Thursday, December 31, 2009

Parenting Tips in Literature


I don’t know how many people feel that an essential part of preparing for child birth is the re-reading of their favorite childhood books. Don’t get me wrong, I have spent hours poring over Dr. Sears’ Baby Book; What to Expect When You’re Expecting; Real Boys; Gender Matters; and The Happiest Baby on the Block. I am nothing if not practical and I want to get “it” right—whatever “it” is.

However, on this the last day of 2009, I spent the morning smiling and crying over the adventures of Anne of Green Gables. And, through the lens of impending motherhood, it occurred to me that my desire to spend time immersed in the worlds of authors such as Kipling and Montgomery comes from a place of dreaming and hoping for this baby. I want him to weep over the death of Matthew and feel the tension as Anne walks the ridge pole. I want him to laugh over silly elephant child and the cake crumbs that itched the rhinoceros so terribly.

I have found myself fretting over how to raise this child with the kind of love, gentleness and appreciation for beauty (and story) that I feel important. I have also worried myself over teaching him graciousness and “good manners”—as well as everything else he needs to know. I make rules: about bedtime and screen time, about washing up and dinner prayers. There is so much he will need to know and so much we will need to teach—I want to bring him up well and I want him to be a credit to himself and to his family. I want him to love God and his neighbor and to nourish kindness in the cradle of his being. A daunting task…

But, in my reading I came across a parenting tip from the quiet and unassuming Matthew Cuthbert—“As it was, he was free to “spoil Anne”—Marilla’s phrasing—as much as he liked. But it was not such a bad arrangement after all; a little “appreciation” sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious “bringing up” in the world.”

So my prayer for 2010 is that I will be able to embrace the role of appreciator as well as bringer upper—that I will laugh and cry more and that I will learn what I need to allow this child to grow into exactly the person God means him to be. And, yes, we will spoil him in exactly the ways a child needs to be "spoiled".

And, now, I need to learn how to bake a birthday cake from scratch before this baby comes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Biblical Curse Generator

For those of you who aren't quite as creative as John the Baptist this biblical curse generator might help!

God's peace and blessing on this third Sunday in Advent.

Reverend Joy+

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent, the f-bomb and me...

So, I've been contemplating the propers for this coming Sunday (the third Sunday in Advent). And, in the Gospel we have good ol' John the Baptist calling the crowd a "brood of vipers!". It's a rather abrupt start to the good news on a wintry Sunday and it leads to some unusual homiletical cud...

When my sister and I were teens (13 and 16) my mother began to use swear words in addressing us. And, it wasn't just mild swears--she used the f-bomb with frequency and sort of evolved from there. When I complained about her language she claimed that nothing else worked to "get our attention". While I'm still traumatized by the amount of cussing my mother continues to engage in (having gotten into the habit) I am also intrigued at the idea of how she felt that she needed to go to this extreme to get us to listen to her. So as I contemplate John's fiery language it occurs to me that it is, perhaps, a rhetorical device used to get their, and our, attention.

Was this device effective? Was cursing the crowd the best way to begin the relationship and spread the good news? Perhaps, perhaps not. And, as scripture tells us, they didn't actually start to wonder if he was the messiah until he enjoined them to live with justice, mercy and compassion. So, it wasn't the anger or cursing that kept them engaged and made them wonder if the world was on the brink of being transformed. Rather, it was his emphasis on the need for change and transformation as they prepared for the arrival of the true messiah.

But, his opening curses are still ringing in our ears and we find ourselves listening--reading on to see what this emphatic and unusual man is about. God does go to such extremes to get our attention, no?

Where is God trying to get our attention this Advent season? Where are we finding ourselves brought up short by unexpected encounters with truth? Where has the miraculous been brought to our attention?

For me, it's the movement within and the combined joy and fear I experience as I contemplate the baby on the way It's a glaringly obvious, for me, experience of the fear/joy that Mary must have experienced with her own pending birth. And this pregnancy serves as a reminder of the depth of love God has for all of us in God's willingness to become vulnerable to the reality of human suffering.

It's a season of already but not yet incarnation. And, I am in the thick of it.

(completely unrelated...who on earth thinks it's okay to tell a pregnant woman that she's looking "fat"! I'm just kind of wondering what planet I was on when I was told this by someone who knows that I am pregnant!!!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Winter Evensong


Today is a day of sharp contrasts--of light and dark, warmth and cold, of stillness and wind. The sense of change in the air has made the dog nervous and he licks his lips as the wind howls through the trees. I brace myself in case of tree and limb fall—the wind carries with it the possibility for destruction at the same time I nudge the thermostat up a degree and curl my toes beneath me. The puddles ripple in the wind and I know that, come night, they will turn to ice. I dread the coming cold and the already cold. The cold that penetrates through to the bones and the night that seems to come earlier and earlier each day. Yet, the sun broke through the clouds and I remember last year and the year before—all years in which I began to believe that I would never be warm again. Years in which the dying grasses and fallen leaves seem to possess an unrepentant barrenness. New life seems impossibly far off and the storm perches like the silhouetted cormorant above the water. The contrast of life and death is suddenly all too real. Winter has come.

Advent Paradox

God we cry out to you
For love
For redemption
And that is the promise you have given

We didn’t take into account
Reality.
Love and redemption
Do not eliminate suffering.

Rather, they accompany it.
And in the midst of suffering,
We find that you are there
The weeping, suffering Christ/Spirit/God

Whose love can only witness
To the true hope
That awaits us only
In death.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

"The Womb of Advent"

Last year, at this time, I was angrily putting away the book The Womb of Advent written by Mark Bozutti-Jones in which we uses his own family’s pregnancy and impending birth as a foil for reflecting upon each day of Advent. I just couldn’t do it, I couldn’t read about the joy (and fear) of pregnancy and child birth when my own heart was so broken and my own womb so empty.

What a difference a year makes…and now I get it. Now I understand what I didn’t last year (altho’, for no good reason, I’m still a bit angry at the aforementioned author!) that anticipating this baby is like anticipating Christ--terrifying and joyful—fearfully and wonderfully made—within but not without, yet. But, I am sensitive to the reality that my own joy is another's pain and was once my own. So this Advent I pray for those who long to become parents yet find themselves still waiting, watching and hoping.

At the same time, this joy that was so (seemingly) long denied brings me full circle. This new awareness of Advent is rather like my first spring after my first long, cold winter. When I saw the first snow drops bloom I accepted that it would (despite all evidence to the contrary) be warm again and that life would return to the landscape. With that realization everything I’d ever intellectualized about the resurrection burst open. I suddenly felt the resurrection with a sharp awareness of grace that I still cling to each February/March when I begin to feel the despair of the coldness clinging to my bones.
And, now, I feel the impending birth in a way that goes beyond the ability of the mind to comprehend. Preparing a place for this baby in our lives and our home consumes us—much as I am sure the impending birth of the baby Jesus consumed his young mother.

I did not and do not want this to be a “pregnancy blog”, yet perhaps I need to accept that in the midst of pregnancy there is little else it can be. Perhaps this peculiar consumption is what I need to get my head around the reality that things that once were are no more and things that are not will be? Attempts at rational thought may occur—but realize that they are mere attempts—for the irrational part of me is contemplating the kicks felt yet unseen and pondering what motherhood will mean for us both.

For, just as Advent warns…this is truly the end of all that we have known and the beginning of a new life for us all.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

moving and a shaking



I'm settled into my second trimester now and the wee one has started making his/her presence known with intrauterine gymnastics. I have started to feel better and more "like myself" in the past couple of weeks and it has made it easier to think and do things apart from dwell on the state of my uterine occupant and the physical bizarrities of pregnancy. It is also a huge relief to have gone public with my pregnancy--having secrets is really not my strong suit and I very much appreciate the prayers and support. All of this means that...

Sermon writing has become MUCH easier--now I can sit and think about the text without feeling the need to google things like "stretchy feeling in uterus". It has also allowed my prayer life to evolve a bit beyond "PLEASE GOD LET THIS BABY STICK!!!" And, I don't feel the need to lay down for a really long nap every day (just some days) which allows me to actually get a few things accomplished!

This doesn't mean that I'm not sometimes obsessively thinking about pregnancy and the seemingly imminent transformation of our family from 2 to 3. Nor does it mean that my worries have ceased...my prayers are still peppered with "PLEASE GOD, MAY THIS BABY BE HEALTHY AND I PRAY I DON'T GET SWINE FLU BEFORE THE VACCINE KICKS IN" but also include victims of violence, our health care system and the various needs of those I serve in my congregation.

In many ways I have begun to feel "whole" again and I am now able to enjoy things like the inspiration that led to my last sermon (more on that another time, but needless to say I am still reflecting on the fact that it is our responsibility to see to the resurrection of those, like the widow who gives her "mite", whose happy endings are not depicted in the story) and the joy of a long walk in the woods (during what would have previously been "nap time"). It also means that I am able to write again, one of my dominant first trimester maladies being a fierce case of writer's block! So, thank you (if there are any of you left to read this after several months of quiet on the blogging front) for your patience--and I will see you in the blogosphere!

To come: the widows from proper 27B; Episcopal Church polity and me; and Advent anticipation...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pregnancy and Facebook

So, one of the challenges of pregnancy has been keeping folks from finding out via facebook--which is less of a concern now, obviously, then it was during the tentative days of the first trimester. With family, friends, parishioners and friends of friends as "friends" on facebook I wanted to avoid being outed by those in the know before I was ready for everyone to know.

Having worked in a children's hospital I am more than a little conscious of the fact that a healthy baby is not a guaranteed outcome of pregnancy. I have no reason to believe that this baby is less than healthy or this pregnancy less than viable--yet, I also know the innumerable tragedies that can befall our little family in the months to come. So, letting my extensive group of contacts know that we are expecting has been a leap of faith which has been incredibly difficult to commit to.

Yet, pregnancy is something that can only be hidden for so long before it becomes a tad bit obvious that something is up. It's a very public kind of vulnerability and, as a priest I find that I am having to trust those with whose care I am entrusted in new ways. By letting my congregation share my joy at this new life I risk having to let them share in any pain that may come. I have to let them care for me through this journey and support me if things do not go the way we all pray they will. I don't find that caregivers tend to be very good at accepting care (altho' I have a wife who would make it clear that I am VERY good at accepting her care, perhaps a bit too good!) and to do so entails a mutuality that I find daunting. What, trust YOU with the care of my soul?

But, perhaps this is the very risk I need to take...perhaps my fear of vulnerability needs to be challenged and, for the next while, perhaps I need to just accept the loving (and sometimes overbearing) care as it is offered. Perhaps I need to be able to say, yes, I trust YOU with my soul.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Pregnant Priest

Now that I am 13 weeks and 4 days pregnant (yes, we know the EXACT day!) I think it's safe to tell you that the major project I'm working on has been a new human being! It has been a delicate dance these past months as we've told family and our close friends while still feeling that it was not yet time to tell the parish. So, we announced to the congregation today which was a wonderful thing--what a loving and dear group of people attend Church of Our Saviour! I can tell already that this is going to be a church baby...

That said, we do ask for prayers for a safe and healthy pregnancy and the safe arrival of baby C around his or her due date--April 21st. We by no means assume that all will be well (too much time in a children's hospital will do that to a person), but since all signs would indicate that all is currently well we are working to trust that this baby will really share our lives (plus the obstetrician thinks he/she looks great and tells us that everything is as it should be--so maybe I should trust her?).

I reflected with some musings on all of this a couple of weeks ago and wanted to share them here...

It's a strange longing, for the abstract in both cases, for the oft' times surreal presence of a loving God and the equally surreal presence of the small being who shares my body. My love for both feels all encompassing yet I have it only on faith that I will someday dwell in the loving arms of God or hold my babe within my own loving arms.

At the very tail of the first trimester I have seen the child kicking and waving in the grainy screen of the ultrasound machine while the cool gel coated wand glides over my abdomen. Yet, like the remembrance of the Christmas child in the last weeks of Pentecost, I begin to wonder--was it real, is it real, will it be? It's a strange realization that my hunger for a God who can be so difficult to see from day to day is matched only by my hunger for the child who is, just as much as God, a member of a world filled with the already but not yet of all that is promised.

So, I pray for my baby and for my God. I pray the prayer of a woman who is already a mother but has not yet held her child; and that of a child of God who finds it easy to forget that I have always been held by God. Telling the world of the baby in my womb and the God who fills my heart demands a leap of a faith that can be frightening--yet keeping the secret of this love troubles my soul and as my heart and head become encompassed in anticipation, love and fear, it becomes more difficult to hide the reality that I have indeed been transformed.

It is a miracle. Truly.

Friday, October 2, 2009

apologies for the station break

My apologies to all three of you who read my blog :) I've been working on a major project the last couple of months and blogging has fallen by the wayside for a bit. I'll be attempting more regular postings but my mind is rather occupied elsewhere at the moment! Ciao for now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Soulful Hunger

I've been reflecting on the "bread of life" a great deal of yet--the past three weeks in the lectionary have focused on the bread of life passages from John. So, in response to these readings I wrote this. Enjoy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Episcopal Cafe Essay

After a steady diet of General Convention on all things Episcopal/Anglican sites I have an essay published that has NOTHING to do with convention...but everything to do with the household of God. Feel free to peruse, and comment, as I share the details of my first baptism. I wrote this essay in light of my first baptism in a church setting--all my other baptisms as a priest had taken place in the hospital. So, I reflected on what was my first--and will continue to reflect on what it means for the crucifixion and baptism to be so intertwined in my theological understanding.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Running, Dancing, Being


I came to running fairly late in the game. In the sixth grade we were required to run a mile for P.E. About two laps into my run I had an asthma attack and decided that maybe the option for taking dance classes instead of compulsory gym held some appeal. So, from the age of 11 until 23ish I took dance classes fairly regularly. I loved dancing and enjoyed the physicality of the experience--contemporary jazz and modern dance lend themselves well to unconventional explorations of body and space and I enjoyed my time dancing and performing.

But, I was very aware that I was the biggest kid/adolescent/adult in every class I took and remember acutely a review in our local paper when I was a senior that noted my both my enthusiasm and unconventional body type. I laughed it off--silly critic! But, the fact that I remember this comment 12 years later is striking. I received repeated messages throughout my young adult hood that I had no business being, gasp, athletic or even active.

But, I refused to defer to these messages. In college I discovered the freedom of a bicycle in the small town where I went to school. I had no car and as time passed I began to realize the freedom accorded by my two wheels. Whizzing down hills and getting to town from my first, small, summer apartment was amazing. The bike, still blue but now a bit rusty, is still the bike I ride to the closest coffee place or library.

Then, in my early 20s I couldn't afford dance classes anymore. The 10-12 dollar a class fee just ate too much of my youth ministry salary and I couldn't justify the expense to myself. So, just to see if I could, I tried running--for 5 minutes. Then a bit longer...until I was routinely running 4 miles at a go. It was a wonderful stress reliever and felt such pride when people would comment about my athleticism (a novelty amongst the clergy and inner city folk who I spent most of time with). It was a new concept for me...athletic.

So, I ran and continue to run. Not far...my years as a pediatric chaplain left me too tired most of the time to entertain running as an option (one of the many reasons why this wasn't the healthiest call for me). So, now 30, I put one foot in front of the other--trying to get back the distances of a few years ago but really mostly okay with a couple of miles most of the time.

So, I run--and running is dancing--and dancing is living--and living is daring to do the joyful things!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Pentecost 4B poem

Good News and Lamenting: A Poem for Pentecost 4B

There is so much to mourn, to regret
Lost hopes, dreams, lost friends
The dead.
The sufferings of day to day
With its unfulfilled dreams
And hopes

It is easy
To shake a fist
At a God
Seemingly unmoved

Yet, no pain, no suffering
Is the will of God
And in the midst
Mercy beckons
And soft words call,
“Talitha Cum”

Such are the miracles
Of day to day survival
When living is a choice
Bravely made.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Letting Go of Expectations

I did it. I started the book. I have an outline and a self-imposed deadline--one year. This is not precisely the book I though I would write, but I think it is the book I'm being called to write. No spoilers here...but any editors out there who can keep a good secret?

That said, I will keep writing shorter things (having realized that it's true that one MUST write things in order to write things and that starting with the goal of a book requires that one take practice strokes and work out other parts of the writing brain)--essays and such, blog posts, etcetera.

So, what I do ask is that any of you who stumble upon this, or even read my blog or Episcopal Cafe essays regularly, keep me in prayer. Please, such things are not solitary processes--at least not for this extrovert. So, prayer. Plus, I'm a priest, I should be asking people to pray all the time!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Another Episcopal Cafe Essay

I was once again published in Episcopal Cafe. The essay I wrote was partially motivated by an essay they had published that I had found disturbing. The essay was written by a young clergyman who wrote about his love for violent on-line games--his cavalier tone and the nature of the games which he described, games in which you shoot/kill other players in cyber space was fairly gruesome. I read his essay after a parishioner, not realizing that the essays are changed daily, mistakenly thought that his essay was mine (he was wildly relieved when he realized it wasn't). So, my essay in response...

I was also concerned that he mentioned playing such games in the office. Who has time? Now, I don't want to be judgmental, altho' I recognize that I am in this case. But, really, the very idea of guns being pointed at other people makes me skin crawl.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crash Helmets

This is the passage I referenced in my sermon on Pentecost--crash helmets indeed (and here I go, trying to get more people to take pictures of our events!):

"Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.”

—Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Meditation Tool

This "prayer lava lamp" may be just the ticket for a case of anxiety. The funkadelic music doesn't hurt either!

The Things That Keep Me Up At Night

The things that are keeping me awake:

trying to make sure that I don’t offend anyone or inadvertently hurt anyone‘s feelings; being extraneous; the people who don’t come to church when they’d been coming regularly, I start to think I did something that hurt them; feeling like I need to make church “fun” in order to get people to attend; making sure all the details in the bulletin are right, not leaving out any announcements or anyone’s name; wine at the Founder’s Day service, how to gracefully invite people to communion when many of the people in attendance can only partake of the bread; forgetting details; calling people who haven’t been at church in awhile, people being annoyed at being called and people being annoyed at not being called (you can rarely win with this one); not adequately communicating events; the church failing to grow; my presence not being the panacea needed to attract younger families and individuals; people's expectations; my expectations; the dog throwing up; too many blankets; and last, but not least, trying to be all things to all people. Oh, let me add to the list, my own awareness that none of this is really about me...

Hmm, pressure much? Well, perhaps I should merely think about entering Rollin's and Paraclete's parable competition (on the link look for the May 31st entry). What would the extended metaphor be for a loving and non-anxious God in the midst of late night anxiety?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sometimes The Spirit Catches Me

Little mite,
Solid and serious presence
Big, brown eyes.
Daring me to deny her
the passion of the Spirit.

Sometimes the Spirit catches me
and I cry.
So, don't worry, it's just the Spirit.
Earnest face nodding, sisters gathered round,
It's true, it's true.

Five or six at the time.
A recent vision at fifteen--
With hand on jutted hip,
Jaw moving wildly around fruited gum.
Watching the boys, all basketballs and muscled arms.

It's true, it's true.
Slim fit jeans,
Adorning her sass.
Don't worry.
But I do.

Catch her, Spirit,
Do.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Strawberry Jam

No one ever tells you that making, and canning, strawberry jam is a joyful experience. The strawberries picked up at the Amish farm stand (despite the flooded roads after weeks of rain), the "fried pies" bought to eat right away, the taste of fresh strawberries glazed with hot jam. A mother-in-law who insists on the vast quantities of sugar she's always used (apparently jam won't set right without it), and a wife who willingly cleans and slices quarts, and quarts, and quarts of red jewels. I'm sure I could come up with some sort of theological or christological hermeneutical perspective on the whole affair...but really, perhaps creation best speaks for itself...



Sunday, May 3, 2009

Because My Salvation is Intimately Connected to Yours

If we truly believe that we are the Body of Christ, that we are Jesus' hands and feet in the world, then it is our presence that serves as a reminder and the reality of God's presence to others. We embody and incarnate God in our lives and in the midst of our joys and sufferings. Today I reflected in my sermon on this reality--on our accountability to be the cornerstones, shepherds and sheep that God has made us to be. If we have ownership of our own Christhood (as we seek and serve Christ in all persons, including ourselves) than we are called to care for each other and further God's work in the world. The psalm for the day was psalm 23. After riffing on the story of the child who wondered aloud who this "Shirley" was who followed her all the days of her life, I decided to paraphrase the psalm for our congregation. This probably was much more meaningful within the context of the sermon--but several people asked me to post this after the service. So, this is my attempt at paraphrasing what I paraphrased while preaching extemporaneously...

A Jazz-like Riff on Psalm 23

The people of God are my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
They soothe my soul as they walk in Christ
These, the cornerstones and the Body bring me to peace,
and lead me beside quiet waters,

My soul is restored in the presence of my friends.
These, the children of God through baptism and the Eucharist, guide me in paths of righteousness for Jesus' sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,for each of you is Christ with me;
you shepherd my soul,and are a comfort to me.

God has invited us to the table and the Body of Christ gathers with me there.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Surely goodness, love and Marilyn, Jim, Meghan, Bruce, John, Deidre and all of you--beloved children of God, will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of God forever. Amen.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Episcopal Cafe Essay

An essay I wrote for Episcopal Cafe has been posted on their Daily Episcopalian Blog And, people wonder why I left...

How long O Lord, how long? I worked as a SOLO chaplain in a 244 bed children's hospital, across 7+ units. I could not take time away to attend any programming for the newly ordained and could rarely attend diocesan programs. My pager was on Monday morning through Friday night for over a year and a half. I still have nightmares--105 deaths in a little over 2 years.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Plethora of Projects

Easter is still with us and as the weather warms, flowers bloom and trees leaf out (ironic in that today's weather includes snow)...a veritable feast of church programs are emerging:

Episcopal Walk Run Club; 4.5.6 Book Club; Creating Camp: a fine arts based vacation Bible school (July 20th-25th); strawberries and steel drums (June 7th following services); oh, and of course, monthly home Eucharists.

As I prepare for these programs, I wonder about community formation in the early church. We gain a sense of belonging through these various "programs", programs meant to allow a gentle entry point into community, programs meant to attend to the interests and needs of our community. But, when I compare our own community formation to that of the early church (which we read about throughout this Easter season) I am struck that the early church was bound together by persecution, suffering and the Eucharistic feast--oppression was their glue and belief their guide. They were not planning summer outings to the symphony nor were they trying to burn off the calories from a few too many cookies at coffee hour.

I don't mean to say that we have no sense of shared suffering in our community (many of us do and have found shelter in our welcoming and affirming community), nor do I mean to say that we are shallow in our concerns (we aren't--we have numerous outreach projects). But, I do wonder, are we all perhaps longing for something more?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jesus=1; Death=0














"A Morning Song (For the First Day of Spring)" by Eleanor Farjeon

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the word

Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven
Like the first dewfall, on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where his feet pass

Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God's recreation of the new day

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Holy Saturday With Mary Oliver in Mourning

After Her Death
a poem by Mary Oliver

I am trying to find the lesson
For tomorrow. Matthew something.
Which lectionary? I have not
forgotten the Way, but, a little,
the way to the Way. The trees keep whispering
peace, peace, and the birds
in the shallows are full of the
bodies of small fish and are
content. They open their wings
so easily, and fly. So. It is still
possible.

I open the book
which the strange, difficult, beautiful church
has given me. To Matthew. Anywhere.



Holy Saturday always seems like the longest day of Holy Week--Jesus has died, but has not risen, and we are left in the aftermath of death while anticipating a celebratory tomorrow. It seems wrong to treat the day like any other Saturday, filling it with errands until it is time to go to the vigil. Decorating and shopping for Easter dinner will, by necessity, compose part of my day. But, setting up for celebration doesn't really seem appropriate. Continuing on as if nothing has happened just doesn't sit well with my soul.

Yet, the birds are flying outside and the sunshine beckons us into another day. We humans seem to be filled with an inexplicable urge for forward movement--and part of that movement is our audacious desire to live despite the reality of death. When I was working at the hospital I was occasionally asked if I wanted to have children even tho' I was witness to so many horrific deaths. The answer was, and is, yes. The benefits of loving will always outweigh the risk of losing. Yes, I know that those we love die (before or after we ourselves do), but if I want to defeat death I must love in the face of its reality.

So, what will you do today in the face of reality? How will you defeat death? How will you embrace the "strange, difficult and beautiful" truth of our finite lives?

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Child


I remember her now. Her body was stiff in my arms and I held her while I prayed with her family, her father and mother distraught and terrified at what they saw. Her father explained to me again and again: I found her dead, I tried to do CPR, she was blue. Meanwhile, I held her and prayed. Her hair, if I recall correctly, was in little pony tails. Her mouth was crusted with dried sputum around the tube that they had inserted to try and force air into her small, dead body. The women cried, falling to the floor. My eyes were dry and I prayed. My hands were heavy with her weight and I comforted her heartbroken parents just as I had comforted parents before and since.

Until today I had forgotten her. There were two deaths simultaneously that day and dozens since. But today, I opened the paper and saw her name. The autopsy and coroner had completed their work and deemed her death murder. She had not died during the night, she had died the day before, after ingesting nicotine and cocaine. The police are in search of her father and mother and I pray. I pray for her senseless death and for all who die at the hands of violence and beneath the feet of injustice. I wondered for a brief moment if there was something I should have known, if knowing would have changed my prayers. But no, I prayed the prayers that I knew and left the rest to God to know. It was not my role, and is not my role to judge--and as I read the words I am reminded that again and again we are called to "forgive them for they know not what they do."

Before I left seminary and took a call as a pediatric chaplain a colleague of my wife's, another physician, told her that he thought that the moment I saw my first child die I would lose my faith. It had happened to him, and he no longer believed in God--because no God would allow such a thing to happen. No God, would forsake an innocent such as these.

But, God did not abandon them. God accompanied them, feeling every convulsion every blow, every laceration. God was forsaken at the same moment that they were and died with their death--whatever you do to the least of these, my children, you do to me. This is why Jesus died on the cross for me...so that when I face the nightmare of senseless violence I know that I serve a God who does not leave when we grow fearful, I serve a God who understands and has experienced the depth of human depravity, I serve a God who fills the nothingness with love. I serve a God who knows what it is to feel forsaken and knows what it is to die. This is my comfort, and this is my faith.

In The Crucified God, Jurgens Moltmann writes: “Our faith begins at the point where atheists suppose that it must end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the cross, abandonment, temptation, and doubt about everything that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothingness and be given it to taste in a way no philosophy of nihilism can imagine.”

So today, on this Good day, on this day where Golgotha blots out the sun. Today, what kind of God do you serve? Where do you find faith and comfort in the midst of nothingness?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday Etymology



"The word Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34)" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maundy_Thursday

"Mandate (N.)1501, from L. mandatum "commission, order," noun use of neut. pp. of mandare "to order, commit to one's charge," lit. "to give into one's hand," probably from manus "hand" (see manual) + dare "to give" (see date (1)). Political sense of "approval of policy supposedly conferred by voters to winners of an election" is from 1796. Mandatory is attested 1576, "of the nature of a mandate;" sense of "obligatory because commanded" is from 1818." http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=mandate&searchmode=none

I can almost hear the general sigh of relief that the modern church adopted the Eucharist as a sacrament and not foot washing. Every church I have ever been in has had groups who felt VERY strongly about the Maundy Thursday custom of foot washing. The questions abound: who washes feet; if you have to wash feet; if washing hands is an appropriate symbolic gesture; should we wash feet at all; what to do if the person coming forward for foot washing is wearing hose; etcetera...

People get really weirded out about having their feet washed (which I can understand, my feet certainly wouldn't win best in show). But, in our obsession with the details it's easy to forget the aspect of foot washing that is about the "mandate". I included the origins for both the word Maundy and mandate because I think that it gets at the heart of why we even attempt the controversial (sigh) washing of feet. We love in imitation of Christ, foot washing was an act of love performed by Jesus for those he loved. We as leaders in the church (and the collective "we" of people who by virtue of our privilege are called to serve others) are to do as Jesus did.

Now, that's the collar's perspective. But from the perspective of the individual getting his or her feet washed it is a moment of vulnerability. It is exposing something that we normally keep hidden to someone in a position of power. It is literally "giving into one's hand" and this I think is the heart of the controversy over foot washing--we are all taught to hide our vulnerabilities and here is a ritual designed to not only expose them but honor us in their exposing. I think that's part of why Simon Peter had such a hissy fit about this--he wasn't willing to be vulnerable even to Jesus. However, when he realized that exposing his vulnerability could be an avenue to greatness he volunteered for a sponge bath!

Once again, Peter missed the point. And, once again, the pre-foot washing discussions are missing the point...are we willing to give our lives into Jesus' hand?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Upper Room



image from http://www.designsbychris.com/others.html?file=upper_room_logo

Today feels very much like "hump day" for Holy Week. And, so today, I am headed to the kitchen of friends. I will drink their tea, read their newspaper, pet their dogs and be given the blessing of their quiet companionship. I am not one to let my guard down and these friends provide one of the few places where I feel comfortable just being. And, their kitchen is my own version of the upper room.

It is the last quiet place, the last place where the company could naively pretend the events to come could be avoided. I picture the kitchen of my friends--a place where glasses of wine, advice, love and tea are poured out in liberal measure. The place where Jesus could serve his friends not because he had to but because he wanted to, not because he should have but because he loved to.

So today, I encourage you to find or imagine your own upper room. A place of calm in the midst of the storm, a place of safety where vulnerability is not only allowed but cherished. Where is your place?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Saying Goodbye

“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “ Jn 12:24

I have never been in any call/job for more than three years. This is largely due to my age and the interspersion of large chunks of schooling in the midst of my professional life--4 years of college, during which I worked at a daycare center; 3 years as an inner city youth outreach worker for a group of churches; 3 years in seminary with field education in a program sized parish where I worked with the young people; 2 ½ years as a pediatric chaplain.

Each of these calls/places/jobs was VERY relational in nature—the lines between the professional and personal often blurred, and I retain close friends from each of these places on my journey. Yet, as much as I loved the people I met in these places, I left. Some of my leave taking came from the natural progression of my education, no one expected me to stay at the student staffed daycare center beyond college, and some from choices I made about my personal and professional life.

Each time I left I went through a period of mourning as I experienced the loss of relationship, the loss of my role(s), and the loss of the structure I had established in each of my calls. My world changed dramatically with each transition and I often felt (and feel) bereft as I pondered what my new manner of life would be. Leaving, for me, is always the hardest part of ministry—but good leave taking can help the people left behind to become more the people they are called to be…

There is a book entitled, Running Through the Thistles: Terminating a Ministerial Relationship With a Parish: Roy M. Oswald, that I read while in seminary. In brief, the Reverend Oswald, describes how it is our responsibility and obligation (both for our own sake and that of our congregation) to prepare them for our leave taking. That we can duck and cover or we can allow the process to unfold in a fashion that allows for reconciliation and love to manifest themselves.

Preparation for leave taking from a call is very similar to preparation for leave taking from life. Quaker physician Ira Byock, in his book Dying Well, describes five tasks of the dying as: “Forgive me”; “I forgive you”; “Thank you”; “I love you”; and “Goodbye.” In saying each of these things (either in word or action) the dying and those who love them are able to achieve reconciliation at the last. And, it strikes me, that our “smaller” leave takings may be practice for our big leave taking.

And, on this Tuesday in Holy Week I am struck by how Jesus prepares his disciples for his own leave taking. Forgive me, I forgive you, thank you, I love you, goodbye…

Our dog, Lily, shortly before her death.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday of Holy Week

Even though it is only Monday of Holy Week, I’ve jumped ahead to Good Friday. Perhaps it is still my theological inclination to spend too much time at the cross and not enough in “ordinary” time or any other time for that matter. I lived a bit over two years of Good Fridays in my call as a pediatric chaplain and I am still searching for the joy of Easter that was stolen in those years.

But, Lent and Holy Week make me think of those who are trapped in Good Friday--those for whom the resurrection of Easter seems to never come. The children I’ve seen die, the desperately desired infants who never made it beyond the womb, the parents whose prayers seemed to go unheard, the gravesides adorned with pinwheels and teddy bears. These losses, these sacrifices without any seeming greater good--these have stolen little bits of the Easter joy for me through these last years. What good is Easter when such pain is all too common? It is an unending Lenten sacrifice without the remediation of the first fire of Easter.

But, what is Easter really? Does it have to be all alleluias and Easter lilies; is its meaning encapsulated by new dresses and eggy brunch? As the world crashes in I have begun to accept that in some ways, we’ve billed Easter wrong. Perhaps what we really need isn’t a joyful Easter but a defiant one. I am a priest and I am an obstinate woman who likes a God who can spit in the face of death, defy all the evils in the world and declare love victorious despite it all.

This Monday of Holy Week, under the umbrella of this long Good Friday, I ponder the sentence from John, “He loved them to the end.” This is a truth I can live with. There is an end, it hurts and hearts break—but in the midst of the suffering there is love. Ultimately, this encapsulates everything true of each death I’ve experienced--each child was loved until the end. And, perhaps the truth of the resurrection is that they are still loved and their story is unending.

So f’you death, you don’t get the last word.

Palm/Passion Sunday--a Sermon in Brief


(two minutes of silence).

How does one speak after the crucifixion?

Awkward silence, uncomfortable silence, painful silence--
Slipping into companionable silence.
The passion is sometimes important not for what is said,
but for who is silent.

The woman with the jar of nard did not speak.
Anointing her beloved in life
with a ritual customary after death.
There would be no time before the Sabbath set in.

Simon of Cyrene silently accepted his conscription.
It was customary to flog the prisoner
after they had arrived at the sight of crucifixion.
Christ's torture was early and left him weak.

Mary, mother of Joses, James and Salome;
Mary Magdalene, whose story we all presume to know,
Were silent as they witnessed his death,
Their eyes escorted his body to the tomb.

The silence of the grave,
Of those who mourn,
Of those who care,
Of a world rent asunder.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Trading Cards



Apparently my brother and I have more in common than I thought...we've both had trading cards of us made!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

1st Communion

I remember my first communion. Every Sunday morning my sister and I were dropped off at St. Joseph's Church in Makawao. She would trot off to her classroom and I to mine for an hour or so of religious instruction. I remember the crucifixes in each classroom, the see-saws on the playground and the coral colored exterior of the church. Adjoining the church was the small cemetery where my paternal grandfather had been buried and, despite my own parent's nonattendance at mass, I remember my father making the sign of the cross every time we drove past. This was the church where I developed a fear of Satanists, Bloody Mary and Sister Bernadette--roughly in that order--and where the "Our Father" and "Hail Mary" were drilled each week as we sat at attention at small wooden desks.

As we prepared for our First Communion in the third grade we listened raptly as the nun teaching our class attempted to explain transubstantiation to our young ears (with a Tagalog accent that made her largely indecipherable) and lay women, who were much stricter than the nuns ever were, reminded us again and again, "do NOT chew on Jesus". A friend of the family made my dress, gown really, and I carted about a large doll which she had made a matching dress for.

My grandma made the veil--the crowning glory and in the photos I stand alone in front of the altar, serious faced, in my lacy white dress, veil and maile leis. The maile was from the mountain side, fragrant bark and leaves stripped from long, thin vines. For special events my father would undertake the laborious task which began with finding, then harvesting, and then twisting together, long strands of bark and leaves. Ora et labora indeed--his love was shown through his work and we acknowledged this through our gratitude for the fragrant leis which were only awarded for major life accomplishments.

I remember walking into the nave with my class. One by one we went forward for our first confession. Confused about sin, I confessed the only sin I could think of, "I was mean to my sister" again and again--until interrupted by the priest I was sent off with my requisite Hail Marys and Our Fathers. Laughable now, but then I was afraid of Satan and knew that the Jesus who knew my every thought must, most surely, be disappointed in me.

Then, the bread. Dry, paper thin, wafer. It stuck to the roof of my mouth and I tried to ply it off with my tongue. Fearful of what would happen if I accidentally chewed the soggy, sticky, mass, I choked it down. I don't remember much else--but I do remember that shortly after my first communion my parents stopped dropping us off for catechism. Our Sunday mornings became another weekend day--no different than the Saturday before and new memories began to occupy my mind. The smell of grass cut on Sunday mornings, the crinkle of the newspaper and Sunday pancakes. With my first communion my nascent religious life began and ended--with a broken wafer and a child's confessional concerns I had learned everything I needed to know.

"The body of Christ, the bread of Heaven..."

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Come to Jesus

A couple of weeks ago--perhaps inspired by the pile of journals I unearthed--I decided to share the two stories of my teen years that brought me, first, to the Episcopal church, and second, to a faith in Christ. Now, I usually avoid (like the plague) anything that makes me feel vulnerable. So, I truly did not enjoy preaching on this particular Sunday. But, given the Gospel for the day in which the leper telling of the story of his healing to the community figures prominently, I wanted to get across my belief that one of the important rituals of our community is the telling of our own stories. In my preoccupation with my own fear of telling my stories I'm not sure that this came across all that articulately--but I think I'm glad I did it. So, here are the moments that make up my own peculiar "come to Jesus"...

When I was fifteen I came out to the school counselor (who also happened to be an Episcopal priest). Her acceptance, almost blase in nature, led me to church. At church, one which my family did not attend, I felt like I could be completely myself. So, I came to the Episcopal Church when I needed a shelter from the sheer craziness and anxiety of balancing my teenage desire for fitting in and acceptance with the reality of coming out and trying to relate to my peers despite my rather socially awkward self. Then, when I was seventeen, my dad died very suddenly. With his death I found myself articulating two choices--one, that life is pointless because at death all meaning and existence is completely extinguished; two, that death does not win and that in our death we continue to exist within the love of God and those we've left behind.

I chose option two. And, now it is Ash Wednesday. In Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, which we read today, he writes "we are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see--we are alive; as punished and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything". I love that my faith allows me to stand up to my fears, knowing that those fears are not the final word. Rather, the WORD, that is Jesus both opens and closes are lives in the here and the now. I am reminded that, in Christ, God know us for who we are and who God intended us to be from the very foundation of creation. We are true and known, we are alive and rejoicing, we are rich in our faith, and in possession of the love that liberates us from all fears. Now, this is not to say that I do not fear--I do--but rather that behind the fear is the truth that God will not forsake me even in the worst of times.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A Box


I pulled a box up from the basement last week. The box is full of journals and photos written and taken between the ages of 15 and 25. About 2x3 feet, the contents have traveled from Maui to MA, from MA to OH, from OH to ME and back to OH. I have added to the contents from time to time but have largely have left them undisturbed. There are hundreds of pages of detailing my internal processing from times in my life when I felt as if I had few to speak with and fewer still to trust. From early crushes to first kisses. From the betrayal of my mother reading my journal and discovering I am a lesbian to the death of my father--it's all there. There are letters to and from ex-girlfriends and letters from friends and family when I went to college. I was laughably earnest...really, "womyn" and "heterosexist assumption" peppered the pages! And, looking back, I wonder what I might have said to that 16 year old girl? What words would have made a difference, what words would I have heard? As my friend Byl would say, "I was an unholy mess of a girl"--but in the "messiness" of it all, I learned what I needed to learn in order to step out into the world and stand firmly by the belief that I am indeed wonderfully and fearfully made. I love because, at times in my life when I couldn't love myself, there were people who loved me and convinced me that God loved me. Going through those old journals induced an odd melancholy--at the same time tho' it made me more acutely aware of the debt of gratitude I have to the adults in my life who truly shepherded me through those difficult years. Thank you--I'm not entirely sure I would have made it without you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Epiphany 3B and an Inauguration




I feel as if I'm on a slippery slope--I DO NOT discuss politics from the pulpit. But, how to engage with this week's text--scripture about prophetic voices, a city of individuals offering personal sacrifice for the sake of the whole (the people all wore sack cloth) and the calling to discipleship of two lowly fisherman--in light of our presidential inauguration. As I, again, read President Obama's inaugural address I am struck by the difficult truths he proclaims (a devastated economy, war and the need to take a look at our own priorities) and the responses I am hearing from people who are finally saying that they are willing to personally sacrifice their own creature comforts in order to save our country. It has been a long time since I've heard anyone say that they would willingly give up their own power and advantage for the good of the whole.

Obama invoked the suffering of our forbears and rather than claiming a collective entitlement to power and privilege he reminded us that our own response to suffering sets the stage for the generations to come--we have a price to pay and a responsibility to pay it. It sound to me that we have a leader who has rejected the prosperity Gospel and instead has turned us to God's salvation history. It can no longer be about me, it has to be about us--and on the global stage the us is the whole world. Just as our liberation in scripture comes at a cost so too will our freedom as a country--liberation that comes when we "seize our duties gladly" because we know that in doing so we have been freed from the constraint and worry of protecting our own privilege at the expense of others.

"They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water. 8Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God. All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands. 9Who knows? God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.” 10When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it." Time will tell whether we will be willing to turn from the violence in our own hands, time will tell whether we will be willing participants in our own salvation.

I read shortly after the Iraq war that during WWII people planted gardens at home and endured rationing so that the troops would have enough sustenance and during the Iraq war people were encouraged to shop...sackcloth indeed. It makes me wonder how desperate for change people were in Jesus' day that they would willingly give up their livelihoods in order to follow a man who's manner of life posed such a challenge to the communion (er...Rome). I wonder if it is out of desperation and despair that the world is changed...if it is only when we proverbially hit bottom that we are willing to do the hard things it will take to rise up out of the morass and become the people God means us to be? Are we desperate enough that we are willing to help usher in the kingdom of God even when the kingdoms of our own making offer such comfort?

Obama turns to salvation history--and insists that the work has not been completed. In scripture we participate as co-creators in God's salvific action in the world and if we truly believe that "Christ has no hands in this world but ours" than what are our hands doing for Christ in the world? This sermon is not an endorsement for a party or president--it is an endorsement for a God who calls us to action in the world. It is an endorsement for the scriptural truths running through a speech. It is an endorsement for the hard truth that we must participate in our own salvation and that we cannot take the journey alone. Obama is not the messiah...but he is a beloved child of God. We are followers of Christ--but as people in this place and in this world--how will we participate in and bear witness to the kingdom of God?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama and Rev. Lowery Hit the Right Note

I was pleased with both Obama's inaugural speech and Reverend Lowery's benediction. They were inspirational and inclusive. I pray that these next years will be the same.

Fighting Cynicism

I am sitting on the couch watching the inauguration coverage and fighting a pervasive sense of cynicism. Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely delighted that we now have a President Obama--and proud that he is from my home state. I can only imagine where we will go with his leadership and therein I pause...I cannot help but think about General Convention 2006 in the Episcopal Church in which we elected a female presiding bishop and in the next breath asked the GLBT community to wait with patience as our elected leadership embraced moderation at our expense. Yes, I can understand that there are bigger and more pressing issues than the human rights of a minority--yet, as a member of that minority I find that the worries that invade my thoughts each day (I am your quintessential worrywart) have more to do with our lack of legal recognition as a couple than whether or not the Evangelical right wing feels included. I have begun to grow increasingly frustrated that the desire to offer an umbrella for all so often leaves GLBT folk in the rain. Yes, I embrace the via media but I also base my faith on my belief in a God who understands our suffering and loves us all. And, I find that the via media as it is lived into in this time and place is too often a code phrase for "status quo" and silence in the face of oppression. I am incredibly thankful that God is not a God of the via media but is a God who does not compromise in the face of suffering or limit the bounds of belovedness for all of creation. And in honor of that God--our God of limitless possibility and many understandings I include here the full text of the Right Reverend Gene Robinson's prayer at the opening of the inaugural events.


Opening Inaugural Event
Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC
January 18, 2009

Delivered by the Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson:

"Welcome to Washington! The fun is about to begin, but first, please join me in pausing for a moment, to ask God's blessing upon our nation and our next president.

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will…

Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic "answers" we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be "fixed" anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world.

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for ALL the people.

Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace.

AMEN."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

all goats go to heaven


Hunting and football games were most likely my two earliest excursions (apart from my baptism) as an infant. Where I was raised, the island of Maui, there was a very large feral goat population. These goats, rangy creatures with dark fur and dark eyes round as marbles, lived on the slopes of Haleakala in vast herds. With no natural predators the goats thrived and local families, such as my own, would supplement the grocery budget with their meat. Goat was served at my house as often as chicken or beef and we thought nothing of a meal of teriyaki goat.

Hunting the goats was often a family activity and when I was quite little I would trail behind my dad and brothers as they hiked the slopes with their guns. Once a herd was spotted they would hike as close as they could to the animals and the shooting would commence. Hundreds of goats would leap from crag to crag and some would fall. Six, seven goats at a time--often dead quickly, but sometimes not. When a nanny goat was shot her kid would be caught and we would take it home to raise it ourselves.

I was too young to carry a gun and too young to wander about so my dad would sit me down next to one of the dead goats while he went to find the others. I would sit quietly or poke about in sight of the dead animal while I waited for my dad and brothers to return. On one occasion, as I sat staring at this dead animal, I observed what looked like mist rising from its body. It was often cooler on the mountainside and now I realize that what I saw was the warmth of the body dissipating into the cooler air--much as my breath does on a cold day. But then, then I thought, that what I was witnessing was the soul of the goat leaving the body and going to heaven. I remember a sense of peace at that moment as I stared in wonder. What I had been taught was true, death was not the end and I had proof as I watched the soul of that goat ascend.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Response to the Stable

As I read this last post, I realized that perhaps it's less about having ventured too far from the stable and more about only seeing the stable to the exclusion of seeing God's presence in other ways and places. A dear friend just sent me the book The Fourth King which is a children's book detailing the adventures of a fourth magi who in his journey to the stable keeps getting sidetracked by people (especially children) in need. He completely misses seeing the scene at the stable but without knowing it has saved Christ's life again and again through his interventions. Perhaps this is why people are so comfortable with the nativity tableau--it doesn't challenge us to act upon or even to see the suffering that exists around us. We like to see beautiful things and it is disturbing, uncomfortable and inconvenient to go out of our way to act when the uglier parts of life confront us. So, I challenge each of us to begin to see the world as the stable and in doing so realize that the star has brought us here. What gifts do we bring?

Suffer some so that others might suffer less?

23B, Scripture appointed (track 2) +++ Growing up poor meant growing up with the constant awareness of who had what. More or ...