Of Popes and Faith

The tables are turned, I suppose. Those brothers and sisters of mine within the tent of the Roman Catholic Church who found great comfort in previous Popes who often focussed on devotions and rules and fairly strict behavioral and belief rules are now faced with a Holy Father who is willing to say “Who am I to judge?” or who is willing to face our need to care for our brothers and sisters without so much judgement, or who is willing to proclaim that we are stewards of all creation, and look at the mess we’ve made of that job.

To me, it seems that Francis is calling us to be transformed by our faith in God — our faith in the Trinity — so God, Jesus the Christ and the Spirit. He is calling on us to actually interact with the world from that place of transformation. To let go of our assumed superiority, or presumed chosen-ness and be agents of love and change in our world. To be the salt of the earth.

Sometimes, that flies in the face of rigid rules. Sometimes that forces us to look beyond the letter of the law to the spirit of the law. And, sometimes when I hear the criticism of relativism, I want to say “And you make that [relativism] sound like a bad thing. Really?”

As best I can tell, Jesus said “Follow me.” — not “Worship me.” Following, walking in His footsteps, trying to see the world as He saw it is far more life changing that worshipping Him and keeping change at a distance — don’t you think?


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.

Comfort in the familiar

For almost a year now I have been adapting to the changes in the English mass — moving from “And also with you”  to ” And with your Spirit”, and no longer using “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.”  Many rather small changes, but things that have interrupted the rhythm of the mass I knew and loved from the time I came in to the Catholic Church.

Today we celebrated with my niece and her husband as they celebrated their second anniversary, renewed their wedding vows and had their marriage blessed and celebrated in the Episcopal Church. It felt both odd and comforting to revert to those phrases that have been dropped and replaced in the Catholic mass. Yes, the rite is slightly different, but oh so familiar and comforting. It felt almost more like mass that I know and love than the masses I attend weekly. It always makes me smile and relax when the Episcopal priest joyfully invites all to share at the Lord’s table (yes, I have no qualms about receiving communion in this church… )

In a funny way, I have a deep knowing that perhaps it would be possible to be at home somewhere other than with the RC’s. I’m not leaving, but it is just good to know that there are other places that can feel like home. It let’s me know at a deep level that “we are many parts, we are all one body” indeed. It lets me know that there are places where I can sit out a storm should I need to.

Thanks Beth and Kelly for letting me be a part of this whole celebration. It means more than you could ever know.


Seduction – or not

Over the past few weeks, I have been reminded repeatedly that “God is madly in love with you.” The message comes from scripture,  from the Cursillo movement,  from homilies and if I let it, from prayer. At first blush it is a comforting and exciting message.

Quite frankly, it is a frightening message to me. So often, I don’t want to be loved that much. If God loves me that much, and I accept it, how can that not call me to change? If God loves me that much, and I fall in to it, I must surrender and move forward in complete trust. And if I do that, I will be transformed in ways I don’t even know. Not sure I’m yet willing to do this.

Brother David Stendhl-Rast has suggested that “sin” might better be termed separation or isolation, and “grace” as belonging. In those terms, my “sin” is my unwillingness to be loved in this deep, transforming way. Yes, at times I move toward it — and I can think of once or twice when I believe I actually gave in and fell in to it. And, yes, those were moments where my life and my way of looking at life made some pretty sharp turns. Looking backward, I realize that these turns and changes are really “good things.”

So, why am I fearful? The Unknown and letting go are difficult for me. I can only ask that I be gifted with a call to this Love that is stronger than my own unwillingness to let go of myself and my perceived control. I take baby steps. I try to see through the eyes of Christ in one situation at a time. If I think of each of these situations or relationships as a piece in a 2000 piece jigsaw puzzle, then each time I am able to let go, it’s like finding a piece that fits. You put it into the puzzle, and slowly, piece by piece, the entire picture of God’s love is revealed.


Focus? Or Naming the Demons?

A couple of weeks ago we caught most of an NPR NOW (sirius radio 122) broadcast of “Relaxed Focus” with David Allen (http://humanmedia.org) as we drove down I-81 (through the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia). He had some interesting ideas.

Perhaps I can get better at organizing stuff, deciding what needs to be done with something and then letting go until I am in a place to deal with it. Sounds good. Sounds even better to decide whether I want to keep getting email from certain lists that require my attention or should I just unsubscribe and be done with it. It sounds good to get control of “stuff” that can clog the brain/mind and free up the mind to be present in the moment.

As I listened, I found myself thinking how nice it is when I get things cleaned up, named, organized, and put out of my mind. I thought of the times in my life when I felt overwhelmed and immobilized because I couldn’t even decide what action I wanted to take. My mind would race all night. I would wake up and be unable to quiet my mind. One technique that helped was to drag out rosary beads. As I started a decade, instead of meditating on a prescribed mystery, I would name one of the issues that wouldn’t leave me alone and hand it over to Mary or Jesus or God (depended on how I felt); by the end of a decade, I could often let go of that one thing; then, I repeat the process with the next thought/problem that was racing through my head; over and over until I could sleep for a bit. Using rosary beads freed me up from any kind of counting — just repeat Hail Mary until my fingers told me I was done with the particular thought.

And so, I do understand the joy of organizing things, deciding on an action and relying on a system to tell me when I was done, or ready to move to the next thing. This frees me up to deal with other, larger, issues. But, it’s not just letting go that helps. Naming the problem/issue/desire means that I no longer let it control me. There is a certain release in a “tag and bag” approach to those mundane things that have to be done.

Now, it’s been well over a week since I listened to that radio show and this week I find myself in Nike mode: Just Do It! That applies to little things like sweeping the hall, mopping the foyer, pitching the mail. Not big stuff, but getting it decided on and done certainly helps make room for more serious or intense thought. I think I’ll try to stick with it.