on Ash Wednesday (a little early)
I really love Ash Wednesday. Maybe what I love about it is that because of the round of services traditionally offered on that day in the Episcopal Church (morning, noon and evening) the whole day really is about worship. But I also was challenged (in a positive way) by reading some of my fellow bloggers in the RevGalBlogPal ring, for whom the ashes are a new tradition. This is my Ash Wednesday sermon from 2001, and when I read it, I thought, this sums up what I think about it.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, welcome to the feast of Ash Wednesday.
Feast? This doesn’t seem like much of a feast. A feast is a party, a great big dinner with great food, pretty clothes and witty conversation. It is most certainly not a somber church service with confessions, long prayers and to top it off, somberly dressed clergy smudging your forehead with ashes and saying “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
But Ash Wednesday is a feast. It’s not a feast of exchanging presents like Christmas or a birthday. It’s not a day for a great meal and lounging in front of the fireplace like Thanksgiving. Ash Wednesday should really be titled the feast of our unimportance. The celebration of the notion that life, the universe and everything is not, in fact, all about me.
We need at least one day set aside on the calendar to be reminded of this idea. Being human, we probably need more than one. Fr. Jim has said in his sermons earlier today that Ash Wednesday celebrates the fact that we are “critters” and not the Creator, but that is a lesson we need to hear over and over again.
But until we accept the idea of our limits, until we accept the idea of our mortality, until we accept the idea that we are human, finite and therefore just like everyone else on this planet before and after us, we will fall prey over and over again to the sins that the Litany of Penitence appointed for this evening reminds us of. We will be self-indulgent and exploit others, we will be envious of those more fortunate than ourselves, we will be negligent and dishonest and uncharitable and wasteful.
All the energy we pour into those selfish activities is a reflection of our inner scrambling to deny the inevitable, that we are all dust, and to dust we shall return. Every hour we spend daydreaming in shiny mall does not avoid the reality of gritty smudgy ashes. Wouldn’t it be much easier if we would admit it, as a speaker Fr. Jim and I heard on our clergy retreat (Kevin Martin
)who asked us, “why not die to yourself now and just get it over with?”
The forty days of Lent could really teach us something about dying to ourselves if we would just let it. Practices of fasting and self-denial are not just about giving up chocolate, as so many of us were brought up to believe. As our lesson from Isaiah points out to us, there is no point to giving up chocolate if you do not also sacrifice in the ways God cares about, if you observe a fast but continue to serve only your interests and oppress those around you. The fast God chooses has nothing to do with calories unconsumed, cigarettes unlighted or sodas undrunk if it does not also include the intent to loose the bonds of injustice and share your bread with the hungry. Our actions of prayer, fasting and self-denial are not the ultimate goal but more like the practices a basketball team goes through before playing an actual game--so that when the opposition is in your face and you are down by twenty points you remember to play with courage and self-discipline. Practice self-denial and even in the most stressful situations you may find yourself less tempted to be self-indulgent, self-reliant and self-involved.
Celebrate this feast day. Die to yourself now, and get it over with. Remember you are dust. Choose God’s fast, and let your light break forth like the dawn.
Wilbur's turn to write--we've been tagged by Whistle and Fish
1. What's your favorite food? Wet food. Houdini's is any food.
2. What is your favorite toy?I have been known to chase the tops of milk bottles for hours. Currently I'm playing with some stuffed mice that were Christmas presents from Utah. Houdini likes to swat at the purple feathery thing the humans dangle. Well, he really prefers to sleep.
3. What is your best trick? Hiding under blankets.
3. What is your favorite human trick?I've trained the humans to wake up, open doors, and bring food to me.
4. What human rule do you break often? What are these things you call rules?
5. What do you wish your human knew about you? I practice looking cute and fluffy in the mirror when they're out.
6. What are you glad your human does NOT know about you? That I've left a hairball in a closet that they haven't found yet.
I get by with a little help from my (new) friends
As I write this, the first sleeve of the Turtleneck Shrug is happily resting, complete, on its stitch holder, waiting for its partner and the turtleneck part of the operation.
How did this miracle occur?
I went to Knitty Committee for the first time yesterday, and brought the shrug on the off chance a knitter with more experience would take pity on me and help me out. And lo and behold, the lovely Tracy needed a project to work on, and not only untangled me, but contributed a few inches of knitting to the black hole that is knitting 23 inches of 3 x 3 ribbing.
Thank you, Tracy.
(Kay has photos of our adventures in yarn over at addicted to knitting
This is the final object I pulled out of my box last week with a story.
Once upon a time this was a cross. It was made by a young parishioner for me while he was in jail. He was caught on the Minnesota border trying to cross into Canada; when they went to check on his mother (he was driving her car), they found her dead in their house. I won't go into details; let me just say that it was a violent death.
We never found out what happened that night. He was in jail for over two years, waiting while the prosecution and the defense negotiated. I went to visit him in a waiting room that could have been out of a movie set; the glass, the scratchy phones, the Jehovah's Witnesses conducting bible studies with individuals on either side of us (those men never knew what to do with me when I was visiting--one of them even told me the "women's side was over there. . .")I felt completely at sea, navigating on instinct and prayer and the guidance of the wise people around me, but it was never enough, nothing was enough to make this go away, or be fixed.
The young man killed himself in the jail the night before he was supposed to be sentenced. There was never a trial, just a deal between the prosecution and the defense, a generous offer considering the circumstances, but a stretch in prison probably beyond imagining for a teenager.
My rector was in Iraq at the time; planning and preaching fell to me, wrestling with my own grief and guilt. It took the support of mentors, friends and a long session with my spiritual director to help me write a sermon and preside at that service.
In the process of dealing with it all, I picked up the origami cross, thinking I would take it somewhere to be framed, but it fell apart in my hands. He hadn't had access to a whole lot of art supplies in the jail, and of course some they would not have let him use even if they'd had them. The folds of the paper and the kind of glue he had used simply couldn't hold up under the stress of holding the cross together.
I've kept the pieces, because they really speak to me, the fragility, the loss, the pieces that couldn't find a whole in this world.
There are some moments in ministry that don't get wrapped up neatly, that don't fit in a scrapbook or a shadow box, just pieces I want to hang onto, but never know quite what to do with.Songbird
asked us about friendship in the RevGal Friday Five this morning; let me share where friends intersected with this story--
my friend M. from seminary who went to visit this young man in the detention center in Minnesota, who even went with the family to the extradition hearing, to her I am grateful beyond measure.
my mentor, E., and his wife, who helped me with so much, who held my hand and let me cry on their shoulder, who helped me break the news to the family.
my friend J., who we jokingly called the Sermon Doctor, and who a long time ago had helped me prepare a sermon for a dear friend who had committed suicide, and who had asked a priest friend of his to send me a copy--the connection with that priest I've never met, knowing that he was praying for me, and the wisdom in his sermon, sustained me in both circumstances
my spiritual director, Sister J., who helped me get through the emotional blockage so I could write the sermon.
and another seminary friend C., who is planning and preaching a service for someone who committed suicide, and who I'm holding in my prayers now.
Those bonds are stronger than glue and origami, beyond space and time, and incarnate Christ's love when everything else seems to be falling apart.
it's kind of an operatic day
Tannhaeuser und der Saengerkrieg
Your opera is a romantic drama of the struggle
between earthly passion and spiritual
longings. Which Wagner Opera Do You Belong In? brought to you by Quizilla
via Topmost Apple
ex-Olympian press conference
Well, I didn't reinjure myself like Michelle Kwan.
I'm not in a rivalry with anyone (at least I don't know of one) like Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick.
I'm just pitifully admitting that Teva Durham's Turtleneck Shrug and Rowan Kid Classic have, for the moment, put me on the sidelines for this particular Olympics.
That's fine (holds head up high). Just because I apparently can't follow directions (or figure them out), and have somehow gotten my mohair/wool blend in a twist, doesn't mean I'm not chock-full of self-esteem. (sniff).
Well, Olympians participate for different reasons, and most take it on for the experience, and not for a gold medal. So count me in with the cross country skiers from more tropical parts of the world. I had a great time casting on with 3999+ other people, and reading about the Knitting Olympics in various mainstream media, and I'll be ready when 2008 rolls around (what does one knit during Summer Olympics, one wonders).
I just read a post by Sophia at I Will Sing
that reminded me of my prospective student story. . .
I arrived at Seabury excited but also anxious, because I was showing up outside the traditional ordination process (diocese I was resident in had a longstanding moratorium) and because I knew my parents were going to have serious issues with my pursuing this vocation.
(No really, the rest of this is a funny story).
So I showed up at breakfast, and the day's prospective students were me (being me) and this other man, who had been a deacon for many years in his diocese, and who looked like a classic picture of Anglo-catholicism--black suit, clergy shirt and collar, complete with monk like hair and medieval looking beard.
I was quite intimidated by his presence, and tried to make conversation but didn't get much of anywhere.
Of course we both went to Seabury and over the years became good friends. At our middler retreat, he finally admitted to me that he had thought to himself, at that first meeting over breakfast in the refectory, "if they're all going to be as perky and extroverted as HER, I'm really going to be miserable."
And I told him, in response, that my thought had been, "if they're all going to be as introverted and stuck-in-the-mud as HIM, I'm really going to be miserable."
(The truth was, I had acquired great respect for him because he was the only person I knew who spent more money in the seminary bookstore than I did).
on Lent, ambivalence, and self-denial
I grew up in a home that strictly observed Lent in an Anglo-Catholic way. Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, until after services. No meat on Wednesday or Friday in Lent (exceptions made for my birthday, which always falls in Lent). Lots of extra church services as a family (my mother is a church organist, so there we were). I was always made to go to confession before Easter once I was old enough to be confirmed, and there was a checklist the priest handed out to us in confirmation class that we were supposed to use (the only thing I remember out of that was we weren't supposed to get our fortunes told.) Mostly I remember that the checklist didn't really seem to apply to me, that the stuff I felt unhappy about wasn't on there. Mostly I used to confess that I didn't clean up my room and I talked back to my parents.
As I got older I started to understand sin in different ways--that not being authentic and true was a sin, being wrapped up in oneself, either feeling one was so much better than others, or so much less than others was also sin, not being honest about one's call was sin, not speaking up against injustice or squishing one's creativity--all these things were sin and not on the checklist anywhere.
But this Lent I'm feeling that for me, personally, a return to some of the more traditional Lenten disciplines will be helpful. I'm going to not say much now, as I'm still working it out, but I'm aware of a need for some structure. Having worked on a lot of big emotional clutter over the past ten years, I'm finding now about material things which have a deep hold on me.
The difference for me is what is imposed versus what is chosen. I'm really not sure how appropriate it is for children to fast, for a family to choose that for them. I'm grateful for the rhythms of the liturgical year that were a part of my life growing up, and are deeply woven into my faith life now, but I felt like I had so little choice and control in my life in so many ways, that was just another piece of it. Frankly, I also can have low blood sugar and I'm not crazy about parents making choices like these which affect their children's physical well-being. (Choosing not to have desserts as a family is another thing entirely. . .I'm talking about fasting from meals).
I'd love to hear about other's experiences of Lent and self-denial, in comments or on other blogs.
Dear (insert name of major American car rental company here)
Let's discuss your claim to your business niche on your website.
You claim to offer "fun, friendly service."
I was deposted at a rental office near a (insert name of American city) major airport this past week to pick up my rental. I was in line for over 40 minutes. (Fun, no?) When our shuttle from the airport arrived at 4:50 p.m. (rush hour), there was one agent on duty, who was already helping a customer with a Lengthy Transaction. At 5:30, there were two agents on duty, and yet weirdly the line had not moved (more fun). When I spoke up to mention that those of us in line had been waiting for 40 minutes, I was asked for patience (ummm, perhaps that would have worked 40 minutes ago), then I heard a snippy comment from said agent, who also appeared to be a manager (that must have been the friendly part).
When I was waved up to the counter, the agent was on the phone, and continued to take a phone reservation while I stood there. Meanwhile, two other people behind me in line were waited on (see--fun and friendly).
I was given an upgrade to a full-size car from a compact, which I appreciated, but did not give me back the hour plus I spent standing in a car rental office.
I hope you will pay more attention to providing fun and friendly service to your customers and this location in the future.
RevGal Friday Five
1) Which of the Winter Olympic sports is your favorite to watch? I really enjoy watching most of them, because the danger of doing complicated sports on ice and snow really intrigues me.
2) Do you speak Snowboardese? I can channel an early variant, Valley Girl speak, like, that's so gnarly. But I can't understand half of what the announcers are saying.
3) Define Nordic Combined. Don't look it up. Take a guess if you must. Human being throws body off ski jump. If said human is lucky to still be alive, then he or she has the good fortune of having to cross country ski until their thighs turn to jelly.
4) Curling. Please discuss. I still can't figure it out. I watched part of a game the other day, and I had no idea what was going on. I am an anthropologist by training and I have multiple degrees in higher education AND a subscription to Sports Illustrated and I still couldn't deduce what was happening.
5) If you could be a Winter Olympics Champion just by wishing for it, which sport would you choose for winning your Gold Medal? I always like the speed skaters, but I have to say the energy of the snowboarding events seemed pretty attractive.
my brain is mush
and therefore not much to say.
I'm trying to find things that aren't really lost, by definition, but just not coming easily to hand. Keys, wallet, cell phone. Brain.
Blogger ate my post
this morning, but it was just a wordless photo, so no worries.
A funny thing happened this afternoon. I went to a nearby mall to buy a watch so I could keep an eye on time during this evening's vestry meeting (spoken as a longtime vestry veteran, both participant and leader). My choices at this particular mall were the department stores.
So it turns out that Monday, February 13th is not the day to go to a department store looking for a watch. Because all the jewelry/watch counters will have lines 5 deep of anxious males searching for last-minute Valentine's Day gifts.
(I do have a nice new watch though).
on a lighter note
A happier story for this item:
Once upon a time I saw a children's sermon for the day of Pentecost that involved Beanie Babies. Hundreds and hundreds of Beanie Babies (for those who will ask, it was at All Saints', Ravenswood, Chicago, which if you know All Saints', will not surprise you at all that Beanie Babies were involved). At the climax of the story, the Holy Spirit came down upon all the Beanie Babies--the Holy Spirit in question being a pink flamingo.
So on some Pentecost day down the road, I found myself doing a children's type sermon with some Beanie Babies. I used the story of the Beanie Baby Pentecost to riff on, but described that I had no pink flamingo Beanie Baby, nor did I have a dove Beanie Baby, but I did have this little chicken Beanie Baby to use for the Holy Spirit.
The result of that sermon was that I am now the proud owner of a pink flamingo Beanie Baby, a dove Beanie Baby, and this lovely handcarved wooden dove. All three were presented to me by various parishioners, which I think answers one of those questions Reverend Mommy asked about whether members of your congregation show you appreciation. (Hopefully something was also made of the theological message of the sermon as well, which involved also a blue bear Beanie Baby (disciple in fear before the Holy Spirit) and a red bear Beanie Baby (disciple after the arrival of the Holy Spirit).
I'm not sure where in the boxes are the assorted Pentecost BBs. I trust they will turn up. I always try to have a stash of Beanie Babies and bubbles in the office to entertain small children and those (like me) who are cleverly disguised as responsible adults most of the time.
But I did take the dove to the office this morning.
cue the music
Ready to cast on for the Knitting Olympics.
There are now 4000+ Knitting Olympians. Have to admit, I'm disappointed every time the news promises coverage of the Olympics and they neglect to mention what the Harlot hath wrought. See, CNN is covering some story about how Olympians neglect sleep--wouldn't that be a perfect topic for the Knitting Olympics?
(What I really want is a button for Team I'm-Knitting-To-Put-Off-Writing-My-Sermon.)
I was unpacking some boxes of office stuff the other day, deciding what I would take down to my office at St. C's, and I found some items that have stories behind them.
This is one of them.
It's just a little mouse, part of a set of a priest mouse, with a bride mouse and a groom mouse. A friend gave these to me before husband I got married, sent in a little box with a lovely note, just like she had given me a delightful Christmas ornament of a "frog prince" when it looked like we were getting serious (she said I had kissed a lot of frogs and had finally found my prince).
It's a sweet thing, but it's also sad, because my friend is dead. And before that our relationship had become strained.
She was my first time dealing with someone who had an alcohol problem--I'm sure there were others in my life before, but this was the first time I was close to someone where it became obvious to me what was going on. She had tried recovery and swore she wasn't drinking--and for awhile I believed her--I wanted to believe her. I didn't want to think she could so easily lie to such a good friend.
Two turning points: one day we were on the phone, and she said to me that she was having to read the AA Big Book. "But I don't get it. The Big Book doesn't apply to me."
I felt really cold when she said this, and I didn't know what to do. I didn't say anything because I was stunned. By this time I had started to learn a little about recovery, and had been to an AA meeting and read some AA literature and had realized how much of AA could speak to someone who wasn't an alcoholic, it was about anything that interfered in your relationship with God and with another human being. I knew the Big Book spoke to me. I hung up--I'm not proud of that.
Not long after that one of the staff members at my job followed me out to my car and asked if this friend of mine had a drinking problem, that she had called and her voice at sounded slurry. I saw my friend at a meeting that weekend, and for the first time really saw her, and when I confronted her, this time I knew she was lying, although my heart still wanted so badly to believe her.
When she died, I went to her funeral and I cried through the whole thing. I cried for the waste of a human being, and I cried because we were friends, and because we were no longer friends, and I cried because the church had let her down and because she had let so many of us down and because God didn't just fix it.
I learned something about our idols, and what controls us. My friend put alcohol above everything else--her vocation, her friendships. Alcohol isn't the only idol--it hides more openly in the Episcopal Church because we don't condemn having a drink. The she gave me will always remind me of the power of the demons in our lives.
The mouse isn't coming to my new office but I won't hide it. I want to remember my friend, the gifts, the potential, and the loss.
so when's the intervention?
Umm, it's Polly and Susan and Rosemary and Janelle and Kay's fault.
If the stash suddenly includes roving, you know why.
Sunset, Lake Hefner
in honor of my new job
the cats caught another mouse.
So I am an Interim here in the metro area, photos coming soon (I meant to take some yesterday). It's good to be back to work in a meaningful kind of way.
I came home yesterday afternoon to participate in the time-honored tradition of the Sunday afternoon clergy nap, when I noticed that the cats, who had been participating in the time-honored tradition of the feline afternoon nap (not to be confused with the feline morning nap, the feline evening nap, the feline overnight snooze), were stalking the cat tree by the front door. Sure enough, Houdini had cornered himself a mouse, and spent the rest of the afternoon playing with it and growling at anyone who would try to take it away from him. Husband finally retrieved it from him.
Wilbur, being the secondary cat on the totem pole, didn't get to participate much in the hunt and chase, so in the evening he contented himself by playing with one of his mouse toys as if it were a real mouse.
quoting the Bible
Reverend Mother is looking for a quote one might have at hand--(read the story over at her place
The problem is that I like the offbeat texts--the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew, which reveals a list of women with, ahem, interesting relationships, or where Paul rants to the Corinthians that he's glad that he didn't baptize any one of them (well, maybe except this one, and that one), or again in Paul (the end of Galatians), where he writes, "See what large letters I make with my own hands."
But the one that came to mind was also from Paul's Letter to the Galatians:
". . .for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus."
Real equality, real freedom, and resting fully, deeply, truly in the knowledge that we are in the right place with God.
Speaks to me.
Answering Reverend Mommy's questions
: 1. Is being a pastor detrimental or helpful to your faith? My faith has deepened tremendously through the ordination process and during these years of parish ministry, both because of the good times and the wilderness times. I once heard Martin Smith, a well-known Episcopal author, talk about ordination, that for those of us who are ordained, that is the path for our salvation, which helped clarify some things for me. Being a priest has made me into a better Christian, both outwardly (i.e. I take pledging seriously) and inwardly. Not that there aren't days. . .
: 2. Is being a pastor harder or easier than you imagined from your seminary days? I was a church secretary before I went to seminary, so I had a pretty good idea about most of what I was getting into. But I think I couldn't really imagine what some of the hard days would really FEEL like.
: 3. Have you developed a passion/focus to your pastoral ministry? My primary loves are preaching, teaching and liturgy, and communicating that to children.
: 4. All this talk about clergy burnout-- is it any different than any other job? Yes and no. I think it's easy to become overwhelmed with cynicism. I think the difference between this and any other job is that you rarely have any peers in the workplace itself, unless you're in a multi-staff setting. And your peers may not be willing to walk with you--there are a lot of loners. I've been fortunate to have good peers and mentors wherever I have been, and I have made a point to seek them out. The extrovert in me kind of has to. Besides, I enjoy the company of other clergy, online and otherwise
: 5. How does the congregation show its support? What are the hidden perks to being a pastor? I've just changed jobs, so I can't say how in this new one. (more info on my new job in a later post, by the way. In my previous job, the congregation was very appreciative, in concrete and intangible ways.
: 6. How do you keep your children safe in their faith and church life? No kids, but we take the cats to a vet who's one of husband's parishioners. Does that count?
: 7. Do you admonish parishioners? If so, how? Ummm, very, very carefully. So much can be misinterpreted.
: 8. Do you pray for your flock? How? I have an ongoing conversation with God through the day, with a wide range of topics, of which parishioners as individuals and as a body are often on the agenda.
: 9. Is it enough to be approachable? How do you approach them? I approach by using opportunities for connection, common interests, hearing about something going on in someone's life, checking in with ministires, that whole ministry of presence thing
: 10. Do you change lives? Sure hope God does
: 11. Do you aim for greatness? What is your aim in ministry? My best self is trying to be faithful to what I perceive as a call to be a good parish priest. I would love to revitalize struggling congregations and help them realize their potential for good in this world and the next.
: 12. How do you keep the enmeshment of church/ministry/family from being overwhelming? Helps to be one half of a clergy couple. Our energies can never be completely sucked into one congregation. I have good mentors who I can turn to, and have often relied on therapists/spiritual directors to help me sort out issues. I also benefit from being involved with others, both in the church and having a community outside of the church, which is new to me but something I have really worked on in this move.
: 13. Would you say you have deep relations with church members? Tips on barriers or boundaries? Still sorting that one out. I'm not sure one can be real and avoid having friends. But there are personal issues I will not discuss with parishioners--
: 14. What is the difference between a mediocre and a good and an excellent pastor? Being able to step back and see the larger picture of the congregation and the wider Church. Recognizing systems and the role you play in them. Having some energy and passion. Setting some good boundaries on time and energy. Being connected with friends and colleagues. Having some passions outside the church. Being willing to talk about the hard stuff.
: 15. What is a must read author/website? Loren Mead. Friedman and/or Steinke. Eugene Peterson
: 16. Is there a difference in the way that men and women pastor? How would you describe the difference? Yes, but I'm not sure I can describe it concretely. Would love to see observations by non-clergy on this issue. And I'm hungry for breakfast!
Good questions Reverend Mommy!
Love to see the conversations about these.
assorted knitting content
Yes, I do knit. See? I even finished a scarf.
Data: Trendsetter Dune, gold, 1 skein. Size 15 Brittany needles. Triangle Scarf from Scarves 1,2,3. It gives you a nice elongated triangle with tails you can tie and not too much bulk.
The first OKC Knitting Guild newsletter is out at the Guild blog
with fun articles about yarn, books (by Margaret of Gourmet Yarn), an upcoming schedule, and a bit from yours truly.
In a burst of
enthusiasm I signed up for the Harlot's Knitting Olympics. There are so many people signed up it apparently made NPR's "The World." I'm going to make the Turtleneck Shrug out of Scarf Style. The personal best bit will be that I'm working on a deadline, and that gauge will be crucial. And I want it to fit. I'm looking forward to playing with the Kid Classic.
I had signed up for the FLAK knitalong, but I think, after swatching a few times, it's just a pattern that doesn't fit my hands. There's nothing wrong with the pattern, it's just not feeling right to me. So I'll take myself out of the ring. No worries.
clergy on the loose
Final photos from our Bay Area sojourn:
We had a free morning during our stay at CDSP, before the main part of the conference began, so after I spotted an ad in the Chronicle
for a particular exhibit on a female Egyptian pharoah at the DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park, we made that the objective of our brief escape across the Bay.
I had been to the DeYoung many years earlier and had no idea it had been closed and rebuilt. The exhibit was fabulous, although pretty crowded for a Thursday morning. Hatsephut was a queen who became co-regent with her nephew, and gradually started to use the term pharoah and male symbols to represent herself. It was a fascinating exhibit on gender and propaganda.
Transportation is always fun on these trips. We had a Palestinian van driver from the Oakland Airport who regaled us with his opinions on, well, everything. We took BART over to San Francisco, and the bus up Hayes Street. On our way back, I spotted this Orthodox church in Berkeley, and in particular the icon with lit candle above the door. A moment of sacred space in a busy place.
(But I'm glad changing that candle isn't my job).
a little Eliot
There's some poetry zinging around the world of bloggerdom today, a silent poetry reading, bloggers posting their favorite poem (I've seen it in many places, the Harlot
being but one of them.)
I have the (mis)fortune of loving T.S. Eliot--only unfortunate because his are not short poems. So I have chosen part I of "Little Gidding," because it contains one of the most perfect descriptions of the worship of God: "You are here to kneel where prayer has been valid."
Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
Whem the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart's heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stires the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul's sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time's covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable
If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey,
If you came at night like a broken king,
If you came by day not knowing what you came for,
It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places
Which also are the world's end, some at the sea jaws,
Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city-
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Now and in England.
If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.
Only in Berkeley
Read the sign. . .
climbing Holy Hill
Susie at Nueva Cantora, these are for you!Songbird
asked below if the experience of stations felt like liturgy. I have to say honestly that it didn't, but I'm not sure that I would rule it out quite yet. We did the stations at the end of three hour (!) workshop. I think in a setting with music going, and reserved for worship (there were a lot of side conversations going on), some of these activities could have been quite reflective.
I would like to use something like this for Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, where the idea of prayer/activity stations would merge very well with the journeying motion from station to station.
Interestingly, one feedback I heard from a participant was that he found it stressful to do the 'arts and crafts' stuff. I have to remember to be sensitive to those feelings (kind of like me playing volleyball--I just have too many bad memories from adolescence to easily find that a fruitful experience).