Palm Sunday Gratitude

We went to mass at a place rather distant from my home parish this weekend. Distant as in miles, distant as in Presence. A nice blessing of the palms in the square in front of the church. A procession. A well rehearsed chorale accompanied by a pipe organ in mass. A leader of song up front. The Passion read clearly. Very brief homily. Lots of incense. A beautifully decorated and appointed church.  250 miles from home. The motions were very well carried out. It felt empty to me.

God is good. I am not asked to attend this church, or one like on a regular basis. I am invited to walk with Him in everyday events, or in a small (ok, tiny) parish without regular musicians. I am aware of God’s presence in so many ways. This distance of a cathedral with smells and bells is not insisted upon.

Thank you Lord.

Thanks – you should know who you are

I found the following in today’s email reflection from Richard Rohr:

We seem to think God will love us if we change. Paul clearly knows that God loves us so we can change. The only people who change, who are transformed, are people who feel safe, who feel their dignity, and who feel loved. When you feel loved, when you feel safe, and when you know your dignity, you just keep growing! That’s what loving people do for one another–offer safe relationships in which we can change. This kind of love is far from sentimental; it has real power. In general, you need a judicious combination of safety and necessary conflict to keep moving forward in life.
This is a “thank you” to those who have given me the time and space to feel safe, to feel I do have dignity and let me know that I am loved. I’m not going to name names, but I do thank you. I only hope that I can bring these things to someone else.

Dying and Rising

This is going to sound really shallow and self-centered, I fear. I’m going to write it anyway.

We are building a new house. We will be leaving this house that has been home for 31 years. Granted, we are staying in the same town. But, we’ve been on this spot of ground for 31 years — raised 3 children here, survived a fire and rebuilding here, planted blueberry bushes that I will truly miss here.

This morning in mass I had a flash of Holy Week and Easter and it was captured in this whole house business. How’s that? It’s all about the excitement of new and the future rather like Palm Sunday. That’s followed by the Holy Week walk where one realizes that to get to that new, shiny, happy place, there is all kinds of dying that’s going to have to happen. All kinds of things to let go of. There’s the realization that some old friends just won’t make the transition successfully. Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied knowing Jesus and the disciples just couldn’t stay awake all night with Jesus as he prayed his way through these realizations. There’s the moment when it looks like there is no hope — Jesus has died on the cross, after all, and what’s it all for? Then, there is the new beginning when Mary Magdalen discovers that He has risen. Even then, she (and the world) have no real idea of what this new life will be.

I am excited about the new place. It’s larger inside, has a 2 car garage and someone else takes care of the yard. The other homes on the street with the same floor plan feel spacious and comfortable. There will be a zero entry shower which is near and dear to my heart after being in a cast and a boot for over 2 months now and dealing with a wheelchair ( I was a failure at crutches), a knee scooter and a walker. High ceilings, large closets and an open kitchen. So much to look forward to.

But the journey, while nowhere near the struggle of Holy Week has some mild parallels. To get to that new home, I must walk away from this home of 31 years. I will no longer live next door to Mary and Larry. I won’t have dog doors or a fenced yard for Cooper and Grace. If I want blueberry bushes, we have to plant and nurture new ones. The yard will be smaller, the covered back porch will be smaller. We must decide what goes with us and what goes to the curb or gets sold or given away. And, I’m sure there will be moments when I think “What in God’s name was I thinking? How will this work? Will this work?” I don’t let go easily.

Yes — it seems shallow in many ways to even begin to make a comparison. However, I have found that great spiritual and emotional lessons are often learned best in the most common, but concrete experiences. Moving. Just deciding to move. Realizing that it’s time to move.

Transfiguration

Today’s Gospel is the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) — Paraphrased it goes like this:

Jesus takes Peter, John and James up to the mountain to pray. As usual, they doze off while Jesus prays and is transfigured ( I think transformed might be a good word for the event) as he hears from Moses and Elijah about his mission and what is to come. The sleepyheads come full awake and behold the Jesus in his glory. They of course want to stay in this wonderful time/space and make a memorial. But, God says — “This is my chosen Son. Listen to him.”  In the end, the leave the mountain and keep their mouths shut about what they have seen, at least for the time being.

My first thought was that the Transfiguration says a lot more about the disciples than it does about Jesus. Jesus was still Jesus, but he was being seen in a new light. They began to get a glimpse of what was really happening. They saw the light. They were touched. They began to see differently. And God spoke to them.

Upon a second reading, I begin to see that Jesus was changed — I think that as he prayed, he came to see himself differently and more clearly and that change just couldn’t be hidden. It had to shine. It had to show.

Along my current path, where I find myself questioning the institutional church, its teachings, its functioning, its place in my life I also heard the words that God said: “This is my chosen Son. Listen to him.” In the Gospels, I am having difficulty finding any references to Worship Jesus. I find the verbs listen & follow. It’s proving difficult for me to reconcile the stories of the biblical Jesus with current church practices. I know it must be possible because people like Pope Francis seem to be able to live out the Gospel and still work within the Church.

Still thinking. Still praying. Still seeking.

Blast from the past

We watched the movie “Woodlawn” last night. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I have friends who were students at Woodlawn High School (Birmingham AL) when the story took place. To them, it seemed that the movie was reasonably accurate. I was in college at the time, but my own high school years were during the opening years of mandated integration, and the closing of the black high school which forced far more integration into the two [originally] all white high schools. And this story of Birmingham high schools and football was set against some of the most violent times and places of this time in Alabama history.

But the part of the story I was totally unaware of was the back story of the “evangelist” (I think maybe a Campus Crusade for Christ “missionary” or some one inspired by a similar group). He called himself a “sports team chaplain.” He offered a simple message and challenge to a predominately “Christian” football team and things began to happen.

First off, the coach, while skeptical, allowed him access. This would never be allowed today. And, indeed, over the next 2 years, as the team began to be a single team, not a divided squad, pressure was brought, and the coaching staff pays for its choice to let this happen. And, in the story, it spreads to the rival school, Banks, and that staff pays a price as well.

There were quite a few of the opening scenes that I remembered seeing on TV first hand: George Wallace in the schoolhouse door trying to block the first black students at the University of Alabama and Bull Connor with dogs and firehoses. These are not just file footage for me — they were live.

The moment that was the real blast from the past for me, was when the chaplain talked about Explo 72 in Dallas Texas. 100,000 plus college students in the Cotton Bowl with Billy Graham. A totally dark Cotton Bowl that is finally lit up starting with a single candle who’s light is shared until all 100,000 candles are lit. Think Easter Vigil — we start in darkness and light the many small candles from the Easter Candle. I was there. I was in the Cotton Bowl. I experienced this. And, it had faded from my memory.

I listened to the message in the movie and I watched the “One Way” hand signal ( a raised hand with the index finger pointing up). And, as I listened to the message weave through the movie, I heard the simplicity of the calling of God: “You are not alone. You are loved. Come to me.” That’s the message of the Gospel that still bores it’s way through to me. I slices through church laws and practice (I’m now a practicing Roman Catholic); it overrides denominations of Christianity. And, in many ways, though not all, it moves beyond Christianity.

This movie could have been preachy, but I think it avoided that. And I’m glad of that. It showed examples of overcoming anger, fear and discrimination. It even showed Bear Bryant in a light that made me not so “anti-Bear” (I’m also of the Auburn persuasion). It was a quiet witness to the power of allowing God to work in the everyday world we find ourselves walking through.

 

Lent again

lent-imageI never seem to get Lent “right”– failed plans, false starts, barriers I stumble over. This year, it seems that my Lenten intentions have been laid out for me. All I have to do it live it.

I’ve watched a beautiful montage set to music about the Camino de Santiago de Compostela with mixed feelings. Such a rush of remembering, such peace, such frustration because right now I can’t even walk without my scooter or crutches, and I can’t really go out without assistance because I can’t get the scooter in the car by myself. I must rely on my husband or friends to give me a ride here and there. I can’t take the dogs for a walk. I’ve discovered I’m not very graceful at this business of being trapped.

My path seems to be to walk through it. To be present to the frustration. I’m on hold. My fast must be from control, from freedom to move around this town like I want to. This too shall pass (it better!) and so I learn to deal with temporary disability. But it’s not coming easy. I just want to be at the end.

I am gaining empathy for those who must deal with this sort of immobility on a far more permanent basis. I’ve learned to rejoice in ramps and curb cuts and smooth ground to roll on. I’ve experienced people helping me open doors and other acts of assistance and kindness. These are lessons that it is far easier to pay lip service to than to actually internalize because you are living them.

One step at a time. One day at a time… get through the cast stage. Hope for the boot. Hope for being allowed to put weight on my left foot and begin to walk again. Ignore the fact that there will likely be a lot of discomfort as I recover. Breathe. Don’t go postal. Breathe.

Yeah — I’m a little on edge right now.

Gratitude

Pink castWith my broken ankle/leg, I’ve had an excess of time and space to obsess. That also means I’ve have time to reflect and focus on the graceful side of my life. It all began when I fell…

January 9, near Rainbow Falls, Hilo, Hawaii: When I tripped, slipped, missed my step, whatever happened and I felt myself crashing to the somewhat muddy ground, I distinctly remember my camera (a nice Canon 6D) swinging through the air, and I thought “Crap! I’m going to break my camera!”– when I landed I was pretty sure it was the left leg that had the break, but I wanted someone to check on the camera!

For once in my life, I didn’t say any really bad words as I lay on the ground, pretty much screaming/crying. Gratitude for discovering that what came out of my mouth was more of a prayer and a plea to make it stop hurting rather than cursing the situation. That peaceful spirit I prayed for some many years ago seems to be trying to manifest itself. And, gratitude that I was using my pancake lens and the camera and lens were unharmed in the incident. And, it’s stretching it a bit, but gratitude that when they inspected the scrape/gash across my leg just above the ankle, there was no bone showing. All bones, while broken, stayed in place and I’ve not had to have any surgery.

It’s good to reflect on these things to combat the frustration of being mobility challenged, unable to walk or run, stuck at home unless I have a driver or assistance to get me and my scooter loaded into the car and assistance at my destination to get unloaded. Just getting a shower is a major production number! (I can’t put the cast cover on or off by myself; we’ve installed a temporary grab bar in the shower, especially since you have to step up to get in and our; I have a nice plastic chair in the shower now; I’m terrified of falling.)

I find that I must focus on the gratitude side of the equation and not let the fear and anger side take control. It could be worse, it could be better, but I find that I am learning to rest in where I am. No doubt I’ll come through this with a much more concrete connection with the needs of those in wheelchairs, or on crutches or like me, using a knee scooter. I’m extremely aware of the availability, or lack thereof, of curb cuts and ramps… and of ramps that are too steep. Teaches me compassion.

And still — I am impatient. I want to have mended bones and be back to walking, and even running (I hope!). Learning patience and gratitude are the kind of traits that require lots of practice to master. Aaaarrrgghh!

 

Wrath, anger…

A few weeks ago I was in a small group sharing, and one person began to share about recent a Bible study session where the subject got around to wrath. What is wrath? Is it okay to be angry? That sort of thing. Some folks of course thought it was ok to be angry and others thought is was sinful.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines wrath as extreme anger with the Full Definition of WRATH as:

  1. strong vengeful anger or indignation
  2. retributory punishment for an offense or a crime : divine chastisement

I found this whole pattern a bit unsettling. Anger is. And asking if it’s okay to be angry or is it sinful is just the wrong question.

Anger alerts me to the fact that I feel threatened, or hurt or disrespected. Or that I sense that someone or something I love is in danger or hurting or being disrespected. Anger can fire me up to take action. The classic example of that might be Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in the Temple.

The first step, IMHO, is to step back when I am angry and look deeper. If I accept that I am God’s beloved child, then often the anger begins to subside — after all, what that other person did or said cannot actually kill or harm that part of me that is God’s child. Or, I can move beyond anger to sorrow that someone else is so broken that they would do some of the horrible things that are being done in this world. If I can move beyond anger I might just get to a place where I might actually be able help in righting a wrong, or healing a hurt.

Yes — anger is a big red flag. It is a sign that something is wrong. Might be something wrong inside me, or something wrong in the world around me. But asking if it is a sin? That’s just the wrong question.

 

 

 

Touch

There are some things I find I must simply accept without understanding. People who are really touchy about being touched fall into this category. My own preferences and experiences require that I simply accept that some people I come into contact with simply don’t want to be touched. Therefore, “contact” means being in the same room, across a table perhaps, talking or maybe singing or learning something new without physical contact. Failing to accept this reality can be a source of distress.

My own experience of touch makes me inclined to “reach out and touch someone” simply because I have reaped such positive benefits.

How? I remember being in a weights/workout class at the gym. The instructor is giving instruction on proper form. “Shoulders back and down” she says. “When you do this exercise, squeeze your shoulder blades together.” I tried. I tried to do as she said. But, I only figured it out when, in mid-pull, she very lightly touched my back, right between my shoulder blades, and said something like “Here. This is where you squeeze.” The words were useful at this point, but not necessary. My muscles, my body and my brain suddenly understood how to be in the proper form. Touch.

In yoga class there are times when simple, light hands on instruction can make all the difference in the world in alignment or understanding how a pose might feel better. Touch.

How? I generally give lots of hugs. It’s sort of my charism, as it were. There are so many situations where words fail or are just wrong, but a hug seems to be exactly the answer. Many years ago I ran into a former coworker who had retired and was spending her days (and nights) caring for an aging parent. Words could never give her the peace and rest she needed. Even with others to help with the care, she was being worn down. I found myself cautiously reaching out to give her a hug. It was right. She needed to receive the care as a break from giving the care. Touch.

There are times when I have needed to relax and let someone hug me, or let me rest in contact with them. That last part, where I let myself rest in someone else’s arms (hug) is the closest I come to understanding “don’t touch me!” There was a time when I was struggling mightily with a situation and a friend asked “Do you want me to take over and do this?” My “Yes” led to leaning against her, with my head in her lap. All the while fighting with myself because I wanted to get up and run. It was just too intimate, just to much letting go of my walls to not only let her step in and shoulder my burden, but to let myself be touched and healed and loved. At the same time it was wonderful to be able to rest and know that someone cared enough to step in and take on the burden. There was so much healing of my soul in that touch.

Maybe I do understand a little about “don’t touch me.” Probably not.

 

 

We walk together alone

I have a friend currently on Camino. The same Via Frances that I walked 2 years ago. Okay — so Chris is walking over mostly the same terrain that I walked, but in a different time, a different pace, a slightly different season. I follow his blog over at shookwalkstheway.wordpress.com  while looking back through my own journal. I comment on the blog and I use FB Messenger to communicate at times. In my own way I walk with him. But, this is his Camino, not mine, just as my Camino was mine. True, mine was shared heavily with my walking companion, Susan. Even so, we each walked it with different interactions, different experiences and differing memories.

I find myself torn between offering information and suggestions and simply watching Chris’s progress. I want to encourage him on his journey, but I also long to hear the stories from the road which bring in to sharp focus so many stories of my own. How much to say or not say? How to listen and just be?

I’ll continue to follow my friend on his journey/Camino as I reflect once more on my own.

 

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