The world and the churches are filled with such people, often using God language as a cover for their own lack of certainty or depth.

So I start this day with his prayer
When you can be present,
you will know the Real Presence.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Holy Fool - Male Spirituality part 2

At the workshop today we got a diagram of the journey of transformation that men go through.
And it is different from women, although there are some similarities
From Age 1-32 - Men are on the heroic journey - period of idealism as he experiences his own power possibilities. "Necessary egotism; not in love with God, but with the idea of being in love. Duty responsibility, hard work, delayed gratification, black and white worldviews. Exhibits immature and potentially dangerous righteousness."
There is more than this - but you get the picture.

Between 32 and 50 men experience the crises of limitation - a time of inner loss of meaning, sometimes accompanied by failure...confrontation with one's limits, paradox mystery."

50 - 65 - some men go on the wisdom journey - looking to the spiritual because the old rules don't work any more

Some men go on the "embittering journey" - with confrontation but no enlightment (grumpy old men?)

And Later on the Wisdom journey - some men become the holy fool. "The mellow grandfather who can hold the paradoxes together because God has done it in him....Being human is more important than self image, role, power, prestige, or possession. He can lead, partner or follow when necessary. He has it all!"

I write all this because I came home from my workshop to Chuck - the Holy Fool.
He has spent time at church today vaccuming the pews and the sanctuary; he has been to the thrift shop and bought Christmas presents (for only 1$ for John and Jackson!)
He is right now working with six kids from across the street - making them ice cream and giving them pop after they helped him in our yard. He paid them (borrowing the money from me!) These kids are all from Sierra Leone. And Chuck has bought them toys and thinks about what he can do for them all the time.

He won't read this blog, he certainly won't ask me about my workshop on "Male Spirituality" and he probably won't pay attention tomorrow when I preach.
But he is a Holy Fool.

I am a blessed woman.

Male Spirituality -

I have just returned from a workshop on male spirituality and it certainly has me thinking about the men in my life - especially my brothers, husband, sons in law (counting Erik now) and grandson.

This was required for my Wellstreams program and also open up to the community. There were about 16 women in attendance and 6 men. That is par for the course when you "talk" about male spirituality. Because male spirituality is very different from female - and usually involves more action than talk. Which is why churches are so full of women. And it is a problem.

We have been reading a fascinating book called "From Wild Man to Wise Man" by Richard Rohr. He writes this

"In almost all cultures men are not born; they are made......The boy had to be separated from protective feminine energy, led into ritual space where newness and maleness could be experienced as holy."

We had a lot of conversation today about male initiation rites - when does a boy become a man? And for a woman, the initiation rite is often her period. It is so clear. Not so for a man - especially these days.

We learned about the initiation rites of native American - kidnapped from their mother, a vision quest, learning wisdom from the holy men, a blood sacrifice and then they are placed in the world - as hunter or shaman.

And what I have learned over and over again is that so many men don't have mentors or father figures to guide them. We know that the appeal of gangs and even military experience fills that need - that father hunger. But too many men are not being led.

All of which made me think about Jackson and how good it is that he has such a strong bond with his grandfather, Thomas. Thomas is teaching him how to be a man - even though he is only 5 - there is something very good about that relationship.

We also learned about the male archetypes - that first men tend to be warriors, then lovers, then kings, then magicians. Very interesting - all of it. There is balance to each of these archetypes - for example king archetype out of balance is either a tyrant or he abdicates his power. It has helped me to reframe some of my understandings of some men in my life. And it may help me to become more compassionate.

There is much more that I am ruminating about on this subject - like the fact that when Jackson hits puberty he will have 20 Fold increase in testosterone. Wonder what that will look like?

All in all, I know this - men and women may share a common humanity but we are put together in very different ways. And we need each other but we also need to claim our own identities as men and women. In other words, there are times it is good for men to be with men and women to be with women.

Food for thought. All of it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Family Fun Festival

Saturday was our third annual family fun day - because we had it in the fall we called it a festival - but whatever you call it - it was a success.

What is really cool about this for our church is the way that God is working through us. This all started as I had the elders read a book about three years ago - "I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church" by Paul Nizon.

One of the biggest points of this book was that we have to "BE BOLD!" and try new things. A few months later, two members - Kim and Gerrie - went to a fundraising conference and presented an idea that we would do a fair/ festival for the community.
Over the course of planning that, however, our focus changed and instead of charging people and making money - we instead designed a day of free events for the community.
And so this year we had
- free inflatables for the kids to play on
- free games to play in the front yard to win tickets
- free bingo inside
- free crafts
- free prizes with the tickets
- free school supplies
- free coats.

The only money that we made was through our silent auction and our lunch - which was cheap - hot dogs, pop and chips for $2.

This year the YMCA beside us had an event at the same time which led people from one place to another. We were busy and not too busy to have interaction with people. I was so happy that so many people in our church participated that day- we had 42 people on site during the course of the day.

So.....this is what a church is supposed to be all about. A place where families can come and be together. A place where we can reach out and get to know our neighbors. Our hope, of course, is that some who don't have a church (we're not sheep stealers!) will think of us when they decide to worship. We will see.

It was a great day. And the spirit of the Lord was there.

(PS - the weather was iffy- and people were anxious ahead of time - but the rain did not start until 4 PM when we were all packed up!)