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Showing posts from 2010

Flight Into Egypt

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I love this painting by Caravaggio of Mary asleep, with the baby Jesus in her arms, as Joseph holds a score for an angelic violinist. I love it because of the calm eye of the donkey, the weary look on Joseph's face, and the presence of God (as represented by the angel) as comforter and purveyer of beauty in the midst of a refugee family's all to real and present nightmare. I love it because Mary's face is serene and the baby clearly thriving on her milk and his family's love. And as I contemplate this artwork I find myself reflecting on what this time in Mary's life must have been like.

I do not know the specific's of postpartum ritual in the 1st century. But, I imagine that in her hometown Mary would have been surrounded by women, quick to offer advice and assistance. When labor pain set in, other women, her mother perhaps, would have gathered around her and guided her through each contraction. As she anticipated putting the baby to breast for the fir…

Christmas With Our Baby

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What wondrous love is this, o my soul, o my soul, what wondrous love is this, o my soul...



Truly a good day. May the blessings of Christmas spring forth for all of you.

Santa Baby...

No, not the song, the Santa and THE Baby. Yup, Jesus. Recently in Sunday School (Children's Chapel to us) I had to clarify that Santa was not born on December 25th. On the spot, I told the kids that Jesus was born on December 25th and Santa only exists because Jesus exists.

Which, is true. No Jesus, No Santa (reads like a bumper sticker!). And, as I stumble further into the Christian mama blog world (which is a peculiar one to say the least) I come across more and more folk who are vehemently anti-Santa. This has caused me to reflect greatly on what/how/why we will teach our son about Christmas. And, I have decided (we, really) to go ahead and embrace Santa as a family, as a family with a priest mama that faithfully attends church and holds Christ at the center of it all. Santa and THE baby are not incompatible in our household--let me explain why.

Regardless of how one feels about the guy in the big red suit, he has become central to most American's understanding …

Whistling in the Dark, An Advent Reflection

“This is a direct act of hope, to look through the cloud, and look for a beam of the light from God; and this is called in scripture, “rejoicing in tribulation”, when “the God of hope fills us with joy in believing”: every degree of hope brings a degree of joy.” -Jeremy Taylor

Whistling in the dark--a subversive act in which we use the power of a simple and somewhat ridiculous act, whistling, in order to remove the power of darkness to fear and weaken us. Could it be said that rejoicing, year after year, in the birth of a child who will die on the cross is, in and of itself, an act of whistling in the dark?

Do you ever find yourself “whistling in the dark”?

Maui, An Advent Meditation

We cannot survive without light. And, as the days grow shorter we find ourselves in darkness far too often. Thus, we find ways in which to endure the long days ahead—with light. Brightly peering through the darkness we see light cast from candles, and fireplaces, light from the porch to greet us at the end of the day, warm and filling food to fill our bellies, lights strung from our houses and shops. As I contemplated the role of light in our lives I found myself recalling a story from my own childhood:

The sun was too quick in its daily work, swiftly crossing the sky and leaving little time for those down below to accomplish their daily tasks. In particular, this brought much consternation to an elderly woman on an island in the middle of the Pacific ocean. One day, as she hung out the freshly washed Tapa cloth to dry she complained to her grandson about the sun’s swift course and how her cloth would not be able to dry in the short period of time that the sun was shining. Now, …

Advent meditations: Halley's comet

I wrote 12 meditations for Advent for our parish Advent calendar...I will post some of them here as well.

In 1986, when I was eight years old, I began to understand the finitude of human life when it is juxtaposed with the universe--heady stuff for a second grader. It was late at night, much later than I was usually allowed to stay up, and my entire family had gathered at the summit of Mount Haleakala to observe the passing of Halley’s comet. It was cold at the 10,000 foot elevation and we were crammed with a great many other people in the observatory perched above the cinder filled caldera. I huddled next to my grandmother and craned my neck in order to see. A bright star traced across the sky and I was silent with the magnitude of the night, the cold and this star that moved and caused the usual rules to be suspended. It was then that my grandmother turned to me and told me that she would be dead when this star crossed our skies again. I was not saddened by this news, but rath…

Advent 2A, The Wild Angels

Tomorrow is the first rehearsal for our annual Christmas pageant. Held during the 4pm Christmas Eve service, our pageant has traditionally been the classic Christmas card vignette. The adorable lambs, the sweet angels--and I promise that we will have both this year--mother Mary so meek and mild; the somewhat embarrassed to be up there Joseph, shepherds keeping their watches....and the silent stars at night.

The pageant, sweet as a Christmas card with the added ahhhh factor of lambs crawling off and baaing mama; angels with halo’s askew and beautiful music. But, this year, this year we’ve decided to really take a look at what was so frightening to the shepherds in the field. Yes, this year the pageant will offer both the innocent sweetness of our littles gowned and halo’d and the edgy tension of our rock star styled heavenly beings...the kinds of angels that inspire fear and awe. Not so little, not so sweet--these are angels out of scripture. These are angels that would make yo…

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

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Literal interpretations of metaphors and cliches rock!

2010 Proper 26C: Aesthetic Essential

The propers:

Isaiah 1:10-18
2nd Thessalonians 1:1-4; 11-12
Luke 19:1-10

The Sermon:

The Episcopal church is known for the beauty of its liturgy…some of the most wonderful occasions of worship I have experienced have been rife with pomp and circumstance. Incense wafting through literal catacombs; fire in the darkness; the choir’s anthem ascending and filling the space; communion served while gazing in reverence at glorious carvings of saints. And, I’m going to generalize wildly here…we tend to be people who love language, who love poetry and the art of worship. Our liturgy is a means of “seeing” God in beauty—and offering up the best of what we have as human beings to God. The compilation of the Book of Common Prayer was an attempt to offer a form for worship that would glorify God in truth, in beauty and most importantly in a gathered community of individuals gathered for a shared purpose—the journey towards God.

Indeed, people have left churches when liturgical changes have occurred……

Light

One of the stranger aspects of this "clerical" life is that I live a church season or two ahead. So, I am currently deep in the depths of Advent preparation (altho' I'm not entirely sure that's why the Christmas displays are encroaching on the Halloween displays at most of the department stores). This Advent, my colleague and I will be compiling a blog of reflections (both visual and written). In the process of preparing a portion of the written reflections, and in the midst of the ever shorter days this time of year, I find myself pondering light.

The light of Christ most obviously...but what happens when this metaphor is sought out in the day to day? Where is it that we find that light of life and love--

Is it the light flickering through autumn leaves?
Is it the glow of the nightlight in the darkest of the wee small hours?
Is it the stars in their courses?
Is it the smell of beeswax?
Is it reflected in the sanguine pools of your love's eyes?
Is it the porch …

Like A Leper

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

He was a beautiful child. Dark flashing eyes would light up with mirth at the approach of his mother and he would eagerly reach for anyone who approached, anticipating love, for that is all he knew. As he grew he was taught the prayers and customs of his people and he was an obedient son to his father.

The teachers singled him out for special instruction and care—silently thinking that this child, this smart and beautiful boy, may be called to serve as one of them. The other boys were envious of the special attention he received. They began to wait for him on the road home, they harassed and tormented him in secret. His parents noticed the bruises and dismissed it. Boys will be boys they said with a smile, altho’ it saddened them to see their child walking alone each day.

Then, one day he noticed a spot on his arm. He pull…

Guest Blogger, Lisa Brown, Dons an Abaya and Hijab for Eid

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My friend and parishioner (Lisa we still claim you even though you moved!), Lisa Brown wrote this amazing Facebook note about her experience of wearing a hijab and abaya in honor of Eid. Not only is Lisa an amazing person, she is a fabulous writer and I hope she'll write more and often!

On wearing a hijab in rural Illinois
by Lisa Brown on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 11:19pm

I wore a hijab in rural Illinois. It was fascinating. There is a backstory to this.

Last Thursday, I asked Farhan (my counterpart here at EIU) if he had any plans for the weekend, and he answered, "Yeah, I'm excited for Eid [the end of Ramadan] tomorrow." He then added that he was considering wearing traditional Pakistani dress to work.

When I got home, I had a little epiphany. I have two Saudi abayas (the long, shapeless gown) and a hijab (the headscarf) which were given to me by a couple of generous students back in my ESL teaching days. I had never worn them before because I'd never ha…

No One Cries Alone...

Our firm belief in the love of God--compounded with something I once read that stated that a child's understanding of God is fully formed by the time they are five--has caused me to consider the importance of how we respond to our little guy's needs. And, we try to respond with love because his understanding of God is going to be grounded in the understanding of love which he has learned from us.

Therefore, when he cries we tend to him. We do not leave him to cry alone and we respect that his only way of telling us that something is amiss in his world are his cries. This does not mean that we never allow him to cry or give him everything he might want in the moment...it means that he knows that his cries were heard, and that when he needs us we will come to him. We may not be able to "heal what ails him" (for who can stop teething pain?) but we will be with him. Because, if we want our son to understand that God is the unfailing presence, the abiding love, the…

Sermon from August 29th "The Guest List"

Proper 17, year C...The Guest ListSabbath and laws; the roll of law in Jesus’ worldIf you recall, in last week’s Gospel the synagogue leader criticizes Jesus for doing a work of healing on the Sabbath.Jesus’ retort was roughly that healing was a setting free from bondage and that the “work” of healing was not only allowed but a needful action on the Sabbath.You may wonder why I am bring up the Sabbath again today…but today’s Gospel, which immediately follows the portion appointed for last week, continues in an examination of the role of law in the lives of the hearers—and how strictly to interpret those laws.Because in Jesus’ world the laws you followed told you and everyone else whether or not you were part of the community.The way you behaved and the laws which dictated your actions defined whether or not you were a member of the Jewish community.Insider status was determined by how well one followed the laws laid out in scripture and rabbinic teachings.Unlike speed limits or stop s…

Facebook Commentary

One of my relatives recently "liked" on Facebook the life fever application's statement, "never make someone a priority when they just make you an option".

If the rule of life suggested by this statement (and the many people who "like" it) is to be followed, then this has some very interesting implications for the church.

Thoughts?

Blog shout out!

A friend and parishioner, Lisa, wrote a guest blog and gave me a shout out! I'm flattered and half tempted to run off to where she now lives to start a GLBT friendly church (just kidding, but seriously, NO GLBT friendly churches in central IL?!)

"Lack of Gay Friendly Churches"

Can anyone help her out with some suggestions (I'm thinking moving back home may not be an option!)?

32

Today I am 32...and I wanted to share 32 things for which I am grateful

Our little boyMy wifeA loving communityColleagues who understand when I need pastoral care and have the ability to listen to "what I'm not saying" (thanks Happeners!)
Friends who share their love with our boyThe progress our dog has made Financial stability (for which I am grateful but feel oddly guilty about)A positive birthing/mothering experienceHealth carebaby grins and gigglesOur house and the home it has becomeGood napsCOFFEE
A sense of humorCloth diapering (see #14)Baby wearing (Mei Tai; ring sling; Ergo; storch; moby...)breast feeding (see #14)The older parishioner who made it clear that she missed me when I was away at a weddingVolunteers!Good books (most recently "The Coroner's Lunch")People who "welcome the stranger", M in Minneapolis who took us to church and the airport.The smiles H elicits in complete strangersThe big tree in our front yardPicking (and eating!) frui…

frailty

When our little one was about a week old we were on what would become a multiple times a day walk around our neighborhood. About 100 yards away from our house I stopped and looked closely at the boy. Then I informed him of what I hope and pray will be the truth...someday he will be very sad because Mama and Mommy will die. And, I'm very sorry about that but it is his job to be sad about us. He is NOT allowed to die first and he will have to plan our funerals. So there, that is just the way it is.

I'm not sure if many parents feel compelled to inform their week old baby of this hope/prayer/rule. But, we did. We have both spent enough time with the sick and dying that we know all too well how close it can be. And, no matter how old he becomes, it will be our hope and prayer.

When my own father died at the age of 53 his grandmother (my gramama) was still living. She had had a stroke several years before his death and was in a locked in state (cognitively she was in there…

Integration

I wrote the following shortly after my first day back at church:

"My maternity leave, a very generous 12 weeks that left me longing to live in England where maternity leave is significantly longer, is over. Last Sunday my little family attended church once more...and it was hard.

Having to switch gears and focus on everything BUT the baby and concerning myself with the needs and concerns of everyone BUT my family was, truth be told, horrific. I couldn't attend to my baby when he fussed mid-service (his Mommy had it covered but it was still tough) and after church my VERY tired 11 week old (and his equally tired Mommy) had to wait, and wait and wait for his Mama to finish up at coffee hour.

Welcome to the life of being a mom/priest. I am well aware of how lucky I am to be able to take the baby to work and be able to work part time (part of which is from home). But, I will be praying quite a bit about what it means to be a priest and a mom...and how to address the needs of a co…

Blogging for LGBT Families on Trinity Sunday

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June 1st is "Blogging for LGBT families day" and in light of my calling (as an Episcopal priest), I chose to blog within the context of Trinity Sunday.John 15:26 - 16:6 26”When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. 16”I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 2They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 4But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. 5But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ 6But because I have said these thi…

Our Wildflower

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Our Mister Moo (yes, that's what we call him when we aren't saying his name!) is the most amazing and remarkable baby we have ever beheld. I know many parents (if not most) feel this way about their children--but I hadn't really expected to feel that way about my own. I am an old school skeptic, occasional pessimist, and my way of coping with challenges is often to contemplate the "worst case scenario" as a means of hoping for the best whilst preparing for the worst. So, my approach to newborn parenting has been one of anticipating loads of fussiness, sleep deprivation and crankiness (on our parts!). While we have daily fussiness and I am sleep deprived and I we do have our cranky moments--they are all eclipsed by the rapturous love we have for this little creature. We are consumed, we are smitten. And, I am bemused...

I am bemused because my prayer life as the Mama of a one month old has devolved into my nightly prayer of "Please, God, let him sleep, o…

Not Quite Perichoresis

The concept of perichoresis has always been one of my favorite ways of understanding the relationship of the members of the Trinity to each other--mutual indwelling. Or, as a favorite theology professor put it, the dance in which all the members of the Trinity participate and into which we are invited.

As a lover of dance, and as someone who danced both modern and jazz for over a decade of her life, I am enamored with the idea that God has invited me into a dance--and , like any good partner, God responds and reciprocates as we trust each other in our lifts and leaps. Without words we can know when we should bend, when we should accept each other's weight, when we should provide counter balance and when we should collapse into the floor. And, in each other's arms we find a wholeness that was somehow missing before we assumed the dance. We are greater in the dance than we are when we stand alone around the perimeter of the dance floor (which makes me think of Victor Turner&…

He is here, he is perfect

Our son was born on April 20th at 12:22pm after 14 hours of active labor. We are smitten.

Funny thoughts during labor, or at the very least, extreme theo/anthro nerdiness...

During labor I contemplated...how much sense the connection between purity legislation regarding death is so similar to the legislation regarding birth; the fact that Mary gave birth in a stable, without an epidural or 2 people to hold up her legs for her while she pushed; and how much I love the Hail Mary.

Hail Mary, full of grace
the Lord is with you
blessed are you among women
and blessed is the fruit of your womb...

I get it. Or think I do. For now tho' I am snuggling just short of 8 pounds of pure love.

Waiting...

So, we're still waiting for a baby at our house...

But, in the meantime I'm thinking of all the advantages to keeping him in-utero indefinitely.

I won't have to give him the "sex-talk", ever.I won't have to figure out how to teach him to shave or pee standing up.I won't have to worry about drugs (altho' I do miss the occasional Motr.in for myself) or alcohol.Sleep will continue to be interrupted by contractions--which I can remain lying in bed during as opposed to a baby who must have a diaper changed. He won't have to go to middle school (a place and time infamous for cruelty).
Finally, I can indulge my love of science fiction and fantasy "literature" without any guilt and eat ice-cream every day--because I've been pregnant for almost 10 months (dang it!).

Which brings me to the book I read yesterday (yes, yesterday, mostly in one sitting). OA.TH OF FEALTY, by Elizabeth Mo.on--an offshoot of an amazing series (The Deeds of Paksennari…

Prodromal

I've recently added to my vocabulary the word "prodromal"

prodrome
[prō′drōm]
Etymology: Gk, prodromos, running before
1 an early sign of a developing condition or disease.
2 the earliest phase of a developing condition or disease. Many infectious diseases such as chickenpox or measles are most contagious during the prodromal period. prodromal, adj.

Which is not to say that pregnancy is contagious--but to say that the earliest signs of labor are evident. But, for those of us who've never experienced the glory of full blown labor these "early" signs can be fairly daunting--you mean this could go on for days ?! It's all the energy of waiting for Christmas, Easter and your Birthday--all whilst running for a finish line that seems to be beating it's own retreat, pulling further and further away as you begin to draw closer and closer.

Apparently actually giving birth is more elusive than I thought. Our OB offered us the option of inducing labor this week--…

Here is Your Mother

When God is dead
We are not left alone.

"Mother, here is your son".

Who is there for you when God is dead?

Blessings on this Good Friday.

The Good Friday Quandry

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This is an odd year in our household--the sorrow and grief of Good Friday juxtaposed with an expectant feeling (which to be quite honest is getting to be a feeling of "get him out!") of joyful anticipation...

And fear...

La Pieta continues to resonate.



When I served in the children's hospital it felt like the families I ministered to were trapped on Good Friday. They had all of the horror and grief without being able to see beyond to any joyful resurrection. The curtains of their hearts tore in two and the sun grew dark--as their children breathed their last. One essay I read at the time compared this loss to the loss of a limb--the pain of the moment of amputation would pass. But, life would go on with a sense of loss, the very real sense that you were missing something important. And, like an amputee living with phantom pain, the pain of losing a child would continue to haunt the parent.

La Pieta.

I want to rush through this part, this Good Friday. I don't want t…

Lenten Food

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In case you wondered if all I think about are babies, specifically the one I happen to be gestating, and the church...

I also think about food.

Now, I really do enjoy cooking. I find it to be a calming discipline and at this point in my life I find that I can usually figure out what something is "missing" and rectify the situation.

Occasionally, the something that is missing is bacon...which we don't have at our house.

I have managed to build quite the mystery about what I will, and won't, eat amongst my friends and parishioners. A Lenten discipline of veganism last year (shortly after I began at my parish) really threw everyone for a loop. And, folks don't quite understand why we'll eat meat that other folk have prepared but won't cook meat at home.

I figure, that if folks are kind enough to cook it for me than I will be kind enough to eat it. (Oh, and lest I be anything but honest, we do get meat when we eat out occasionally and, for some odd reason,…

Ruminating on the Prodigal, Lent 4C

"'Warren,' she said, 'he has come home to die:
You needn't be afraid he'll leave you this time.'
'Home,' he mocked gently. 'Yes, what else but home?

It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he's nothing to us, any more then was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woods, worn out upon the trail.'

'Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in.'

'I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve.'"

excerpt from Death of the Hired Man, by Robert Frost

This leaves me with a question...

Would I have taken him in?

The Saddest Funny Book I've Ever Read

A couple of months ago I decided that the 4th-6th grade book club I lead would pick their own book for the month of February. Terming it "funny February" I solicited suggestions for a humourous book for the month. One of the kids, a 5th grader, suggested the book "I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President", by Josh Lieb. Declaring it the "funniest book he'd ever read" he is already re-reading it in anticipation of book club.

So, today. Today, I picked up the book and started reading it--and rather than finding it to be funny I am finding it to be a book that reflects, most accurately, some painful realities: the cruelty young people can have for each other; the pain that those who do not fit the norm experience; and the fantasies of a hurting young boy made manifest on the page. Granted, I am only on chapter 8, but as I read I remember the pain of late elementary and middle school where I felt a degree of alienation t…

Childbirth, Lent and Purity Codes

Epiphany jetted past at a suspiciously swift tempo (hello time/space continuum, slow down please!). And I feel like I've fallen directly into Lent--the most un-Lenten Lent I've ever experienced. At the same time, I know the dance between life and death continues and I am well aware of the risks of love.

Statistically, historically (and no, I'm not going to hunt down the book this came from at 6am), the average marriage only lasted 7 years. Not because of some "seven year itch" or medieval divorce rates--but, because of death in childbirth. While this is clearly no longer the case (in this country at any rate) it is an awareness that is hard to shake. While this is not a fear that keeps me up at night...nor one that torments me in the day...it is a knowledge I carry. A knowledge ground into my pores like the ashes from last night (however, unlike the ashes, this knowledge won't make me break out).

A strange sensation, this carrying of life and death. …