Thursday, January 26, 2017

An Energizing Evening

Last night I got to engage in some of my most favorite activities - learning, conversation, and good food and wine!

A week ago Allison Mueller Jones sent my book club an email about a free lecture at OSU by Piper Kerman about "Inequality in America's Criminal Justice System."  Piper is the author of the book "Orange is the New Black" and currently a resident of Columbus teaching writing at both women's and men's prisons here in central Ohio.  JoDee Davis and Marsha from our book club knew her and both work on programming at Marion Correctional Institute. So, five of us attended Piper's talk.

It was really interesting and I wrote down some statements which surprised me and other statements I am still pondering.
  • The person who introduced Piper said that our prison system is both a mirror and an engine of inequality
  • There has been a 650 percent increase in female incarceration in the past thirty to forty years
  • Ohio has the biggest probation system in America
  • Prisons and jails are tools of social control
  • 80 percent of people who are arrested cannot afford lawyers
  • when helping someone we should ask - "What do you need?"
Piper essentially told her story and some stories of others who she has met along the way.  The basic inequality  begins in who is arrested and then who has the means to defend themselves then continues because the  a conviction then closes all kinds of doors after a prisoner is released.  The system needs reformed - but one wonders how that can happen.

Meanwhile JoDee started a program years ago called "Healing Broken Circles" which continues to help the men in Marion by "Providing space for healing and learning for those touched by the justice system"  You can read about it in their website "www.Healing Broken

Afterwards the five of us went to JoDee's place and had a beautiful meal of spaghetti, salad, wine and klondike's and much conversation. We talked about politics, family, and of course the prison system. I learned about some of the difficult experiences that have been part of Jo Dee's work at Marion.  

 I have been working on a sermon based on Jesus statement: "You are the salt of the earth/" I could not help but recognize that in the face of systemic inequality in our country - the prison system being just one example - it is inspiring to see people who are willing to do their little bit to bring healing and hope.  Whether it is Piper writing and  speaking  or Jo Dee and Marsha working behind the scenes - the salt seasons and brings new life. 

We live in a world that is dividing us all the time and I continue to follow the one who calls us to love and to unity and oneness.  Here is a prayer by Maxine Shonk

May you be blessed by the God who invites all to be ONE 
who draws you ever nearer,
speaking to you of unity and true community where you are surrounded by love and truthy.
May this God uphold you and inspire you.
May the gift of community arise from within you,
radiate around you and extend itself throug you
to the ends of the earth.
May the blessing of the ONE GOD be with you

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Day of Inspiration

Saturday I walked in one of the many "Women's Marches" that took place around the globe.  My heart's desire was to go to Washington DC but I was preaching on Sunday so could not make plans.

Then, last Monday that preaching was cancelled and I was in a quandry.  What to do?  So on facebook I asked who was going to Washington DC and it did not look like it would be possible for me to get a ride with those who responded.  On Tuesday I told a friend, I would put it out "in the universe" that I was available to march and see what would happen.

Thursday I had lunch with Wendy and she confided her desire to go with her friend Libby.  I told her to count me in wherever they ended up and it turned out that the plan was to go to Ann Arbor.  Libby lives in Perrysburg, the march began at 1:30 Saturday, and it seemed very possible.  So Saturday morning I picked up Wendy at her home and armed with snacks and a sign and a lot of enthusiasm we went on our road trip.

Libby brought her friend Cathy and when we got there, we parked beside a woman from Michigan named Debra and spent the afternoon together - having lunch, gathering, marching and listening to inspiring speakers.  Our group of 5 was almost a symbol of the day - five different women who had one important thing in common - a desire to witness to values of our country - freedom, equality, justice and inclusion. There was a spirit of just fun and friendliness with all the thousands of people who gathered.  The signs were many and varied and really creative.  Here are three of them.

Someone on facebook asked why I walked and my answers are my own. I would imagine we each have our own reasons for being part of this gathering.  For me, I realize how important it is  that there continue to be rights and freedoms accorded to the LBGTQ community.  In addition I definitely do not want any going backward in terms of reproductive rights for women.  On a really personal level I have been so dismayed by our new president's vulgarity and crassness but clearly he is who he is.

It was really thrilling to me to consider that my daughter was marching in Tuscon, my brother and sister in law in Boston, my nieces in NYC, my best friend in Phoenix, her daughter in Chicago  and many friends and colleagues in Washington DC. What was most important to me really was the inspiration and the encouragement to keep going and getting involved in some way to make continue to promote my values.  I do believe that our president pays attention to numbers - and there were millions of (mostly) women who made their presence known on Saturday.  I am glad to have been one of them.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

It is well with my soul

I found myself humming that this morning as I spent time at Trinity UMC in Columbus at a "Soulcollage" workshop.

The last time I heard that hymn sung was a Karl Road Christian Church on Thursday morning when I attended and spoke at the funeral of Don Sexton.  He was a member of the "greatest generation" and a man of faith.  And most importantly, a friend of Chuck's.  "It is Well with my Soul" was sung at the end of the funeral service and we all were moved to tears but most especially Chuck.  And I was happy to be sitting beside him - not in the front of the church as the pastor - but as his wife with my arm around him.

That is one of the "soul filled" experiences of this past week for me.  Later that afternoon I sat with my "peer group" of spiritual directors and went into silence and listened for God speaking to us.  One of the images that came up in me has stayed with me for the last few days.  It was - in some sense - an example of the "midrash" that we do in our relationship with God's word.  Because the image was from the Bible of Jesus who said - "Let the Children Come" and the disciples who tried to block their way.
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

What I saw in this was the way the child in me wants to come to Jesus and the serious Disciple (in me) wants to rebuke her.  I continue to learn that  there is a part of me that wants expression - that is not so serious -  but there is another part of me that silences her.  And so, when this image came I realized how much my soul needs to reflect on that.

And then Friday came with its variety of soulful experiences - from working at a funeral home to spending time with Maggie, my two year old granddaughter who shows me what being a child looks like - imaginative play, spontaneity, and experiencing emotions in the moment.  

Which leads me to today and the morning I spent doing "soul work" through creating soul cards. We began in a circle with several readings.  Here are two of them:
Be still when you have nothing to say: when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot. - DH Lawrence

The soul is naturally inclined toward wholeness, and gravitates toward images that have relevance to this quest even when your intellect does not know why.  Soul knows where it needs to go long before the mind." - Seena Frost, founder of Soul Collage

Afterwards we were presented with tables and tables full of images and invited to allow them to speak to us.  Then eventually we each put together our own soul collages.  The process is hard to describe but it really was wonder - full.  I found myself immediately drawn to a picture of a man flying and realized that my theme was about letting go and "soaring."  The soul card I created has a lot of very personal imagery for me - of a tree, a woman praying, a raccoon and the man flying.  Hard to describe but an expression of my soul's desire.

Afterwards we sat with another person and finished this statement as guided by our own creation.
Here is what I found myself saying: :   I am one who.....
  •   wants to be free
  •  wants to fly
  •   wants to face the ways  in which I am unfree
  •  is not afraid of her shadow
  •  is faithful
  •   wants to be whole
My card is here to remind me -though there is death, struggle, aging, etc -  that all is well.

And so, on this Saturday afternoon I find myself singing again "it is well with my soul. "

Saturday, January 7, 2017

My true self is LOVE

I am finishing the first week of A Spring within Us: A book of Daily Meditations by Richard Rohr.
For the last two days the "Gateway to Silence" or my mantra for prayer has been this statement: My true self is LOVE.

And that takes me into places of awareness of how often I forget that.  I am preaching tomorrow on the baptism of Jesus and pondering the mystery of that sacred act of going into the water.  Like every holy symbol, there is always more to see, feel and understand in this sacrament.  In our denomination we practice believer's baptism which means it is a decision.  And although many times as young people we are just going along with what parents or community wants, ultimately it is a commitment to living the life of following Jesus.

I will talk a bit about Jesus himself being baptised and what that means for one who is sinless.  For me., I see his beginning of his ministry which symbolized dying to self and rising again as he goes in and out of the water.  And that is what we do when we follow him - whether we know it or not.

That is what this journey is - a dying to self - over and over again.  And sometimes it helps to hear and speak and remember a mantra - "My true self is LOVE" in order to  integrate or embody that spiritual truth.  .  Too often I live as if my true self is my accomplishments or my relationships.  Or my true self is so wounded and so messed up that I am afraid to look at it.  And so I numb myself or escape from reality.

"My true self is love" means that I can let go of my defenses, judgments and general commentary  and just be - giving and receiving love. "My true self is love" is a beginning and an end to the seeking after more that is my life.

I want to believe this in every fiber of my being and I trust that as I sit and pray these words and allow them to come up in my throughout this day, maybe, maybe, maybe I will come to live into this sacred, holy peaceful life that God keeps offering me.

Dear God, may this be a day of giving and receiving love.
I pray today for cleansing
    cleanse me from all those things that pollute my mind, my feelings, my soul
I pray today for protection
    protect me from people, ideas and thoughts that diminish and confuse my sense that my true self is LOVE
I pray today for conversion
     change me from being afraid, defended,  judgmental to being vulnerable, open and empty,
 May this be a day of giving and receiving love.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Your servant is listening

Sort of.

One of the scriptures of today is the calling of Samuel in the night by God.  And it is a picture of some confusion.   The Lord called Samuel, but Samuel thought Eli was calling him. Eli understood that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

The meditation from Richard Rohr this morning was title "Life as Participation."  He wrote that "all spiritual knowing is knowing by participation."  The participation is living in such a way that we are embodying that statement - "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening."

He writes about the "contemplative practice that is a "laboratory" in which we learn to die to our passing identities, emotions and thoughts so we can receive the permanent and perfect mirroring of the Divine Gaze."

These are good words but in my experience a challenging practice.  This morning I sat in my prayer room and actually set my cell phone for 20 minutes to allow myself just to be present and open to the Holy One.  I guess you might call that meditation or contemplation.  Except my dog, Ginger, was whining at the door.  After some time I finally let her in.  As I sat on the floor with my eyes closed, I felt her cold nose on my hands.  Finally she ended up on her back in the most vulnerable position and I was scratching her belly until my hand got tired.  Then I tried to go back to my "meditation" and after two minutes opened my eyes to see Ginger just staring at me. We went back and forth  to belly scratching and then some sitting and eventually the 20 minutes were up.

Afterwards my reflections were more confused that Sanuel's in the night mistaking  God's voice for Eli.  Wondering if Ginger is here to reflect:
   - my mind that cannot get settled
   - my soul that is insatiable for love and attention
  - the distractions of my life
  - an opportunity to give  love

So I try in a fallible and faithful way to listen and to participate and be open to the call of God.  A call that wants to cleanse, heal, correct and caress me.

Here is my prayer today

Loving God, be patient with me as I seek to open myself to your spirit. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.  Amen

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Plumbing the Depths

The scripture today is from Psalm 42:7  - "Deep calls unto deep" which is an invitation to explore what Richard Rohr calls "the unconscious, the hidden, the suffered-toward, or the often mystical level of meaning."

I sit with that and think - I don't want to.  However, when  I sit in silence and truly open myself to God's presence I touch both my deepest longings and my limitations.  Eugene Peterson in the Message translates this verse to "Chaos calls to chaos."  Here is what I keep learning - that when we do plumb the depths - even the depths of our mistakes - we find  "grace, new space and more authentic freedom."  But it is by no means comfortable. 

I read Love Warrior today by Glennon Dowle Melton, her memoir in which she has the courage to go deep.  Another way to say it is she is unafraid to go into the chaos of her life. At the discovery of her husband's infidelity and pornography addiction, she and he both ultimately went into therapy and explored deeply their "wiring" that had caused them to avoid pain in order not to be truly intimate.  He reached for sexual fulfillment, she reached for food or a drink. There was much that I admired and identified in her story - most especially how easy it is to live "in our heads" or to "push the easy button" into numbing behavior rather than speaking our truth or feeling the normal pain of life.

Deep calls to deep - plumbing the depths is really about exploring  all the feelings of life.  And over and over again it is clear that if we do not experience  the pain we will never get to the deepest joy.  All of which is easier to write about than to do.  On the book jacket they referenced that it is a "beautiful, brutal journey."  I think that is true.

And so I continue on this journey of trying to be present to my life and embracing all of it.

This morning in prayer I felt like over and over God was saying to me -
 Be still and know that I am God. -
 Sit with me, Walk with me, Stay with me.
  Open your self to me.
  Be still 
Be with me
Sit in the emptiness with me
Listen for my song
Wait for my touch
Look for my Light
Deep calls to Deep

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Spring Within Us

That is the title of the book of daily meditations but Richard Rohr that I am going to be using this year as I seek to allow God to continue his work changing me from the inside out.

This morning I spent time with Jesus and the woman at the well.  This verse stands out:
"But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

It reminded me of a time when I was walking and praying in Sedona.  I was staying with my friend Susan at her timeshare at "arroyo robles."  As I walked and wondered - as usual - about where God was and who I am I just walked and walked.  Then I was on my way back to the condo and looked up at the fountain that was right in front of me. I still remember that awareness of the fountain - or inner spring - within me that continues to give life and love. Always flowing.

And that leads to thoughts of doing reiki and how often there is this sense of flow.  It is as if we get blocked and something happens in the warmth of our hands and our prayers and the mystery of God's presence and there is just a flowing of spirit going through us.

All of which is hard to describe, impossible to control, but gives me a sense of peace today.  I wonder if the inner spring gets lost or frozen or blocked by weeds.  I wonder if it is in prayer that we uncover, recover, discover that God is within us flowing and bringing grace, life, love and joy. 

This is my morning prayer today

Lord, I come to you this morning asking you to help me to experience the inner spring of your spirit.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Looking backward and forward

On January 1st Chuck and I went to First Christian Church in Bellefountaine because the pastor there, Mike Valentine was about to retire.  So we heard his last sermon.  A good sermon about being guided by God.  Which was, of course, personal for him and very universal.

It took me back two years to when I was similarly preaching my last sermon as a pastor in a church and realizing that I had slowly been guided to this decision.  Now two years later, I can see that there definitely has been movement within me since then. .  And I am grateful for where I stand at this point.

I sit with my calendar of 2016 and see how I continue to do ministry - three weddings, several funerals, preaching 20+ times, leading a book group, doing a couple of retreats. As I look back I can see I had some new experiences: : serving on a committee for Columbus Schools, attending a dream workshop and becoming part of a dream group, a mission trip to North Carolina, being part of "women writing for a change," participating in an enneagram retreat in hocking hills, taking on a new job at Schoedinger.  But also sprinkled throughout these activities family occasions like vacations, attending games and birthdays and just hanging out. .  It has been a good year and I am grateful for the new friends I have made and the new opportunities for learning and growth.

What is interesting about this exercise with the calendar of last year is that so much of what I have done has not been planned - at all.  There were phone calls that came my way or a friend mentioned an event and I just said YES.  Yes to preaching, to playing, to retreating, to leading, to serving, and that led to something new or something more.  And it has been good in so many ways.  I am grateful for the friends I am making in this new life but I wonder what is next for me.  Always I wonder what is next.

Today is January 2nd and I wonder what the new year will bring.  I know that I need to move more this year and be open to learning more. Most of all I want to deepen my relationship with God.  There is so much freedom now in not being bound by a professional role, and at the same time it is easy to fall away from the weekly discipline of worship and Bible study that being a pastor kept me tied to (in a good way.)

So my prayer and intention for this year is more than just personal growth for me but also guidance into  becoming part of a faith community that will use my gifts as well as give me a place to become connected to others. May it be so.