Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Lever and a Place to Stand

This is a book that I am slowly reading in the mornings by Richard Rohr.

And this morning as I was reading the chapter on "A Contemplative Stance" it stopped me in my tracks and I had to sit with it in prayer and then write in my journal and now reflect a bit here.

He writes about the demon of fear that is "well hidden, denied and disguised." And how fear is behind our mean spirited ness, unkindness and hate. "Fear unites the disparate parts of your own false self very quickly. Remember the ego moves forward by contraction, self protection and refusal......the soul however, does not proceed by contraction but by expansion."

"When YES is asked of us, it will usually be resisted by an attack of anxiety, excuse, rationalization, or question. We must learn how to recognize our own patterns..."

He writes about the shadow work that we all need to do of pulling the demon out of its hiding places, naming it and looking at it nondefensively.

That is where I get messed up - I can see the demons at times and feel shamed by them and overwhelmed and allow them to go back into their hiding places. it is being able to look at myself consciously and non defensively that allows real peace and freedom within me.

I am not preaching this week but already looking ahead to next week when I preach about the "voice crying in the wilderness" And I feel like that voice is saying to me (us) don't be afraid - don't allow your fears to bind you and separate you.

So, for some reason this whole idea seems like Advent preparation to me. This is how we slowly prepare for the coming of the Lord - releasing the fears so that our souls can expand and we can receive and live in the joy.

The hope is the joy to come as we continue on this journey of spiritual growth.

Joy Joy Joy


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent preparation of a sort

We are at the beginning of Advent and I like it.
It feels like Advent - which is a time of preparation and waiting.

This is a gray and rainy Tuesday morning. It is certainly not Christmas yet - but I can sense that something is coming and I want to be ready for it.

For me, there is always so much preparation before the time of preparation. We had to put together the Advent devotional and plan the preaching for the four weeks of Advent and write the candle lighting readings and find the candle lighters and decorate and on and on. Now - we get to be IN ADVENT.

Sunday I preached to myself as much as I preached to the congregation about the fact that the quality of our Christmas depends a good deal on our Advent preparation.
I talked about the different ways we prepare: solitude, silence, service, and spending time listening to God through God's word, creation and art. And my suggestions was that we give God a half hour a day. I intend to do that.

Yesterday I read a book and went to the movies and I think this was all Advent preparation.

The book was "Molokai" - a novel about a young woman Rachel who had leprosy and lived most of her life in a leper colony in Molokai (an island in Hawaii) It opened my eyes to the isolation of this terrible disease and also the reality that in the midst of sickness and rejection- there is life.

The movie was "The Descendents" which was about a land baron in Hawaii whose wife was in a coma following a boating accident. At the same time he was making a decision about selling a large parcel of paradise (Hawaii) that was in his family for over a hundred years. It was about family and connections and disconnections and life and death and pain and forgiveness. It was a wonderful movie - that expressed well the messiness of marriage and family life.

So I started Advent in Hawaii seeing the underside of paradise and the light in the darkest places and times.

Last week was a vacation in paradise for me - the Hocking Hills with my children and grandchildren. But I return always to life and to the needs all around us. Yesterday in the midst of my reading there was an interuption - a friend in a desperate situation asking for help with rent. And I am reminded that we are called to live - not in paradise but in the kingdom of heaven - open to being the light for those in dark places.

And so Advent begins.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks for the memories

It has been too long since I have written last and I don't know where to start.
Tomorrow Chuck and I will pick up Caroline's brother Will at the airport and meet Audrey and Caroline at a cottage in Hocking Hills to spend three days.
Marnie and Kacey and families will join us on Thursday. Our thanksgiving will be on Friday. I look forward to all of it.

I want to just write for the record about the wonderful blessing of having Audrey come to Columbus a week ago. She was invited to speak at the chapel at Methodist Theolocal School in Ohio during their "Silent No More" series of conversations about LGBTI issues. Her sermon was entitled "Become You." She told her story of coming out - first to herself and then to the world.

We picked her up at the airport on Monday night and she was putting the finishing touches on her talk Tuesday morning and read it to me ahead of time. It was a good thing, because we both ended up in tears. I think back to how little I knew of the struggle that she was experiencing in high and college and have nothing but admiration for Audrey and her courage and her faith.

When we got to the seminary I was aware of the many emotions that I carry since this was "my" seminary. It truly was a time and place of transformation for me 25 years ago and to watch my daughter speak there was a rare and beautiful gift.

Audrey came out to me 7 years ago and I immediately went profound grief at the time. My fear was that her life as a pastor in the church was going to be very difficult and that has proved true. She has now served two churches on staff (one in which she was in the closet) and knows that finding a senior/ sole pastoral position will be challenging.

However, this summer when I was with her at General Assembly, I found that I was her sidekick as "Audrey's Mom" because she knows more people than I do in the denomination and some of it is because of her work as an activist in the LGBTI community. God is surely using her gifts in different ways than I imagined when she was ordained.

So, as I look forward to thanksgiving - I have nothing but gratitude for the events of this past month. And I keep learning that God truly is working in mysterious ways in my life and the life of my children and grandchildren.

One last blessing of her visit was going watching Marnie, Erik and Audrey run a half marathon. I am so proud of all of them for their grit and determination - but especially Marnie who did not give up! So often she is the one who makes things happen - finds the races and invites people to participate! It was great fun to support her!

God is good! All the Time!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Morning Ruminations

we got an extra hour today to sleep in or, in my case, to get up early and get things done!
Things meaning, for me, my sermon. And I actually have time to write and pray this morning.

Today we celebrate All Saints Day in worship which I really look forward to.
We will light candles in memory of the saints who have died in the past year and provide an opportunity for anyone to light a candle in memory of anyone.

What I know is that grief goes on well past the year our loved one has died.
Tom, my sister's husband, is visiting this weekend and it has been such a gift to me and to Chuck. But I really find myself missing Ellen. Friday night the girls came over for dinner and I remarked we would have drunk more wine if Ellen had been here!
But that is just a part of it. I miss her humor, her stories and the blessing of the shared history of sister. And I cannot imagine how hard these years have bee for Tom and Sam and Sarah and Sean.
So we light a candle this morning and I remember her and I know I miss her.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I am writing this from Camp Christian where I am on a silent retreat.

I came this morning and leave tomorrow....I will have been here for 23 hours...which sounds like a hospital visit. And it certainly has been a gift to me to have this time with God.
Here. In this very special place.

I cannot walk around here and not remember so many times and experiences in my life. I first came in the early 80's and was a chi rho counselor . And since that first week, I have served as counselor, assistant director, faculty member and co direct of Grandparents camp.
If I put all those days together I think it would be almost a year of my life. I have memories of when Audrey was on staff and learned so much about maintenance that has helped her to this day. I remember when Kacey was a chi rho camper and lit the cheesecloth. I remember stories told at vespers by Howard, Terry, Jim and Larry. And all kinds of worship experiences...especially by young adults at Advance Conference. I have attended so many meetings here and led a lot of retreats. Lives have been changed here and mine was one of them.

So I am grateful for my past here but also for this time today. I have walked and prayed and read and written and just been present.
And as the day has gone on, I feel the heaviness that sometimes I carry start to lift.
I have seen so many butterflies today and they seem to be reminding me that God is with me on this journey. Always with me.
I keep learning so many of the same things, but they continue to be true and easily forgotten ....
Like slow down and live In this moment
Like you really can trust God with your work, your family, your future
Like rest in the Lord...there is a time to receive the rest that is found in green pastures and beside still waters present to the mystery that is your life

Eugene Peterson writes that we sometimes need to be rescued from "a life in which the wonder has leaked out."

And so, a day in silence, in the beauty of Camp .Christian helps to restore my soul.

Melody Beattie writes
"Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life
It turns what we have into enough, and more
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order,
Confusion into clarity
It can turn a meal into a feast,
A house into a home,
A stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
And creates a vision for tomorrow."