Synchronicities

Just when it seems like everything’s hitting the fan, grace shows up and grants the gift of perspective. For me that means taking a breath. Taking a step back. Looking around with compassionate eyes and a gentler heart . . . especially toward myself.

“Take it one day, one step at a time,” I hear myself say to people nearly every day. If we take everything in all at once, we are easily overwhelmed and succumb to the “craziness” instead of naming what it is that we actually don’t want to deal with. (Reality: I call myself out for using “busy” and “crazy” too much; there are better, truer words to use. Why am I using them to begin with? What do I need to hold myself accountable for?)

Once I remember to slow my breath, love myself and family more, and try not to be so perfect, I think grace has even more room to work her magic, which translates into my seeing more readily how God is at work in the world about me. Synchronicities appear. Things seem to fall into place. And when I get off track again, something like a migraine might reappear to slow me down and help me regain perspective.

While I’m slowed down, I might realize that lovely stories keep popping into my head; brilliant writers are sharing their words; beautiful people keep coming into my life; love just fills the air I breathe, even when things are hard.

So I remind myself to slow down, to write even when it doesn’t make sense, and to keep giving room for Grace to do Her work.

Give yourself a treat. Tend the flowers or the pretty weeds. Go to the music festival nearby. Enjoy a meal with friends at home or out and about–the company is the important thing. Just love, and allow space for life to happen. As my next best friend Kaitlin says (we haven’t met…yet…, but I love her words),

“If we hold space for each other, we learn how to truly be alive with one another, as we cast off judgment and wait for the grace of God to journey with us into unknown and sacred places.”

I’ll meet you in those sacred spaces, following the breadcrumbs of all the synchronicities along the way.

Peace and love to you.

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A Pause

A typo almost dictated the title to be “A Oa..”, which made me think of “an oasis.” What is a true pause but an oasis in our day? At least, this pause is for me. This pause is at the end of a comfortably full day, when I got home before dinner was already late, while the sun is still out, and the house still quiet since the fam isn’t yet back from after-school activities. Moms and dads of all sorts know this kind of pause, a sort of calm before the storm.

And in this pause I choose to write because it’s been a while since I’ve journaled or blogged or written anything other than sermons. While sermons are a treasured part of my ministry, there’s so much unsaid in a sermon, even as I hope to have said enough, trusting Spirit to fill in the gaps.

Pausing for a moment to write grants me the opportunity to see, to open my eyes and gaze with wonder what’s going on around me, let alone what’s going on within me. Pausing for a moment to write helps me realize where my prayers manifest, especially the prayers left unsaid.

This Lent has been a time of prayer: long and intentional, short and rushed, whispered, sung, listened to, promised, and hoped for. My breath prayer this Lent has been

Let me abide in you, O God.

One night driving home it took on the tune to the Taize hymn “Bless the Lord my soul,” and it has stayed with me since then–not that I’m ready to let it go.

If Lent is about realizing our dependency upon God and increasing our awareness of God’s presence, I believe this Lent I learned more about the opposite. I find myself returning to my breath prayer as an escape from all the constraints I put on myself, mostly, and all the anxieties I hold onto when I know full well it’s out of my control. I have seen how much more I depend upon my timing and my management (even though I know how horribly that works out most times!) and see just how messed up things are in the world through our microcosm of a community, rather than trusting in God’s perfect timing and dream for us all.

Preparing for Holy Week, this insight is rather perfect, for once we know something, it’s hard to ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist. (I’ll try to be sincere in my gratitude for this knowledge as I keep thinking, “Those to whom much is given, much is required.”) What has God revealed to me in the desert that I can take into the Easter season? What have I learn that, gilded with Resurrection, illuminates not only my ministry but even more importantly, God’s presence in the world?

I think I need more pauses to decipher the answers to those questions, but I know that Easter has much to say about God’s timing and God’s dream for us. In this pause, I can almost feel it in the anticipatory silence surrounding me.

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Annotated Confession, November 2016

This morning during Morning Prayer, I heard and said the confession with different ears, as one is prone to do in liminal times such as when one’s heart feels broken or constricted. In light of an election that nominated someone who condones violence, normalizes bigotry, and epitomizes hypocrisy, as an American, I feel the need to repent.* As a middle class person and someone who benefits from white privilege (even as a registered Cherokee), my socio-economic demographic largely voted for Donald Trump. I have heard more than one voice say that if our “group” wants to generalize, say, all Muslims as terrorists or all blacks as thugs, then others can likewise generalize all whites–especially all white Christians–as racist, homophobic, etc., etc. It appears then that I, too, have condoned violence, bigotry, and hypocrisy, among other things; it appears that I, too, have not respected the dignity of all human beings, which is in direct contradiction to my baptismal vows that I re-affirm regularly.

Before I turn to my neighbor to exchange the peace, and certainly before I presume to come to the Lord’s table, I confess my sins against God and my neighbor.

Most merciful God,

Yes, God, you are merciful. There is little, if anything, we have done to deserve your compassion or forgiveness, yet humanity continues to exist.

we confess that we have sinned against you

Me, myself, and I–as a whole, broken person–have sinned. I have turned away from you, in spite of you.

in thought, word, and deed,

I turn away from you in what I think, what I say, and what I do. It may not be obvious to others when I sin; it might be known only between you and me. It is known, though, and these sins are not right intentions, right speech, nor right actions. They are mine, and they are wrong.

by what we have done,

Yes, I take full responsibility for my actions and hold myself accountable to them.

and by what we have left undone.

How many times has my silence and/or inaction kept your mercy and grace from being manifest in the world or allowed hate to have a louder voice?

We have not loved you with our whole heart;

The heart was considered the seat of the will, if I remember my Old Testament studies. The heart is considered the seat of courage. The heart is the seat of our love and compassion. None of these have I wholly given to YOU.

we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

My head hangs heavily, and my heart constricts at the gravity of the truth of this statement. Yet I say it, for it is true. There is no qualifier for who is my neighbor or who should be excluded as my neighbor. It’s not even “others,” because to presume “other” is to exclude from our “group.” Love my neighbors. Love everyone around me. Everyone. I haven’t loved them as myself. I don’t even know if I love myself as you would have me be loved.

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

I am sorry, and I humbly turn toward you, O God. I cannot simply say that I am sorry; I have to show it. I have to do something about it. It’s what I’ve been taught, and it’s what I teach my children. This repentance isn’t shameful: it is honest. It hurts because it reminds me that I have been wrong in my ways, that I have made bad choices: wrong because I let fear or anger govern my decisions, bad because they send ripples of negative consequences into the world, and I may never know the extent of the damage done. I cannot undo what I have done. With humility I can only move forward. I choose yet again to move toward God first; then I can move into right action.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,

In the most merciful act imaginable yet never fully conceivable by my finite being, you already showed us how to give our whole heart by giving yours. Let me never forget or take for granted the abundance of your love and grace. For the sake of all that is good and holy, let me not disgrace the worth of your sacrifice.

have mercy on us and forgive us,

I see what I have done. I realize what you have done and what you continue to do for us who turn to you. Mercifully, you grant us life eternal, relentlessly allowing us to return to you when we have fallen away.

that we may delight in your will,

With your mercy and forgiveness, there is joy to be had. That joy is deep and wide when our will is aligned with yours. This joy doesn’t promise riches or ease, but it promises a fullness and richness of heart that is only known by, with, and in YOU. I want that wholeness in my life. I may not even realize that I actually yearn for it.

and walk in your ways,

With your mercy and forgiveness, I will not only feel your joy but also walk in your way, doing the things that are right and good not only for myself but also for all of Creation.

to the glory of your Name.

What I do for you gives YOU the glory. I may be praised for doing good, but we both know that without your mercy and forgiveness, your love and guidance, I’m headed toward destruction and death. All glory is yours, O God. Thank you for sharing it with me, and help me carry it forward with both hands and all of my heart.

Amen.

Again, I say, “Amen,” as I take care of myself and family with love, as I listen intently to as many as I can, and as I stand strong as a woman of God striving to do all that I can in love of God, neighbor, and myself . . . with God’s help.

I am only one voice among many, one heart in the multitude, but I stand with a promise to love.

Love trumps hate.

 

* This list is not all-inclusive, I know. I also know there are those who voted for Donald Trump for many reasons: for a change to shake up the government establishment, for his anti-abortion stance, for his appeal to the common man, for his Republican nomination, for his not being the controversial Hillary Clinton . . . for these and other reasons. What he represented throughout the campaign, however, spoke to fear-mongering and to belittling (and that word seems too kind) much of humanity and creation. From my perspective, our collective voice did not vote for love of God and all of Creation in this election. What seemed to win is a legitimization of exclusion, oppression, and disregard for others, and it is for this which I confess.

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All in a Word

Identity

Who are you at the deepest level? When Jesus looks at you and loves you, who does he see? What is it which truly makes you come alive? Is God inviting you to take a risk and to go deeper?

-Br. Geoffrey Tristram
Society of Saint John the Evangelist

The church’s new year comes at the first of Advent. The calendrical new year comes January first, without fail. My bursts of energy and momentum to get going come in fits and starts like an old Model T; when I’m rearing to go, I’m full throttle, but when I’m not, there’s no end to the strain of getting motivated.

Except now.

At least, for these past few days or weeks.

Or has it been months already?

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I feel I’m awakening a bit more, becoming more fully who I truly am, realizing the amazing depth of growth. It’s not just about getting older, which I am, but it’s also about being more fully aware. One thing I find most interesting is that when I hear something–even if I’ve heard it before–there are implications and meaning. I am rarely dismissive. Our lives call for interaction, so I either act or not in any given circumstance, fully aware that my non-action has as much repercussion as any action I might take.

Awareness.

That’s a word.

But it’s not my word for this year, which I was trying so hard to have before January One. Like a child’s cooperation, though, I couldn’t force it and have it be authentic. I went through most of Advent following along with SSJE’s “Brother, Give Us a Word,” trying to increase my awareness and attention . . . and intention, probably. My motivation sputtered until it wasn’t even idling. I remained parked through Christmas.

A magical thing about the liturgical cycle is that it gets ingrained in us, and like any habitual practice, it can carry us, moving us onward even when it feels like we aren’t going anywhere. Along comes Epiphany, and maybe it’s because I’ve been thinking about Jesus’s work among the people with whom he lived and breathed that I’ve been thinking deeply about my own work–not as a comparison, mind you, but as a what-am-I-doing-if-I’m-living-into-who-I-truly-am kind of way.

For better or for worse, in our American culture, what we do, what our work is, can be a reflection of who we are, who we identify ourselves as. (Not always, of course, but sometimes.) I work as a priest, which means I have a varied list of tasks and responsibilities. Working at being a Christian is a huge (if not whole) part of who I am. If I whittle down through what I do and filter through my gifts, I remember that as a child, I was always writing stories. I was always listening. Imagining. Think what you will about all the associations of the inner child, but I hear her loudly and clearly calling out to me with every writing utensil and journal I receive or buy, “WRITE!”

And that scares the bejesus out of me. (Pardon the expression.)

Which probably means it is one of the truest things that I can do.

This comes to mind:

I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. ~ Romans 7:18b-20, NRSV

Writing scares me because in the process I tend to more clearly hear the voice of God, walk alongside Spirit, come face to face with Christ because it is right for me and probably right for others, too. Not doing it encourages me farther away from God, allows me to fill that energy with other, less life-giving things.

Writing scares me because in the sharing of my words, I open my heart even more than I already do (and I think I’m a pretty open-hearted person), making myself even more vulnerable. Vulnerable on many levels but especially the one where what I say might not please you, the reader.

So I’m reading Brené Brown after loving her TEDx talks but not reading the books lest they call me to actually do something daring. Obviously. I’m working on embracing my Wholeheartedness because that’s where I experience Joy. If I embrace the part of me who writes, then I can, perhaps, become even more Wholehearted which, in turn, means an even better Christian.

I accept the challenge. My word for 2016 is WRITE.

Doing that which is hard and scary is best not done alone. So I’m doing an even more ridiculous thing by asking for help. Dammit. <–Apparently my ego doesn’t like this.

  • Ask me how my writing is going, whether it be in my journal or blog or projects. (What writer doesn’t have multiple projects going?)
  • Share what your identity calls you to do.
  • Connect. If not with me, then with others. Find those who are trustworthy with your Wholehearted self, those who are there to help keep us focused when we slip and succumb to that which is not life-giving.

Giving full credit to Ciara Barsotti for the art and Brené Brown for the words, this sits as encouragement on my desk.

And I give myself a gold star today for writing.

 

 

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#makingmemories

It’s not a #momfail, I told myself.

Checking Facebook to see what’s trending, to make sure I’m not missing some major world event, I realize that my feed is full of pictures of my friends’ kids . . . kids on their first day of school. Hey, it’s the first day of school for my kids, too, I thought.

But I forgot to take a picture.

We can’t re-wind our way to the morning to re-capture the moment. It was great to see our kids come into the kitchen to eat the potato cakes their dad had made the night before just so the morning would not be so chaotic. We actually sat down for a few moments at the table, the four of us.

We are still in the midst of transition, and routine will surely find us, however hectic it might be. New town, new church, new school, new family structure (with big kids in a different town at a familiar school). We are finding our way, but there will be some moments that come and go without finding their way onto social media or into our camera roll.

I tell my kids we’re “making memories” when we are doing something that they’re not particularly fond of, like hiking through a rainstorm or taking a bumpy ride in a crowded van. We are, indeed, making many memories these days, but to make a memory, you have to fully notice the moment–touch, taste, smell, and see it as much as possible. For me, that’s going to mean more often than not that I don’t have a camera or phone in hand. It means that I’m going to be laughing, crying, moving, being in the moment. It also means that I’m going to look back on it an hour, days or years later and smile because I was so full of life and love, even if it was painful.

We said we would take a 2nd day of school picture but forgot that, too. The morning and afternoon drop-offs are stressful right now, to say the least. So for all the parents and friends who managed to remember the photos, you are awesome. Please keep sharing. For those of us who didn’t, we didn’t fail, even if we feel like we missed an opportunity. We’re making memories, after all, and those memories usually come with any number of stories to share later.

Keep making memories.

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What’s Your Passion?

Things can happen in the midst of activity, and it’s great at the time.  Then days pass, and other things happen, even horrible things. We can lose our focus, our sense of mission or purpose. It can help to have reminders of that which inspire us.

As I prepare to participate in stirring up the Spirit at the ECW Triennial and focus on crowdfunding, I was reminded of Nancy Frates’ TED Talk in Boston. It’s worth watching again in case you missed it last year. I’m posting it here for myself, when I need to come back to it.  Hopefully there will be others that are more current that I view daily. May we all be so stirred to do good in our lives, in our communities.

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Relationships Matter

Everyday events bring most of us into contact with all walks of life, dependent upon the paths we travel in our hectic schedules.  In a flurry, we move from one place to the next, hoping we’re not forgetting something, trying to keep all the plates spinning.

There are many who are homebound who consider themselves fortunate to greet the mail or the meal deliverer.  They might follow their daily routine, cautiously optimistic that it will be interrupted by a call or an unexpected guest.  All this if they are fortunate to be at their own home.

There are those who watch us pass them by.  We with our agendas and demands, so busy; their thoughts known to them alone.

Our connections seem so tenuous at times, the thinnest thread holding us all together.  Holding the hand of a beloved, we make visible the connection that has been present all along.  We feel what it is to be in a nurturing relationship, to be in the presence of another, experiencing the exchange of emotion, seen or unseen.

It takes a moment’s intention to smile at another.  It takes a bit longer to send a text or to call.  It takes concerted effort and time to travel to and sit and visit with someone.  Above all, it takes courage to let someone else know we see them where they are and identify ourself in all our vulnerabilities, too, to be loving and tender — to care.

Whether a moment’s or a lifelong relationship, showing that we care, that we matter to one another, can change how we move through our days and nights.  Bringing positive intention, opening our hearts to one another actually to show our love for our neighbor–not just in words but also in action–could surely change the world.

Every one of our relationships matter, and we have the choice on how we engage in each encounter.  I don’t think we realize the power we have.

 

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Hello, Time.

Situation: my sense of time is skewed.

Solution: reacquaint myself with time.

It’s not that I don’t understand there are 24 hours in every day; I get this.  What I recognize is that something in my time management needs to be shifted.

As if my awareness of this early in the day were not enough, to further emphasize the point, I was late for an afternoon class.  It wasn’t intentional by any means–just a perfect cluster of events to keep my conscious awareness of the class out of focus or absent altogether.

Awareness and affirmation, check.

How might I “reacquaint myself with time,” if this is how I sense a solution to the perceived problem?  I am not venturing far in making some simple observations, nor am I exhaustive of all the issues at hand.  In creating perspective, however, I have to be realistic of my current needs and present situation as wife, mother, and student.

  • I need more sleep.
  • I must take care of my physical body.
  • Quality matters.

I realize that with these three simple statements, I can address a variety of aspects of my life.  Creating a few practical goals will, I hope, incorporate a better sense of my place in time.

  • Go to bed around 11pm.
  • Walk/Bike to school and local places.
  • Eat good-for-us foods.
  • Be present and aware in relationships and studies.

To achieve these seemingly simple goals, I will have to keep a detailed calendar.  (I am trying to use digital calendars, but I am still connected to my hand-held calendar book!)  I will have to insert travel time and continue to make menus that also account for snacks and easy-to-prepare healthy meals for a large family.  For me, prayer, listening, and writing encourage mindfulness, and as importantly for me right now, I will have to turn out the light before a new day begins.

As a friend pointed out in her sermon today, “God is before us, and friends are with us.”  I am not alone in any endeavor, but I do have to take initiative to “create the field for deep change,” as my spiritual director suggests.

Suggestions are appreciated, and I am more than willing to share my resources as well . . . as soon as I figure out what those are!

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.”    ~ Mother Teresa

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Another Beginning

We give birth to so many things in our lives.  We create art.  We forge friendships.  We beget children.  These are no small things.

What I notice most about the most significant births is that they are born from a place of surrender.  My ego gives up, and I let what needs to be born come forth.  With each of my children, such is the nature of their birth.  In some of my better writing, the words seemed to form themselves.  My most sincere friendships found their own way to my heart and took root there.

This home, this school, this town we find ourselves in now, I imagine the same holds true.  In the stillness of the morning, I marvel at the sunlight falling down through the trees.  I wonder at the moisture, the thunderstorms, having come from a place not far away experiencing harsh drought.  (Believe me, I’m trying to send the rain back home!)  I am here for formation.  For a true birth to happen, I will have to let go.

That doesn’t mean I let go of all that was, of all who are a part of my life.  In as much as this is a community affair, this is mostly a time for me to grow, not away from who I am but more fully into who I am, who I am meant to be.  No one says a birth is easy, nor do I hear often that they’re beautiful affairs to observe (aside from those who hold the process near and dear to their hearts when a baby is being born). But I give thanks in advance for those who will serve as witnesses to my own birth, who will hold the space around me, love me unconditionally, and remind me that the ground is still there when I feel I’ve lost my way.

 

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Change of Plans

A little perspective goes a long way.  As odd as it sounds, my stresses tend to come from my blessings, my abundance.  Even my seeming lack of financial resources isn’t all that bad; most everything gets paid most of the time and on time.  It’s the excesses we can’t afford, and excess by nature is something we don’t need.  I get stressed because I’m trying too hard to control everything.  That just cannot happen, and I certainly can’t do everything on my own.

It takes one event to set in motion a trajectory downhill.  That spiral that will go as deep as we let it or as deep as it can pull us.  Some may call it natural selection.  Some call it fate.  It is true that darkness is ever-present.  What makes some of us more keenly aware of the light in our lives and some more susceptible to the pull of darkness?  Can it also be the same for positive events, that when good things start happening, they just keep coming?

I don’t mean to oversimplify this.  Life is not either good or bad.  Mostly, it’s gray, and, despite the over-use of the phrase, it is what it is.  I am convinced that our perspective, how we choose to encounter everything along our way, and our choices going forward make all the difference.  I’m also convinced that we cannot do it alone.  If your faith is enough, bless you.  If you’re like most of us, you need community.

As part of a community I love dearly, I’m willing to change my plans for lunch and visit a friend in need.  I let go of my expectations and live into something greater.  We make magic happen every day and can rejoice in the light.  When the darkness comes, we can know we are not alone and that we don’t have to be afraid.

That’s a beautiful thing.

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